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BUSA Midlands Conference Match 6 (Oxford), 24/01/01

Blues 1 Oxford 3 (27-25, 24-26, 19-25, 21-25)

After twelve hours of minor panic caused by major transport dilemmas, a squad of 10 Blues players made the cross-country trek to Oxford for this BUSA fixture. With no space in the car convoy for middle starter Emily Longmore, she was dispatched earlier by bus as an advance party to scout the opposition. With Sofia Oikonomidou, Anne Mullin, Friederike von Teisenhausen, Veronica Kunze, and acting Captain Steph Bee joining Emily on court for the first set the Blues were looking to get back into last term's stride in the first match since the EVA qualifiers. Anna Woo was also making her debut as libero, with Janice Pedersen, Jo Coulson and new squad member Alice Yi on the bench. After the disappointing match at home against the dark blues earlier in the season, Cambridge were looking to redress the balance.

The two teams took some time to shape up in the opening set; Oxford making a distressing number of service errors and Cambridge still feeling the effects of the Xmas break and finding their normally fluid game difficult to regain. The scores reflected the play with the ball being passed end to end for service, Cambridge making two early 2 point breaks and then being caught again by an Oxford run. Although the Blues were passing well the hitters were having difficulty in connecting with their setters and no real attack domination was achieved. Anne was finding some spaces in the centre of the court, and rolled a notable tip down the back of the block. The set ended in tension with both teams wanting the first scalp. The Blues were in good position at 23-21 but let a couple of points slip back. Solid serving from Jo (replacing Emily) and Friederike allowed the set to be taken from 25-25 after a long 35 minutes.

With Alice making her first appearance for the Blues in the second set, the team went back out determined to stay ahead from the start. Alice immediately made her impact on the game, using her height and impressive block technique to push the Blues ahead. Veronica was also striking from the service line, dribbling a short serve ace over the net to groans from the Oxford bench. A strong recent acquisition in the centre of the Oxford attack was testing the Blues back-court defence during this set but the team were managing to keep in control, despite the lack of usual venomous hits from the Cambridge outside and strong middle hitters. Sofia was making the Oxford attack think with some stuff blocking that left no opportunity for pick-up and at 22-17 the Blues were poised for the second. However, the dark blues were strong to rally and took the next 9 points with two brief captures of the serve by Cambridge.

Replacing Friederike with Jo for the third set, the Blues now had some work to do. Confidence dented a little by letting the end of the second set go, both Steph and Veronica tried to heat up the attack using a variety of combination plays. The Oxford team were gaining in confidence at the Blues' expense and our attack faltered in strength. Spaces were still being found in the Oxford court but were quickly filled and the Blues found themselves forced into defence against attack after attack without being able to transfer any of the pressure on the opposition. A dominating slow middle attack from the Oxford number 12 was finding the spaces around the block, and although the back-court was coping with some of the barrage, the defence pass was making Steph and Veronica work hard. Oxford secured the set with a late 7 point run.

Emily started the fourth set for Alice and the Blues were visibly unhappy about chasing the set lead. Again from the start of the set Cambridge were missing their usual hit frenzy and tipped balls were being scooped up by the opponent's defence. Sofia was digging some steep hit balls in the back-court with style and Anne and Steph covering well behind the block. Friederike took her place on court again and Alice came on for Anna, who, having passed well in the first set, took an unfortunate run of float serves, which needed to be broken by the substitution. At 10-20 down the Blues looked despondent, but urged on by Steph, who took a run of 5 points from service, and some good transition play, the score was dragged back to 21-25 by grim determination.

The Blues were understandably disappointed by their first match after the break, and were only really starting to find their flow again late in the match when the damage had been done. With time in a packed match schedule for a few practice sessions the team will be looking to get on top of this minor set-back as quickly as possible.

Queen of the court: Steph Bee for consistent serving and setting under adverse pass conditions.

Quote of the match: from Emily at the Oxford venue, via mobile phone, to the rest of the team approaching Oxford by car, "Get here quickly I think I'm going to get beaten up".

PositionSets PlayedAttacksKillsKill %AcesBlocksPass %Total Points
Steph BeeS44125203
Jo CoulsonO210001.43
Veronica KunzeS413538117
Emily LongmoreM2100
Anne MullinM/O41774122.329
Sofia OikonomidouM46583311.89
Friederike von TiesenhausenO3722921.74
Anna WooO/Libero2-1.33

Report by Jon Clarke

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