Blues 2-0 Birmingham University (25-17, 25-20)
With a place in the final four at stake, Cambridge faced a Birmingham side now at full-strength after the arrival of Cypriot Nikiforou, and eager to avenge their shock defeat against Manchester. The previous two matches between these two teams' best line-ups had both gone to a tiebreak set, and the Blues were clear that this would be no easy game. Indeed Birmingham immediately outfoxed Cambridge with two changes made specially for this match; firstly Nikiforou lined up at opposite instead of his customary outside position, and secondly setter Ludo Bonnet unveiled a jump serve to take the opening two points. The Blues soon found their feet, however, and Dan Escott was lethal through the middle as his side moved into the lead. The Cambridge block forced Bonnet to rely on difficult sets to his star hitters, but even they were powerless to prevent the Blues taking game one 25-17.
Birmingham had dropped game one only to come back in the two previous encounters with the Blues, however, and looked like repeating the trick as they surged to a 5-2 lead to force Cambridge coach White to call time-out. Thereafter Briguet-Lamarre's jump serve got his team back on track, and another line cannon from Andy Lynn and roof block from Dan Escott put the Blues into the lead. Dan Roy then stole the show as he ended the match with a remarkable run of seven kills, and a huge shutdown block on Birmingham no. 9, Fiorio. A 25-20 scoreline saw Cambridge reach the semi-finals for only the second time in their history, whilst Birmingham were granted a reprieve as Glasgow's victory over Manchester enabled them to qualify on set difference. Group B was also decided thus, as Sheffield Hallam improved almost beyond recognition from a side which had looked feeble in succumbing to Kent on the Friday to defeat Loughborough in straight sets. Kent could not beat Bristol to force their way into the top two, so it was Hallam who took runners-up spot and the privilege of facing Cambridge in Sunday's first semi-final.
Report by Richard White
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