Blues 2-0 Sheffield Hallam University (25-23, 25-21)
The 9am game on Sunday saw Cambridge take on their nemesis, Sheffield Hallam. Five times in recent years the Blues had drawn Hallam during the final stages of an EVA or BUSA tournament, and the Sheffield side had triumphed in all five matches. The 2002 Hallam side contained three of Cambridge's past tormentors, with the main threat being posed by the combination of 2.02m England international Alex Porter and a one-time Malaysian international setter very capable of finding him. Hallam had their usual contingent of very vocal supporters, and could also count upon the backing of the Loughborough side in their renditions of the now legendary "Boing, boing, Sheffield Hallam" mantra.
Hallam's game plan was immediately obvious: set Porter. The Blues struggled as he responded by killing almost at will, and adding two huge stuff blocks on Roy and Briguet-Lamarre for good measure. Cambridge fell behind to force a time-out from White with the deficit 11-15, but thereafter scored points on serve in each of the next three rotations to level at 17-17. The Blues quintet of hitters were now in fine form, but Cambridge's relentless side-out game was matched by Porter as service switched back and forth right up to 23-23. Now at the crucial moment Cambridge finally found an answer to the England international as a block on him from Jean Jacquet forced a lift from the Hallam defence as they struggled in vain to retrieve the ball. A fine serve from Andy Lynn on the next play allowed Cambridge to get the ball into transition, and Lynn himself delivered the finishing touch with a trademark spike out of the pipe to seal the game 25-23.
Game two started as game one, with Hallam taking an early advantage behind strong attacking from outside Laurs as well as the inevitable Porter. Time-outs from coach White at 8-10 and 13-16 prevented the Northerners from building up too great an advantage, and a great dig by libero Denis Zuev of a Porter line shot, followed by an outstanding save by Andy Lynn of a ball hit off the top of the block, enabled the Blues to score in transition and level the match at 17. Pierre Briguet-Lamarre belied the tension of the match at this crucial moment when, on bending down to mop sweat off the court, a Hallam fan yelled out "I love your ass, number 6!"; the Frenchman waggled the aforementioned in response. Three plays then decided the game on the back of his fearsome jump serve. The first service was overpassed by Laurs and thumped down by Dan Roy. The second was passed well off the net, and a difficult set saw Alex Porter unload on an angle shot, only to be blocked straight down by Lynn and Escott. The third again forced a poor pass, and Dan Escott correctly read that Porter would tip rather than spike; he was in perfect position to dig the ensuing tactical ball, but improved even upon that great play by immediately putting down a quick set from Roger Konrad. Hallam could find no way back thereafter and the set finished 25-21; for the first time ever, Cambridge Men were in the BUSA Final.
Report by Richard White
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