Blues 3-0 Cranfield University (25-22, 25-13, 25-19)
Kelsey Kerridge, 17/11/2001
A routine straight-sets victory from Cambridge Men's volleyball team on Saturday restored battered pride after their midweek defeat in Loughborough and saw the Light Blues rise to second in the Midlands conference. Opponents Cranfield remain without a win at the foot of the table.
Saturday's match was the first competitive fixture since October 1995 in which Cambridge were unable to call upon the services of middle blocker Dan Escott, unavailable due to National League commitments. However the Light Blues were otherwise at full-strength, and coach Dr Richard White started Roger Konrad setting with Dan Roy opposite, Pierre Briguet-Lamarre and Andy Lynn at the swings and Soren Koeppe and Jean Jacquet as middle blockers. Denis Zuev donned the white shirt as libero once more.
Cranfield, bottom of the Midlands conference, arrived with only six players and were quickly put to the sword as Konrad mixed up his options to good effect. With Koeppe and Lynn scoring freely and libero Zuev making some excellent interceptions in defence, the Light Blues looked to be coasting as Cranfield were forced into a time-out at 8-16 down. However the visitors upped their level of play, particularly in defence, and Cambridge eventually secured the set by a less than overwhelming 25-22 margin.
Game two began in much more convincing fashion as Pierre Briguet-Lamarre turned up the heat with a run of sizzling jump serves. Dan Roy and Andy Lynn followed suit, and the visitors were unable to make telling attacks in serve-receive. Although Jacquet was struggling to terminate in the middle and was replaced by debutant Chris Thornton, the remainder of the Cambridge offence showed good form and frequently overpowered Cranfield; both Roy and Briguet-Lamarre made kills which rebounded from defenders into the ceiling of the sports hall. Ken Kato replaced Lynn as Cambridge took the set 25-13.
Kato and Thornton started game three, whilst Anthony Reynolds was quickly brought on to quarterback the side in place of Konrad. Another devastating service run from Briguet-Lamarre opened up a 5-2 lead which the Light Blues never relinquished. Reynolds ran the back row offence with impressive authority, and the Cambridge bench were brought to their feet as a stunning cross court spike from Kato floored the Cranfield off-blocker before he or anyone else had seen the ball. The set was completed 25-19 to secure victory.
Coach White said after the match: "This was a workmanlike performance, but nevertheless a valuable win after the disappointment of the Loughborough defeat. Winning in straight sets is important, since the top of the group may yet be decided on set difference in the final analysis. The players showed all of the individual flair and power that we're coming to expect, and as a team we are improving with every match."
Briguet-Lamarre took match honours with 18 points, including a University record seven aces, whilst Dan Roy reached double-figures for the fifth successive match. Cambridge's next match is the return fixture with Oxford at Kelsey Kerridge next Saturday, where they will be eager to avenge their early season defeat.
Report by Richard White
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