Blues 2-0 Loughborough University (26-24, 25-18)
Although weakened by the loss of captain David Lovell to an ankle injury sustained during their quarter-final win over Birmingham, Loughborough were to represent formidable opponents and were surely desperate for a trophy after being runners-up in the 2000 and 2001 BUSA championships. The first rally suggested that the match might become a war of attrition, as the Midlanders blocked three Cambridge attacks before taking the point. Loughborough exhibited all the defensive qualities for which they are renowned, and the Blues struggled to side-out as coach White was forced to call time-out at 4-9 down. The stoppage had the desired effect as Cambridge scored points on serve on each of the next three rotations, but they could get no closer than two points as awesome attacking in serve receive was offset by errors in transition as magnificent defence by setter Konrad and libero Zuev was wasted. Loughborough called time-out as the Blues finally closed to 17-18, and again at 20-21, but a point on Dan Roy's serve saw the match delicately poised at 23-23. Loughborough nevertheless took the side-out, and a crucial decision by the referee saw a pipe attack from Andy Lynn, which rebounded out over the sideline from low over the tape, called as having touched the block. Jean Jacquet then showed nerves of steel as he delivered a fine float service to the line, forcing a hitting error from Loughborough outside Burt to give Cambridge set point. Jacquet repeated the dose on the next point, whereupon the Blues gave a virtuoso display of block and defence, with Konrad and Escott initially control blocking Burt. The transition was set back to the Loughborough number 8, who hit high hands but was doubtless aghast to see Andy Lynn retrieve the ball from out of the back of court with a one-handed save. Escott bumped the ball up to the outside and Briguet-Lamarre pounded the ball off Loughborogh's own block for game, the whole bench now exultant as the set was secured 26-24.
Coach White exhorted his team to maintain the same level as game two began, but yet again Cambridge were unable to side-out. A time-out at 0-3 only secured the side-out after another hitting error from the hitherto reliable Lynn, and Loughborough then took back the ball to lead 5-1. After siding-out again, however, the Blues' excellence from the service line, which had been commended by all of their opponents during the tournament, gave them the initiative as Loughborough struggled to run their dangerous 1-tempo attack. A run of five serves from Escott saw Cambridge force errors or get the ball into transition, from where Lynn on the outside was unstoppable. More good work from Lynn and Jacquet in the block saw the Midlanders use their last time-out down 11-6 and, although Cambridge had overturned a five-point deficit to win game one, Loughborough could not pull back. Briguet-Lamarre at last found consistency with his fearsome jump serve, and in a hugely demoralising play for the Midlanders, a bullet from the baseline forced Loughborough setter Rowlands off the net with only a high outside set to Shillabeer available. The outside hitter hit the ball at full power but was blocked straight down by Dan Roy. Minutes later, Roy went to the line and embarrassed the Loughborough libero when he produced a peach of a float serve which practically died as it crossed the net to leave the unfortunate receiver groping in vain at the floor in front of him. The Cambridge bench now chanted every play as the Blues gained confidence on the road to victory, and an Andy Lynn jump serve rocketed into the chest of a Loughborough receiver to give Cambridge set point. He was unable to repeat, but Pierre Briguet-Lamarre found the seam on the next point and suddenly the court was a sea of Cambridge players and supporters. The score was 25-18 and the title of 2002 EVA Student Cup champions belonged to Cambridge.
Report by Richard White
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