Blues 3-1 Southampton University (18-25, 25-14, 25-17, 25-10)
Linton Village College, 27/02/2002
After an uncertain start, Cambridge men's volleyball team found their feet to come from behind and secure a four-set victory over Southampton University in their BUSA knockout match yesterday. The win secures the Light Blues' place in the BUSA final eight tournament, which will be played in Loughborough from 8th-10th March.
The Light Blues arrived at Linton Village College in confident mood, following their successes at the EVA Student Cup and the Varsity Match over the previous two weekends, and prepared to face an unknown Southampton side who had reached the last 16 by virtue of finishing in 2nd place behind Bristol in the Western conference. The hitting warm-up quickly established the visitors as a force to be reckoned with, as for probably the first time this season, Cambridge were outgunned in the preliminaries.
Nevertheless coach Dr Richard White sent out the Varsity match-winning unit of Roger Konrad setting, Dan Roy opposite, Andy Lynn and Ken Kato outside, Dan Escott and Jean Jacquet in the middle and Denis Zuev as libero. An inauspicious start saw an error from Roy, and coach White was soon forced to call time-out down 2-7 as some weak passing from the Blues gave Southampton transition opportunities which were not wasted. The southerners' band of Greek hitters exploited some poor blocking from the home side, with left-hander Orphanos unstoppable throughout the set. Cambridge finally began to establish their side-out game behind some excellent hitting from Kato, and after another time-out at 15-19 a solo block from Andy Lynn saw the Light Blues claw back to within two points. However some dreadful passing from libero Zuev allowed Southampton to win five points in a row to secure game one 25-18.
The Blues' unbeaten record at Linton, and their place in the BUSA Finals, looked to be under threat as the visitors sided-out immediately and took a point on serve to start set two. Andy Lynn then stepped up to the challenge, however, as he followed up a hammer spike to win the ball with a fine series of jump serves to force Southampton to call time-out down 5-10. Jean Jacquet followed this with three more points on his own serve as Cambridge started to find the weaknesses in their opponent's serve receive line-up, and the Blues rammed home their advantage as Escott began to dominate the middle of the net. Libero Zuev seemed to have forgotten completely his early game problems as he produced an immaculate passing display, and the match was levelled by a convincing 25-14 mark.
Coach White altered his team's usual starting rotation for game three, and was immediately rewarded as Cambridge took the first five points to force a Southampton time-out. The southerners were not yet out of the match, and fine middle attacking from Azavedo (his number 121 shirt showing the impressive depth of the Southampton squad) forced the home side to time-out at 14-10. The Blues settled down thereafter, and although Dan Roy produced some fine kills from the right side, the set quickly became the Kato and Lynn show. Ken Kato was unstoppable out of the backrow, whilst Lynn inflicted a rare twelve-pack with a wicked angle shot into the face of the unfortunate Southampton off-blocker, and rounded off the set with a jump serve ace.
Game four began with Dan Roy's now customary comedy play slot, as he elected to commit block to the Southampton 1-tempo attack. The ensuing three-man wall was a delight to behold, alas the visitor's setter spoilt things rather by setting Orphanos on the outside to bounce the ball down unimpeded. But the early lead for the southerners was quickly nullified as Cambridge's serving game returned with a vengeance. Ken Kato started the rout with a run including two aces and a forced overpass which was put down by Andy Lynn via the chest of a Southampton digger. Dan Roy then continued the display, with the visitors calling time-out down 4-11, and by the time Jean Jacquet had completed his time at the line, the Blues were utterly dominant. A run of nine points ended any remaining Southampton hopes, with poor passes preventing them from utilising their best hitters, who were stranded in the backrow. The Konrad/Escott partnership remained unblockable, and fine transition hitting from Kato saw the match sealed 25-10.
Coach White on the match: "Southampton gave us a nasty shock at the start - they have some very strong hitters, and in game one our blocking was awful. Crucially, we weren't siding-out well so were putting pressure on ourselves. In game two we sorted this out, and our serving was much better - once their passing deteriorated Southampton's offence was much more predictable and we were able to react accordingly. We had some nice match-ups in that set, so we changed our starting rotations for subsequent sets to keep things the same and it worked well. The whole squad is really looking forward to the BUSA Finals, from the draw it looks as though there will be no weak links so it should be a great tournament."
Ken Kato took his first MVP award of the year with 18 points, with Andy Lynn (14) and Dan Escott (12) also impressing. The Blues' next engagement will be the opening match of the BUSA tournament on Friday March 8th, where they will be joined by the Cambridge women's team. For the second successive year (and only the second time ever), both Blues teams will travel to Loughborough for the final eight tournament, the women defeating LSE 3-0 to book their place.
Report by Richard White
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