Blues 3-0 Nottingham University (25-12, 25-13, 25-19)
Manor Community College, 29/11/2006
Their final fixture of the calendar year at last saw Cambridge Men play at home, although this might be more trouble than most away venues, as a referee stand had to be carried half way across the city, perhaps providing the warm-up the Cambridge needed. A full squad was on hand, allowing Jacquet to experiment with different line-ups (sometimes unintentionally). The Blues started with Li setting opposite Sarkozy (captain), Chalupnik and Loebbert at outside hitter, and Meeder and Niederste-Ostholt blocking middle. Finely would patrol the back row as libero eventually, but the middles were given a chance to shine in the pass to begin.
The Blues opened on fire, siding out with conviction and pushing their serves, notching several aces as they raced out to a quick lead. With the middles a constant threat, the wing attackers were rewarded with one man blocks, which they ruthlessly punished. Li in particular was playing like a man possessed, his setting spot on, allowing his hitters to utilize their wide array of attacking shots, and leaving the Nottingham line defender fearing for his life on more than one occasion. Nottingham's attack was not so blessed, the strong Cambridge serve denying them any run of play, which gave their hitters few options, and as often as not the visitors failed to pass the Blue's dominating block. The set ended 25-11.
The second set began with a slight mix-up, with players changing shirts before the match, Jacquet accidentally put Niederste-Ostholt at outside hitter partnering Chalupnik, with Zubko entering through the middle to accompany Meeder. While in seasons past such deviations from the norm would have caused undue panic, the Blues have now reached an on-court maturity to deal with such matters, and with Finley shining in defense, the Cambridge attackers again proved too much for Nottingham. A few combinations, several more aces, and some punishing blocks would again see the home side race out to an insurmountable lead, which was just pushed throughout the set. It would close quickly, to 12 points.
The third set saw Loebbert replacing Niederste-Ostholt, but Cambridge, despite beginning strongly, would flat line for a while, losing a 5 point lead on simply poor passing. A time-out at 12 all would feature a surprisingly calm Jacquet offer some technical advice mixed with some old fashioned ranting at the Blue's lack of concentration. The latter was what was required, and a Chalupnik kill brought him to the service line, where he would add to his ace tally as the Blues scored 5 unanswered points. Niederste-Ostholt, showing he could play all over the court, replaced Li setting, and a side out game dominated. Sarkozy would give way to Pang in the dying moments of the game, the new opposite covering well in his Cambridge debut. Purwin would also make his first Cambridge appearence, featuring in the middle for Zubko, and would nicely close out the side with an assisted block with Niederste-Ostholt.
The Blues now go into the Christmas break 6-0, a first for Cambridge University.
The Match MVP was Tjonnie Li.
Report by Stephen Sarkozy
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