Blues 2-3 Oxford University (15-25, 26-24, 25-21, 23-25, 15-17)
Iffley Road, 09/02/2008
The 2008 Varsity matches were held at Iffley Road. The Blues Men comfortably dispatched the Oxford side in the first match, leaving the Women to follow suit, although they entered the match as underdogs, having lost to Oxford twice already in the league season. Starting six were Yvonne Beyer (capt), Bethan Shaffery, Alex Rinnert, Ingeborg Kuijlaars, Maria Haal, Henna Niutanen, and Phoebe Lau. Substitutes were Anna Protasio, Claire Nichols, Jane Han and Katie Scotter. The team was coached by Jon Clarke.
In the opening set the Cambridge women demonstrated why they were coming into this match as second favourites, with poor serve-receive passing and defense cover in the back-court. Occasional moments of good play resulted in attacks that Oxford were comfortably picking up, and the serving errors from the Cambridge team sealed the set against their favour. Replacement of the two outside hitters and main passers (Yvonne and Ingeborg) with Anna and Jane in the second set improved the ball delivery to Bethan, who was able to set up some good attack options though Maria in the middle and Alex on the reverse. Cambridge started to claw their way back into the game, and after some impressive back-court defence from Jane and strong left-side attack from Anna, Oxford crumbled at the finale of the set to allow Cambridge to even the scores.
After a disaster serve substitution in the second set, Katie replaced Henna for serve again in the third set, this time getting a run of four points to put Cambridge ahead. With Jane replacing Alex on reverse, allowing the team to still utilise her much needed defence and receive abilities, captain Yvonne took the outside position again. Bethan was still battling hard to distribute to her point-winning attackers, notably Anna and Maria. The Blues took a comfortable third set and were poised for the match as they started the fourth unchanged. However, the Oxford team sensed their demise and took a timely step up in game quality, pushing two serve runs at the start of the set that were costly for the Cambridge team. A late push with excellent serving from Maria and Bethan, and calmly calculated second ball attacks from the Cambridge setter put the Blues back in contention at the end of the set but not soon enough to close out the match.
With the lottery of a 15 point fifth set, the Cambridge team knew the importance of staying within two points of the opponents. Collapsing in a spectacular fashion, the Cambridge team slumped to a 4-13 deficit, normally reliable libero Phoebe having problems in serve-receive and none of the first three Cambridge servers able to avoid errors. Supersub Claire was used to replace Jane and Cambridge won the ball on an Oxford error. Claire then proceeded to serve the next 10 points, two of which were aces, to the mounting excitement of the Cambridge supporters and disbelief of the home fans. A consistent serve was required and Cambridge won point after point, with a lot of nervous Oxford errors. At match point the run finished and an uncharacteristic communication error on the Cambridge side handed Oxford the game. A well-fought and entertaining Varsity match, extending the Oxford win run to four, but the best match of the Blues season.
MVP was Anna Protasio.
Report by Jon Clarke