BUCS Championship Qualification Match 

Blues 3-0 Birmingham University (25-23, 25-23, 25-17)
Manor Community College, 17/11/2010

Cambridge University, with a 4 and 0 record, at home against Birmingham University, with a single win out of four matches. Seemingly a simple match, but Cambridge were without both their coach or last week’s MVP, Anna Protasio, who is rapidly establishing herself as the squad’s starting setter, not to mention the paucity of team training opportunities this month. On the other hand, the team’s latest recruit Christiane Smyrilli was available for the first time this season and keen to unleash her powerful hitting shoulder on the opposition.

The Blues’ starting six comprised last year’s starting setter Deidre Cleland; opposite Barbora Doslikova; middle blockers Maddi sowash and Sarah Greasley; outsides Ksenia Osjmana and Christiane Smyrilli and libero Tina Schwamb.

The home team’s superior attack was soon in evidence as they pulled ahead early in set one. However, they did not look comfortable in transition and the visitors were defending much better, squad captain Sowash found herself calling a timeout with Birmingham having brought the game back to 10-10. With errors abounding and Smyrilli’s and Doslikova’s cross-court attacks not finding the floor, Birmingham moved ahead. Then, at 16-19 Debbie Deng replaced Greasley, Birmingham fluffed two attacks and their coach Ollie Bertrand called his first time out. His team made their side-out but then consecutive stuff blocks from Deng and another Birmingham error had them back on the sideline for another team talk 21-20 down. Some drawn-out rallies ensued, mostly ending with mistakes. The visitors outscored in this regard and eventually the referee’s whistle stopped proceedings, the score 25-23.

In set two Birmingham pulled out a lead of several point and held all it for most of the set. However, some canny substitutions from captain Sowash kept her team alert, she replaced an out-of-sorts Smyrilli with the on-fire Osjmana and replaced herself with Ariane Hanssum, this paid off with important kills from both substitutes. Numerous serving errors from the visitors prevented them pulling away and the gap closed to 17-18. Then a bungled attack, a shanked pass and another hitting error from the Blues let their opponents slip to 17-21. Moments later, at 18-22 Birmingham missed an attack opportunity and Cambridge took back the initiative. With the dangerous Doslikova on the service line, Deng put up the Great Wall to continue block the Reds’ outside hitter and Schwalie dropped a 4m bomb with the resulting transition set (see: http://www.youtube.com/user/jeanjacquet#p/a/u/0/t-JjO3JE6vo). Birmingham were shaken and shanked the next serve. Coach Bertrand was forced to time out at 21-22 and it just about had effect, Cleland making a handling erro in the following rally. However, Schwalie was fired up, making the next side-out with an athletic swing hit then drawing two shanks with deep serves. The visitors, now clearly rattled, made a mess of the next attack and Doslikova calmly rolled her back-court hit onto the opposition back line to steal the set.

The third set started in the same scrappy vein as the last two but whilst Birmingham struggled to cut down their errors Cambridge continued to improve. Long rallies were often ended with Cleland placing the ball perfectly on the antennae to be fiercely put away by Osmjana or Schwalie. The ever patient Ana Tufegdzic Vidakovic finally had her chance to replace Doslikova at 21-16 but she was jumping on a runaway train and hardly got her chance to contribute as the set finished 25-17.

This might not have been the most elegant win for the Light Blues but it was a good test of character, with a number of players either absent or coming back from absence or injury and it puts clear water between Cambridge and the rest of the Division. Oxford took revenge on Loughborough for their early season defeat leaving both Loughborough and Nottingham on two losses and Oxford on three whilst the Light Blues remain undefeated.

MVP: P Schwalie

Report by Jean Jacquet

NamePositionSets PlayedAttacksKillsKill PercentAcesBlocks Pass Total Points
Deidre Cleland S 3 2 0 0 1 0 1
Debbie (Bin) Deng M 3 9 2 22 0 4 6
Barbora Doslikova U 3 21 8 38 1 0 9
Sarah Greasley M 2 8 2 25 0 0 2
Ariane Hanssum M 2 2 2 100 0 0 2
Ksenija Osmjana O 3 13 6 46 0 0 6
Petra Schwalie O 2 17 7 41 3 0 10
Christiana Smyrilli O 2 11 3 27 0 0 3
Maddi Sowash M 2 6 2 33 1 0 3
Ana Tufegdzic Vidakovic U 1 0 0 0 0 0
Team Total 89 32 36 6 4 42