Cambridge, after an away loss to Loughborough, was eager to see their first win in BUSA qualification. A home fixture saw the light Blues pared against an unfamiliar Birmingham side, the later fresh from promotion to Division 1, with Cambridge not looking to provide a warm welcome. The line up had Stephen Sarkozy again captaining the side, hitting opposite setter Tjonnie Li, with Pavel Zubko and Jonas Neher blocking middle, Sven Meeder and Marek Chalupnik hitting outside, and Mike Finley taking up the defensive duties in white.
After a stern warning from coach Jacquet to focus on every point and never let the visitors in the game, Cambridge came out firing on all cylinders. Quickly Brimingham found themselves down 5-0 their inexperienced passers simply unable to cope with Liís jump serves. After Birmingham eventually managed to switch rotations, Cambridge established a dominant side out game which would hold through for the majority of the match. Serving, which was appalling against Loughborough, won the home side multiple points, with the servers (mostly) finding the targets called by their ever watchful coach. Thundering kills from a well distributed attack extended the Cambridge lead, and, after some brief confusion about the score, the set mercifully ended for Birmingham, 25-12.
The second set started much where the first ended, Cambridge siding out efficiently against a single block and extending a lead. However, mental lapses allowed Birmingham to score points and hang in the game; a five point service run forcing Jacquet to use a time out and demanding a better performance, in order to be able to comfortably introduce some line up changes. Cambridge soon sided out and once again relied on service targets to stretch the lead, when Jack Willis came on for Meeder. Making a strong case for libero, Willis pounded his first set into the bottom of the net before making a few stellar defensive plays. With Sarkozy killing both from and back row from opposite (including a 6 pack of their libero) and both middles running with speed, Birmingham found themselves outclasses and all but gave the set away, 25-15.
The third set was more of the same, Cambridge starting where they left off. A few swaped side outs on lazy blocking gave some hints that the set may be competitive, but once again, the inability of Birmingham to control well placed Cambridge serves would be their downfall. Herman Chee came on to serve for Neher through the middle, and John Kirks immediately served an ace when subbed in for Chalupnik. Dominant middle play again assured the wing hitters single blocks, which they punished repeatedly. Final score, 25-13 to Cambridge.
MVP awarded by coach Jean Jacquet to captain Stephen Sarkozy (opposite).
Coach Jean Jacquet on the match
"It was a pleasing win with everyone contributing."
"Although Birmingham must be commended for their efforts their players clearly have very little competitive experience. BUSA's annual promotion/relegation system has not done them any favours. Whilst the talent-packed team which reached the EVA Student Cup semi-finals last year had to endure a whole year of tier 2 "volleyball" the current team might suffer the reverse problem of being outclassed in tier 1."
On the rest of the season:
"[R]umour has it that Oxford will be strong but Warwick is an unknown quantity, as is Nottingham who we play next week."
Captain Stephen Sarkozy
On the state of team:
"It was great to get everyone involved today, and unlike last week [against Loughborough], we looked organized and really started to gel."
On the importance of a first win:
"The first win of a season is always huge. We're a young team; to come out and beat a team we should be able to handle will give us the confidence to compete against stronger opposition."
Report by Stephen Sarkozy
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