Having seen off Luton, the Blues continued their qualification programme against Cranfield University. Coach Howorth returned to the six that had started against Luton, and it again quickly became obvious that the Blues were superior in every department. Cranfield lacked penetration in their offence, and solid performances from all of the Cambridge hitters put the Blues into a commanding lead that they never relinquished. The closest a Cranfield player came to a genuine kill was when their middle blocker laid out his own setter for several minutes after a collision on court.
The Cambridge block was tested only occasionally as Cranfield began dumping the ball, but the Blues' defence was often slightly slack, presenting sub–standard passes to setter Pierre Baillet. However utility hitter Roger Martinez showed his value as a safety option in such situations, scoring several impressive kills from both front and back court. With Cranfield seemingly unable to handle the float serves of White, Escott and Dirksen, Cambridge had little trouble in securing the first set 25–13.
The weak opposition provided coach Howorth with the opportunity to give his bench players a run–out in the second set. Fabian Wagner replaced Baillet as setter, whilst middle blocker Alessio Ruggieri and outside hitters Sigve Gjerstad and Pierre–Yves Couliard also came on to give some of the first six a rest. Although the names had changed, the performance did not as what was essentially a second team were still far too strong for Cranfield. Ruggieri was particularly imposing at the net, whilst Wagner made effective use of Martinez with the reverse set. A scoreline of 25–14 was no more than Cambridge deserved after a dominant performance.
MVP for the match was Roger Martinez with 7 points (6 kills, 1 stuff block, kill ratio 0.429). Carsten Dirksen scored 6 points (4 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, kill ratio 0.444), whilst captain Richard White served 2 aces and made 3 kills from only 4 attempts.
Report by Richard White
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