With both Cambridge and UEA having secured qualification for the next phase by defeating Luton and Cranfield in straight sets, the final match of the day was little more than an exhibition match, with only pride at stake. As had been the case with Cambridge, UEA were much stronger than Luton and Cranfield, possessing three genuinely strong hitters and a very useful setter, and had looked highly impressive in winning both games. Whilst the first two matches had showcased Cambridge's ability to win with ease against average University sides, this match would be a useful test of how competitive they might be against genuinely strong sides such as Loughborough, Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam who will be encountered later on in the competition.
Coach Patrick Howorth selected his strongest six, with Pierre Baillet setting, Roger Martinez as utility hitter, Dan Escott and Carsten Dirksen as middle blockers and Steffen Krusch and captain Richard White as outside hitters. He was not to be disappointed, as Cambridge silenced a vociferous home crowd with easily their most complete display of the season so far.
After a slow start, Cambridge hit top gear and never let up. Their passing and recycling of the ball was outstanding, giving setter Baillet quality possession and allowing him to control the game. This allowed the Blues to give an exhibition of the strengths of the one–setter system, as UEA's defence were constantly faced with power hitters coming from the outside, middle and reverse from both front and back row, and the UEA blockers were thus frequently unable to commit to two–man cover for fear of being exposed by Cambridge's wide array of attacks.
This was demonstrated most graphically by Cambridge's fast middle attacks. Escott and Dirksen were simply far too good to be threatened by a single–man block, and combined for a remarkable 10 kills out of 11 attempts. Setter Baillet mixed up his plays superbly throughout, making several telling second–ball attacks and also making sensible use of the back–court option, with both Martinez and White making kills from back row.
In marked contrast to UEA, the Blues' blocking was outstanding. Strong serving from Cambridge largely took out UEA's middle option, and thus most of the home side's offence was directed through their strongest hitters on the outside. However Baillet and Dirksen combined superbly for seven stuff blocks, with the UEA hitters visibly losing heart as their strongest spikes were returned straight back at their own feet. Urged on by Roger Martinez to "enjoy it", Cambridge were unchanged throughout the match, and were even able to laugh rather than cry when White, with the court at his mercy after a superb combination play from Baillet, Escott and Martinez, blew his spike into the net. The final margin of 25–14, 25–12 no more than reflected the overwhelming superiority of the Cambridge performance.
MVP for the game was Carsten Dirksen with 11 points (6 kills, 1 ace, 4 blocks). Dirksen's kill ratio was a stunning 0.857, however Escott topped it by making 4 kills from 4 attempts, whilst Martinez made 5 more kills at an impressive 0.625. Captain Richard White scored 7 points (5 kills, 2 aces), and setter Pierre Baillet added 5 more. A sign of their dominance was that the Blues scored 35 of their 50 points through kills, blocks or aces, and overall made 23 kills to UEA's 6.
Report by Richard White
Back to top
Match report index