With a second trip to what is becoming the Cambridge University Wednesday Home Venue, the Blues headed out to Linton for the return fixture with Birmingham. Bruce Kent and Huw Vater were officiating the game.
The Blues started the first set with Anna Hasting (s), Nadia von Maltzahn (m) and Jo Coulson (capt.; o) on front court and Christine Robins (o), Belvin Gong (l) and Maria Jose Markaida (r) in the back-court, Pia Sondergeld (m) being the replaced player.
With specific targets being set before the start of the game, the Blues responded well and cut down the options for the strong Birmingham attackers. The first few points tested both teams until Cambridge made the break - a run of 5 points with Anna serving and Christine finding a strong cross-court hitting position from 4. The Birmingham team fought the score back but couldn't ground the ball in the Cambridge court; Belvin and Christine picking up well in defence. Another run of service from captain Jo put the Blues into what looked like a commanding position and at 22-19 the first set looked to be secure. An unfortunate run of errors against a strong Birmingham serve saw the Blues losing composure and letting the set slip.
The Blues returned to the court with Federica Draghi debuting for Jo. After losing serve the team staged a collapse worthy of English cricket in the second set. Nadia made two solo blocks on the Birmingham opposite and middle players, but the remainder of the points from the Blues were coming from Birmingham errors, service especially. A rotational confusion forced an ill-lost time-out and dented the player's confidence at a crucial time. Changes included Janice Pedersen for Anna, Ulli Klossek for Federica and Sandra Sudhoff for Pia.
With an uphill struggle in the face of an opponent that was growing in confidence and getting used to the dimensions of the Linton gym, the Blues set out with determination in the third set. Anna was back to set and Sandra remained on in the middle position, Jo and Ulli attacking through the outside, Christine replacing Maria on the reverse. Again the strong Birmingham attack dominated the game and the Blues slipped behind on the points tally, only recovering alternate side-out midway through the set, Ulli working hard to hit line attacks. With Janice switching to set and Federica for Jo on the outside, the Blues fought hard in the remainder of the set, pulling back from 6-17 to 17-18. This period of play saw Nadia dominate at the net, sending three consecutive blocks back to the feet of the Birmingham attack, whilst Sandra was finding attack space and Janice was making second attack points. However, the effort wasn't enough to take the set and Birmingham went away victors after protecting their one point lead.
Queen of the Court: Nadia von Maltzahn
The Birmingham team requested a navigator to show them around Cambridge a bit before heading back up the M6. Renowned tourist guide to ladies volleyball teams, Huw was sitting waiting in the Birmingham minibus before anyone had a chance to reply...
Report by Jon Clarke
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