The double-header fixture of the men and women's Blues teams away to Oxford at Upper Heyford came early in the season and meant that the women's squad had to travel with a slightly weaker team than usual. It always rains at Upper Heyford, so it was no surprise to be unlocking the gates at the disused army base on a wet and windy afternoon in October. Some new faces were trying out for the Blues with the first six as Jen Anderson (S), Anne Mullin (R), Nadia von Maltzahn and Pia Sondergeld (M), Christine Robins and Louiza Loizou (O) and Beccy Lewis (L). The reserves included Anna Hasting and Janice Pedersen (S), Christina Dahm (M) and Jo Coulson (O).
After a long warm-up period the game eventually got underway. The new faces on the Oxford team included a very good setter and a back-court attack. These players managed to dominate the starting set and the Blues defence was in disarray. After immediately going 5 points down, Cambridge received two points by service error from Oxford, only to get caught in a rotation where the server was punishing the serve-receive, which spent most of its time collecting the ball from the side-netting. Two time outs and a number of changes didn't improve matters, and even though the Blues had a steady run of seven points late in the set, the damage was already done.
Set two saw Jo replacing Louiza and Anna replacing Jen. The Blues seemed to be stabilising their game and took an early lead at 5-3, when Anne incurred a muscle injury that put her out on the bench for the rest of the match. With the other potential reverse player already on court it came down to Christina replace Anne. Thrown in at the deep end, Christina coped well with the unfamiliar rotations. However, at the same serve receive position the Blues again came unstuck with Bex and Nadia being pinpointed into forced passing errors. A long run of points ensued and the Cambridge side valiantly tried to play themselves back into the game but to no avail.
With the team starting out at completely new positions in set three it was difficult to match the Oxford side that had confidence the two sets that they had already won. With Janice setting and Anna playing through the reverse the Blues were still able to attack but their defence looked shaky and the passing was still not good. To the delight of the Oxford team the match was won in 3 sets, a rerun of the first meeting of the two teams in the previous season.
Queen of the Court: Jo Coulson
Who was the mysterious "spectator" in the dirty mackintosh that was found lurking in the curtains between the men's and women's courts during this fixture? He seemed to be an expert at multi-tasking; line-judge, referee, captain, coach, spy. Perhaps he will pop up again later in the season...
Report by Jon Clarke
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