In the last of the Pool A matches the Blues faced Edinburgh. This team had also beaten the other two opponents in the pool, and so the match would decide the final pool positions, the runners' up facing Loughborough in the semi-final, with the winners to play Cardiff. Having viewed the Edinburgh teams' form during the day, the only danger appeared to be a strong middle hitter - the favoured attacker in both front and back-court.
Aligning fast middle blocker Anne with this threat, the Blues also started with Vero setting, Maria opposite, Fiona middle and Cyndee and Fola on the wing. After slipping the first two points, the tactic of playing Maria through to serve paid off as she proceeded to serve a run of five consistent services that had the pressure on the Edinburgh unit. With errors from the Scottish team the Blues forged a lead. With Fola stepping up to serve next the rout continued and forced an early Edinburgh time-out. The appearance of the opposition No. 5 at the net allowed the opponents to get some points on the board with a number of accurate line attacks. With Alison replacing Maria to consolidate the defence, Veronica stepped up the pace with a long serve run of her own. Jill replaced Fola at the end of the set and made a couple of useful outside attacks to seal the set.
The same starting line-up opened set 2 and suffered from a bad spell of serve-receive, forcing a Blues time-out. Over-passing in defence gave the Edinburgh middle a few treats on the net and the slowing Blues block left the back-court vulnerable. Replacement of Fiona with Nadia lifted the Cambridge game and Cyndee was utilized to put the team back into the set with a number of big booms and a delicate block wipe. With Fola tipping into free space and Nadia hitting strong middle the Blues evened the points, only for Edinburgh to surge again, picking up hard attacks from Fola and Anne that would have been kills in the previous matches. With Anne serving and Cyndee swinging, the Blues pushed for the set, but the Edinburgh team responded again, their No.5 serving a couple of aces and picking up well in back court. The opposition took the set.
With the possibility of nerves interfering with a short deciding set, the Blues needed a good opening gambit for set 3. After losing the first point, Alison won the ball back and forced serve-receive errors with her serve. With the cover strengthened and Anne hitting fast through the middle the Blues upped the tempo. Cyndee was killing from the back-court and running combinations with Veronica and the Blues were cruising. Fiona stuff-blocked into the end-change at 8-6. This was the best display from the Blues so far in the tournament and they looked like a finalist team. With Veronica again serving tough the Blues accelerated to the end of the set, Fola and Anne combining on the last play to block the last Edinburgh effort.
Report by Jon Clarke
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