The Blues faced Loughborough 2 for the last BUSA fixture of the season. In the knowledge that a win would secure second position in the league, and that the opponents had already been relegated since the mid-point of the season, the Cambridge team were looking to avoid the embarrassing 3-2 score-line of the away fixture. With a strong squad for the Cherry Hinton match, the Blues sent out Veronica Kunze (capt, S), Kelly Klima and Fola Popoola (O), Nadia von Maltzahn and Anne Mullin (M) and Maria Marcaida (U). Supporting on the bench were Jill Aitken, Thea Sakata and Sarah March (O), Fiona Danks (M), Christina Swan and Jomana Fikree (S).
From the start of the match the Loughborough team found something to complain about at every point, and rightly so - on behalf of the spectators the match was shocking to watch. Side-outs for the first half of the set went with player errors and neither team could string a decent transition play together. Anne gathered the ball at 5-8 and served a run of three aces that changed the tempo of the game. Maria took a couple of swings through the reverse that improved her batting average for the season and sunk the Loughborough heads. The set ended in Blues style; Nadia served consistently and was rewarded with a number of Loughborough hit and rotation error points. On this rotation Anne was able to take control at the net and make a run of points with kills and blocks. The Loughborough team took their time-outs and even complained about and changed the ball. To no avail - Nadia continued her spree and served the set (14 points), Loughborough obviously not that impressed with their own ball.
Set two started badly with a rotation slip error meaning that the proposed substitution of Jill for Kelly resulted in Veronica being substituted back on for service, with Jill dejectedly back on the subs bench. Fiona replaced Nadia in the centre. The frequency of Loughborough serve-receive errors was increasing and Anne was connecting well with Veronica for kills in the middle, around the lonely solo middle blocker. The Blues in response were making more serve errors, although Veronica found a couple of aces up her sleeve. Even with best attempts at a mini-collapse at the end of the set, the Blues were never in danger of letting the Loughborough team get ahead.
Set three saw a change in line-up; Jomana for Veronica, Jill and Fola on the outsides and Fiona and Anne in the centres. The Loughborough team seemed to perk up a bit and began to scramble up some harder Blues attacks. Fola was getting on the end of Jomana's sets to the outside, but the Cambridge passing left a lot to be desired, Jomana being asked to set from the top of the net time and time again. A last push change of personnel, Sarah replacing Jill and Veronica back for Jomana, left the Blues charging from a 4 point deficit, but the set was ended early by a poor spell of serve-receive.
Undeterred by the minor set-back the Blues resolved to finish the match. Playing the first set line-up the Cambridge pushed out an early lead, Anne serving three aces in a row and the Loughborough serve-receive unit peppering the wall, ceiling and scorer's table (Tim taking evasive action). After a Loughborough time-out to stop the rout, Anne promptly served ace number four. Later in the set Thea replaced Fola and found a space between the Loughborough block to squeeze an attack. Christina replaced Veronica in the embers of the match and finished play off by setting a perfect ball for Fiona to crush through the middle.
Not pretty, but job done!
Player of the match: Anne Mullin
Report by Jon Clarke
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