With an afternoon of preparation behind them (mostly involving large quantities of pasta and apple pie), the Blues headed to an unfamiliar venue for their Varsity match. Due to scheduling problems the Leys School Gym had kindly agreed to open late to accomodate the fixture (thanks Mark!), which gave the fifty or so supporters an excellent view of proceedings from the viewing balcony. All of the Uni teams turned out with banners and cheering, as well as many players from Cambridge town clubs.
Having narrowly lost the Varsity match last year, the Blues were determined to get honours back on their home turf. A tough 5 set match the year before in Kelsey Kerridge could still be remembered by three of the players and they knew that the same could be in store this time.
A full-strength Blues team lined up with the first six being Veronica Kunze (capt, S), Anne Mullin (M), Nadia von Maltzahn (M), Cyndee Carver (O), Fola Popoola (O) and Alison Loomis (U). Supporting on the bench were Jo Coulson (O), Jill Aitken (O), Sarah March (O), Fiona Danks (M), Jomana Fikree (S) and Maria Marcaida (U). The team warmed up to the lilting tunes of Dixieland Delight, our own Alabama Hammer singing along...
After being prepped not to let the noise from the crowd put them off the game, the Blues immediately lost serve and then the next seven points to find themselves 8-1 down (three points to eagle-eyed rotation errors). Gently urged to get into the game at the subsequent time-out the Cambridge team started again. Rallying behind an amazing save involving Anne, Veronica (with the ball centimetres from the wall), and Alison, the Blues came alive and crept back into proceedings. With Anne mulling over a long serve run which probed the Oxford receive weaknesses, Cambridge were back into the game. Both Anne and Nadia made multiblock rallies at centre. Veronica can see why she enjoys her front-court rotation with a wicked cross-court kill into the undefended Oxford corner. As the points mounted Cyndee carved her way into the game with a huge bomb that sent the dark blues reeling and finished the set.
Set two opened point for point until Nadia won (maltreating the Oxford middle) the ball for serve. Her run of seven deliveries put the pressure onto Oxford and the Blues found themselves reversed in this set with an 8-2 lead. The visitors definitely had the worst cover at this stage of the game, with the Blues picking up everything and running down lost balls to keep them alive. From Cyndee's serve Veronica tooled the block after an Oxford overpass, only for exactly the same play to occur the next point, Veronica optimising again. With Fola popping the tips in for points and both she and Cyndee swinging freely for maximum impacts in the opponents court, the Blues were cruising. Anne finished the set in style with a formidible serving run and two aces, including the concluding point.
Looking for the first 3-0 Cambridge win in the memory of the Varsity match, the Blues increased tempo and demonstrated their depth of squad in the third set. Alison, looming on the reverse for a clutch of attack points, a stuff block and some impressive passing, made way for Maria. Nadia was replaced by Fiona after working hard in the middle, and Jill took over from Fola on the outside. Jill, aching for a chance to play in the match, stepped straight on to power-serve an ace into the Oxford corner and a few points later found an undefended line to attack. Fiona's dink through the middle also made a point and she continued to patrol the net as efficiently as when she subbed-in during set 2. Maria marked harder than ever on the reverse and promptly stuffed the big Oxford swing-hitter. She also served up the last point of the victory, Anne thumping the Oxford overpass into undefended territory.
A memorable victory, the Blues added their two points to the Varsity games total. The overall count was a resounding Cambridge victory by the largest margin ever, and the team can be pleased to have played a role in the final 33-16 tally.
The Blues celebrated their win in style, with supporters in the pub, with the team at the Wolfson disco, and with the Jesus college porters (eventually) at Veronica's house (when they politely asked if the music could be turned down at 5am seeing as they could hear it from the Lodge, 500m away).
Player of the match; Veronica Kunze
Report by Jon Clarke
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