Oxford’s Women’s Volleyball first team played Cambridge at home on Wednesday 14th November, winning three sets to one.
Each set is played to 25 points, with Oxford winning the first set by a large margin at 25-13 and the second by 25- 20. Cambridge were generally out-skilled and out-powered throughout the game, they tried to develop into play and push back against the dark blues but they were forced into errors and were on the back foot after their poor start.
Cambridge won the second set at 25 to 21 but Oxford clearly wanted to take the game as convincingly as possible and won the fourth set 25-23 after a last push from Cambridge. In ending the game before a fifth and final set Oxford were able to take an impressive victory which will provide them with a crucial psychological advantage over the Tabs when going into the Varsity match.
The sports hall at Iffley was filled with noise as both team sustained loud cheering and support throughout the game, with the Cambridge side beating a drum to keep up the high energy needed for volleyball. There was a display of camaraderie between the Oxford players which was unlike anything I have ever seen, with players coming together after every point to boost one another. Volleyball’s spirt may be unusual to a British audience where it is a lesser-known sport but the volleyball club, which has one of the highest levels of international participation in Oxford, displayed a unique quality of enthusiasm, positivity, and support.
Cambridge were often unable to respond to Oxford’s powerful slams and conceded several errors such as hitting the ball out on the first serve. Their libero, a defensive player who is under certain restrictions, was also penalised for hitting the ball when it was above net height which caused Cambridge to challenge the official and tensions began to show.
The dark blues appeared as the fitter, taller, and stronger team and this allowed them to maintain stamina throughout the match. Oxford’s attack was very impressive and their number 3, returner Debbie Malden, provided key height and skill at the net. Oxford Libero Alba Piacenti also provided important team support throughout the game, communicating with players, and offering them regular encouragement.
In the final two sets Cambridge seemed to be coming into the game with aggression and determination. Taking the third set from Oxford meant that the dark blues weren’t going to win on straight sets and they had to respond with accuracy in a close run fourth set to prevent the game slipping into a fth set. Oxford managed to claw back some control with the final set being the closest in points.
They managed to reach 25 points with the crucial two point lead on their opposition and burst into jubilation in being able to grab the win after such an impressive opening to the match. This win, as well as importantly being against their light blue rivals, was Oxford’s first of the season, having had a disappointing year thus far.
However, the impressive performance on Wednesday could be a sign of things being on the up for the dark blues. Last year the team came fourth in the BUCS Premier South League and currently being placed in fifth they will need to achieve several more wins to climb the leaderboard. The club has an impressive record of winning both the BUCS League and Cup competitions so this dip in performance is unusual for the side.