By Oonagh Clarke
After a very successful BUCS season, the Cardiff University Men’s Volleyball team secured a spot in the Western Conference Cup Final against our biggest rivals, Swansea. Now, spirits are at an all time high in the club following Wednesday’s 3-0 win against Swansea 1st. BUCS matches are best of five sets. Cardiff won by scores of 25-17, 25-22 and 25-19.
Despite a gallant effort from the opposition, we dominated from the start due to superior hitting, dedication in the defence and effective coordination and communication between the players. The atmosphere in the sports hall was thrilling, with Cardiff drawing a large group of buzzing supporters.
The crowd maintained boundless energy throughout and this was echoed in the men’s play, and ultimately on the scoreboard.
To quote one of the Swansea fans that wandered into the sports hall halfway though the third set, “Does anyone actually know the rules of Volleyball?” Indoor Volleyball is a fast-paced and exciting sport to watch and play. Put simply, the aim of the game is to strategically land the ball in the opposition’s court in three touches or less. This is achieved through a mix of digging, setting and spiking the ball over the net.
The tension in the hall could be felt throughout the half hour warm-up, as the teams attempted to suss out each other’s techniques and tactics. As well as giving players a chance to focus and ready themselves, the warm-up allows them to assess the opposing setter’s skill, players’ adaptability and habits. Plays can then be altered accordingly.
Let’s go, Cardiff, let’s go! The referee blew the whistle indicating the countdown to the first set. 12 players took their positions on court. Both teams had everything to play for. Cardiff was first to serve. Cheered on by their supporters, the hosts unleashed energetic attacks on Swansea. Cardiff player Mo had the crowd going wild with a huge spike that secured Cardiff’s lead.
A succession of successful hits from Swansea followed. The opposing team’s star player fought hard to close the gap on the scoreboard but was countered by some fantastic blocks by Cardiff player Andrea. Smug cheers of ‘one more point’ rang out from supporters as Cardiff reached set point with a clear lead.
Consistent serving and calculated attacks from the Cardiff side carried the team to a comfortable victory. Set score: 25-17.
By the second set, players have had time to settle into the game. Dynamics can change due to hitting styles becoming predictable and there is a risk of players becoming complacent. Swansea quickly took the lead in this set, with Cardiff struggling to follow.
At two different stages, Swansea had a three point lead over Cardiff. A number of avoidable service errors cost Cardiff valuable points. Losing a set would give Swansea more confidence and would again even the playing field. Led by coach Mo and captain Anton, Cardiff’s team fought back against a strong Swansea side. Cardiff’s Libero Mikey consistently saved many balls that had been spiked by Swansea’s star player. Setter Mo opted for some tricky tips and the risk paid off. At the 22-22 mark, the Cardiff side won back the lead and soared quickly to another victory. Set score: 25-22.
By the beginning of the third set, excitement was growing and chants and cheers rang out loudly from the bleachers. The Cardiff side was comforted by the knowledge of being two sets ahead; with only one more win standing between them and the Conference Cup Winners title. However, with Swansea playing harder than ever, hitting well and moving quickly, there was no ruling out a comeback from the opposing team.
Starting as they meant to go on, Cardiff took the lead. Dedicated blocking from middle Alex gave the opposing wing a real challenge. Superb serving from offset Ralph should have resulted in a quick victory but Swansea defended hard and challenged the Cardiff players. Ralph made one fantastic serve, known as an ace, which landed straight at Swansea’s players’ feet. In true Volleyball fashion, Cardiff supporter’s instantly chanted ‘ACE, ACE, ACE’. Cardiff’s energy in the room was infectious.
In the final few minutes, Cardiff made several substitutions. Everyone was keen to play this limelight match after making many sacrifices to compete for Cardiff throughout the season. Once again, ‘one more point’ rang out from the supporters in red. It was match point and Cardiff to serve. Swansea continued to fight but hit the ball out. It was a captivating finish. The hall erupted in cheers and applause. Set score: 25-19.
The team subsequently lined up to collect their gold medals and posed for team photos. The men were ecstatic about their win and the energy from the crowd had given them the drive to play to the best of their ability. Cardiff middle Tim said it was a thrilling event for less experienced players like himself and newcomers, Alex and Nathan. The team has their sights set on moving up a BUCS division by the end of next year. The men are aiming for success in their final two BUCS league games this season. With the dedication of the players and their coach Mo, this target is certainly achievable.
Competitively, the Volleyball club has seen great success this year in BUCS, the Welsh League and the Student Cup. There has also been fantastic development with beginners, who train twice a week in Talybont Sports Centre.
As a club, we encourage those who have never played volleyball to come along to any of our sessions to get a feel for what we do as a club.
For information about our training times and membership queries, add us on Facebook (‘Cardiff University Volleyball Club’), Twitter (@VolleyballCU) or simply email us at Volleyball@cardiff.ac.uk.
A massive thank you to all the supporters and organisers for the role they played in such an important win. Hats off to Swansea, who played very well and were very deserving of their silver medals. Wednesday’s victory over Swansea in the BUCS Western Conference Cup Final was a well-deserved icing on the cake for a great year of volleyball and the future is bright for Cardiff University Volleyball Club. Next stop, Varsity!