The British Universities volleyball season reached its climax at the BUCS Championship Finals in Sheffield on 18-20 March, and Scottish universities were well represented, with three teams featuring over the weekend.
In the women’s Trophy Final, St Andrews – who finished third in this season’s Scottish Universities Tier 1 competition – easily dismissed Southampton 3 – 0 in a match that must have left the Scottish-based students to ponder what their chances might have been in the main Championship, had they completed all their domestic fixtures earlier in the season.
Edinburgh University were the only Scottish representatives in the men’s Championship Finals, with Dundee having been eliminated in the knock out stages to overwhelming pre-event favourites Leeds Met. The Edinburgh students, Scottish Universities League and Cup holders, were left rueing the absence of two of their key players who didn’t travel to Sheffield, as they narrowly lost 2 -1 to both Bournemouth and Birmingham and then demonstrated their potential with a 2 -1 victory over eventual finalists Sheffield Hallam. However their 2 – 0 loss to Imperial College London left them in overall 6th place in a competition where they might have more easily medalled with a full squad. Leeds Met won their second successive title with a 2 – 0 victory over perennial foes, Sheffield Hallam.
In the women’s Championship Dundee University carried Scottish hopes as Scottish Universities League and Cup winners. Having reached the Championship Final in 2009 and won the BUCS Trophy in 2010, Dundee have enjoyed a degree of success on the British stage in recent seasons and their performance in the pool matches suggested that their experience at this stage of the competition was standing them in good stead. An opening 2 – 0 victory over Imperial College London was followed up with a comfortable 2 – 0 win over Loughborough. Dundee’s pre-tournament target of winning their pool and thus avoiding strong tournament favourites Leeds Met in the semi-finals was achieved with a hard fought 2 – 0 win over a much improved Bournemouth side.
In their semi-final match against Cambridge University Dundee produced a confident and controlled performance that their English opponents simply could not match. Strong and accurate attacks from Kasprzyk and Petropoulou kept the Cambridge defence under pressure and consistent service and minimal errors meant that Dundee controlled the tempo of the match throughout and sealed a 25- 19, 25- 20 victory to reach their second British Championship Final in three years.
In front of a vocal and supportive crowd Dundee started strongly against a Leeds Met side brimming with international experience. Deceptive setting from Delnevo allowed Dundee’s Kasprzyk to unsettle the Leeds Met defence and at 7-8 the English students were looking decidedly ruffled. However the speed and variety of the Leeds Met attack left the Dundee middle block struggling and strong, tactical serving caused problems for Dundee’s passing unit. The final match score of 25 – 14, 25 – 10 in Leeds Met’s favour reflected the challenge facing any student team looking to steal a win over a team which has yet to drop a set in either university or national league competition in England this season.
Overall the performance of Scottish Universities teams in the BUCS Championship Finals continued recent successes at this level and demonstrated that Scottish Universities volleyball activity is in good health at present!