Dundee University women’s volleyball team have crowned an outstanding season by finishing runners-up at the British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) Finals in Sheffield. The BUCS Championships is the premier sporting event for students in Britain, involving almost 5000 competitors across 24 sports. The men’s and women’s volleyball finals involved the top eights teams that had progressed through league conference and knock-out stages.
The Dundee girls had already secured the Scottish Universities League and Cup double – without losing a match – as well as making through to the Scottish Thistle Bowl Final in April.
Their passage to the British finals was secured after they beat sporting giants and English Div. 1 team Loughborough University 3-1.
In their pool matches they easily despatched the previously unbeaten South Eastern Conference winners, Imperial College from London 25-14, 25-18 before coming up against another English Conference winner Manchester. A nervous performance saw the Dundee girls edge through 15-13 in the final set to guarantee a semi-final place. However their final pool match against Birmingham would determine their semi-final opposition. Their comfortable 2-0 victory ensured that Dundee would meet fellow Scottish competitors Napier who had also excelled in reaching the final eight event and who had their own aspirations of reaching the final.
The semi-final produced another nervous match from both teams and strong serving from Napier in the first set secured a comfortable 25-14 lead. However Dundee’s competitive mettle was again demonstrated in the second set where they brought themselves back into the match with a 25-22 set win. The final set saw Dundee re-establish their superiority with a conclusive 15-7 victory to set up a Final showdown with Bath.
In a packed hall the Dundee team competed for every ball, giving their enthusiastic and vocal support plenty to cheer. Solid and impressive blocking from Catherine Smy – voted Player of the Tournament – caused the powerful Bath attack problems, forcing hitting errors and allowing Dundee to erode the previous confidence of the previous champions. Despite losing the first set 21-25 Dundee continued to challenge Bath and suggest that Scotland might yet have only their second-ever winner of this event (Edinburgh University previously winning in 1994). However Bath’s hitting power eventually was the telling factor and the English team secured the second set and the match 25-21.
The BUCS Finals demonstrated all that is good about student sport: enthusiasm, sporting behaviour; respect for other teams; and a willingness to compete for every point and every ball until the final whistle. Drums, horns, cheers, chants and the occasional Mexican wave produced a wonderful spectacle of volleyball over three days.
Scotland’s representatives in the competitions – Edinburgh and Glasgow in the men’s Championship and Trophy respectively and Dundee and Napier in the Championship and Aberdeen in the women’s Trophy – demonstrated that they could compete with the best in England, while at the same time savouring the opportunity and experience that this experience presented.