Scottish Student Sides Shine @ BUCS Championships

It was just over a month ago that Edinburgh University men and St. Andrews University women overcame Durham and Liverpool, respectively, in their last 16 ties.

Having won their respective leagues after undefeated seasons, both sides went to the BUCS championships with similar aims. The teams had good preparation with St.Andrews playing a series of games against City of Edinburgh and Edinburgh taking on City and Jets in the Edinburgh Cup.

The Facilities at Leeds Metropolitan University provided a challenge for all teams involved as they did not create optimal playing conditions for the sport of volleyball.

In the first game of the tournament St.Andrews played against Durham. The English side had put out Edinburgh University women in the play-offs and Saints knew it was going to be a very tough game. The D slide and sheer power of Durham’s American front court hitters was too much and St.Andrews were defeated.

The first game up for Edinburgh was Exeter, an unknown team who have performed well in the Western conference. The edinburgh side, with an impressive half of their squad being scottish (Jamie McHardy, Ross Kirkwood, Ben Hunter, Jason Ebbin and Captain Glenn Robison) adapted their volleyball to suit the playing conditions and ran out as comfortable 2-0 winners.

Both teams took on Cambridge in their pools with closely faught games on both sides. With Kirkwood, McHardy and Tully being fed regularly, Edinburgh found that the height and power of their attack was too much for the opposition. Edinburgh enjoyed another two set win and a place was secured in the semi-finals.

St. Andrews enjoyed a similar success with libero Tussis controlling the back court well as Cambridge found it hard to score and St.Andrews secured their first win of the weekend 2-0.

After a great team bonding dinner over an international buffet in town, both teams were up early on Sunday morning to cheer each other on. St.Andrews had a winner-takes-it-all contest against Bournemouth which lived up to expectations. St. Andrews secured the match in a thrilling tie-break decider 15-13 and progressed to the semi-finals.

Edinburgh faced off against Northumbria, with both teams qualified for the semi-finals there was a danger the match could disappoint but it did anything but. Keen to prove themselves the Scottish boys came out flying and took the game to the Northern Conference champions, coached by GB coach David Goodchild. The atmosphere created by the supporters for both teams was terrific and the net play was a great spectacle to behold, however, Northumbria showed their class and experience running out 25-16, 25-16 winners.

In the girls’ semi-final, St.Andrews coached by Michelle Paterson were also up against the might of Northumbria. Despite the will and effort of the Saints side Northumbria were too strong although St Andrews Club president Charlotte Damen Williams scored a  delightful middle attack to take their side to double figures. A good display to finish off the season and, unfortunately, for many players their last appearance in the blue of St.Andrews.

Edinburgh were up against Sheffield Hallam in the semi-finals after their opponents had topped a tough group containing Bournemouth, Warwick and Loughborough.
Despite loosing the first set, the conditioning programme the team has had obviously payed off as they fought to take the second set and set-up a winner takes all tie-break. Some solid serve-block defence from Sheffield gave them an unassailable lead and Sheffield Hallam took the tie-break 15-9.

With both sides only loosing twice all season, both to the two finalists from universities with volleyball scholarship programmes, this was definitely a successful season for both teams and they have shown that they can compete with the very best student sides in the country.

Graeme Spowart