On Wednesday 22 February, the St Andrews women’s volleyball team faced off against Sheffield Hallam University in the quarter-finals of the BUCS trophy.
St Andrews came into the game on the back of some excellent form. In the Scottish 1A league, the team is top of the table after only dropping two sets in eight games. In the cup, St Andrews defeated Nottingham seconds away 3-0 and Liverpool firsts at home by the same score line. By contrast, their opponents for the evening had lost two games in the Northern 1A League but were also yet to drop a set in the cup after defeating Strathclyde firsts and Northumbria seconds in the previous round.
The first set was a clear indicator of the confidence of the two teams. The Saints were buoyed on by the strength of the home support and excellent communication amongst the players. Consistent serves also helped. After a long rally, St Andrews managed to level the scores to 12-12, but Sheffield took control from that point on. The Saints fell behind by six points before a timeout was called. Another one was called at 19-24, yet it was not enough to stop a stunning point by Sheffield to win the first set 19-25.
In the next set, the Saints maintained a high intensity but fell behind to an early Sheffield lead. However, they managed to pull it back to 6-6, forcing a timeout by Sheffield. However, St Andrews yet again came out on the worse side of the interval, falling behind 10-16 before calling a timeout of their own. Regardless, Sheffield continued to impress, with the spikes of number six particularly threatening. At 14- 23, the Saints called another timeout, but it wasn’t enough to prevent them from losing the second set 18-25.
In many respects, the third set was a replica of the one before. Sheffield took another early lead, but spirits never dropped and the Saints yet again turned it around to level at 7-7, forcing their opponents to call a timeout. Despite St Andrews’ best efforts, errors started to creep into the game, and the team found itself 8-14 down. Nonetheless, the Saints rallied and reduced the deficit to one at 15-16. The pattern of the match was now fully established, however, with a Sheffield timeout resulting in the team falling behind 16-21. Although St Andrews won a huge rally to bring the scores back to 18-23, they eventually lost the set, and hence the match, two points later.
The game ended 3-0 to Sheffield; however, the result reflected poorly on the Saints’ performance. Players matched their opponents in every set and will ultimately feel that on another day the result may have been different.
Despite their exit from the cup, St Andrews’ season is not quite over. The team still has two games in the league, both away against Glasgow Caledonian and Aberdeen. Whilst their position at the top of the table is unassailable, the Saints will be looking to end the year unbeaten as they move back up a division to Premier North for next season.