My previous impression of volleyball as a relaxed holiday sport was dissolving into thin air as I stood flinching on the sidelines during the warm-up for the quarter-final Men’s British University Volleyball Championship against Cambridge. Multiple balls were being launched, received and spectacularly slammed into every crevice of the Kelvin Hall Arena.
Both the Glasgow and Cambridge team members were taking turns to practise their jump attacks: the swift yet lethal move which involves leaping into the air and spiking the ball into the opposition’s court.
The game began with the confident Cambridge team securing the first points. Glasgow had a somewhat shaky start, with some uncertainty amongst the players. Cambridge went on to comfortably win the first set, leaving Glasgow very much searching for answers.
After encouraging words were passed on by Captain Iain Leslie during the time out, the energetic home team looked determined and rejuvenated. The attitude of the team was reflected from the outset with an impressive opening point secured by man of the match Luka Rejc, who smashed the ball into the opposition’s court after some intelligent Glasgow build up.
The defence, who were eagerly lined up at the front of the court also stepped up to the challenge, with the talismanic Jan Kapon soaring up to block some crafty shots made by the well-polished Cambridge outfit. Glasgow went on to win the second and third sets, meaning they needed to triumph in the fourth to win the game and earn a place in the semi-final.
However, Cambridge were by no means ready to accept defeat, leading to a anxiety-fuelled fourth set, with the exhausted players throwing themselves about the court.
An agonising battle ensued, with both teams alternately raking up points for their side. Luka Rejc and Martin Dvorak were key point scorers, producing some swift and powerful strikes.
The teams ended up neck and neck, with 24 points apiece, but neither managed to gain the two point advantage needed to secure the win. Cambridge eventually prevailed bringing the game to a deciding fifth set in which the first team to score fifteen points automatically claimed victory.
The ever-increasing crowd of Glasgow supporters kept the morale of the players high, shouting and cheering words of encouragement during the gripping finale. The team were focused and methodical, with a slick passing technique which usually resulted in the dynamic force Rejc receiving the ball and executing a string of spectacular winners.
The exhausted Cambridge team, who had brought no substitutes to the match, kept up their game, but Rejc gained the advantage and scored the fifteenth point for Glasgow, propelling them to victory in what was a high octane and fast-paced game.
The team were overjoyed with their well-deserved win against a very strong team. Captain Iain Leslie said: “I’m really proud of the team. We knew Cambridge would be tough competition as they are one of the top sides in the UK. However I have a lot of faith in Glasgow and knew we could deliver if we stayed focused and on top of the game.”
He also expressed his excitement for the upcoming semi-finals to be held in Sheffield. If the team can maintain this level of intensity then they can be sure that silverware beckons.