On the 15th October 2014 the University of Bristol Ladies’ 1st team got their BUCS campaign started with a home fixture against the might of Cardiff. Given the international status of the fixture, the Ladies knew that they weren’t only playing for the pride of Bristol but also the pride of a nation, a nation in dire need of rejuvenation after the agonising Summer of sporting disappointment in the World Cup. The Ladies knew they were the team for the job.
The crowd at Tyndall Avenue was eager for a spectacle, however there were some early problems. Having clearly forgotten to check the memo, Cardiff turned up in a traditional red strip to face off against a Bristol side sporting a lovely, new, fresh, vibrantly red kit. Putting this problem aside, the new Ladies captain Ellie Harrison put aside her pre-toss nerves to call correctly – Bristol would serve first.
Bristol got off to an absolute flyer, gaining an early 4 point lead in the first set, thanks to some consistent passing from Bălan and Weegenaar. With the new-look side gelling instantly, the Ladies appeared a solid outfit sure to strike fear and envy into their opponents this year, with setter Nordal showing the softest of soft hands. Despite letting Cardiff back into the set slightly, the Ladies ran out 25-23 winners, taking an early 1 set lead.
Having been roused during the interval by a patriotic rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ by Jacob ‘Songbird of a generation’ Webster, the Ladies took to the court again in the second set, aiming to extend their lead. The second set was a much tenser affair, with the lead changing hands many times. Despite Catherine showing her team the ‘Wright’ (stupundous) way to serve, by smashing in 4 of them unanswered, Cardiff gained some vital momentum and took the set 25-20, equalising the set score to 1-1.
The third set began in a similar fashion, with both teams playing good volleyball and looking more evenly matched than a completed spot the difference puzzle. However, the set looked all but finished with Bristol 23-17 up. Much to Bristol’s dismay, a good run of serving by Cardiff gave them 8 points in a row and consequently the set, making the score 2-1 Cardiff.
Knowing another lost set would also mean the match, the Ladies returned to the court with a renewed purpose. New international signing Federica Cimatti summed up Bristol’s resilience perfectly with a hard working performance, including a majestic smash down the line that left the entire hall stunned. The Bristol team smelt blood – quite literally – as one of the Cardiff players spilt her Welsh Claret all over the court after diving for a particularly vicious spike. Ignoring her medical instincts, Weegenaar continued to serve superbly, helping Bristol to a 25-16 win, leaving the match poised at 2-2.
With the sports hall filling up with the Ladies’ Second Team, Bristol took to the court one final time for the tiebreak. With every point drawing shouts of joy or anguish from the crowd, and multiple eardrum breaking yells from Club Captain Rob ‘Skype?’ Pennifold, the set remained as closely fought as ever. At the obligatory switching of sides Bristol led 8-7 and the crowd sensed victory. At 14-13 the Ladies had their match point. As Cimatti smashed the ball down into the Cardiff side the crowd and team erupted. Never had such joy been felt. Never had a victory been so deserved and heartfelt.
Then one short whistle blast pierced the euphoria like a hot knife through celebratory butter.
Pawel ‘You’re dead to the Ladies’ team’ Laskowski had called a foot fault under the net.
With the game resuming now at 14-14 the script had been written. Cardiff scored two points in a row and thus ran out 3-2 winners.
The Ladies, so cruelly denied by the Polish enigma, should be congratulated for the way in which they played, never giving up until the (second) final whistle. They have many positives to take away from the game.
‘Lady of the Match’ goes to Celestine Weegenaar for an outstanding display in all areas of the game.
Our thanks go to Chris Sherfield for his rigorous display as 1st Referee, to Mike Wilsher for scoring, to Millie Mercer and Marcus Clifford for line judging in their own, beautifully unique ways and to everyone who came along to support.
Pawel, see you at training.
Written by John House