On Sunday 10th November the Men played in the Student Cup at Ashcombe in Surrey. With many of the team unavailable, due to issues varying from vomiting to a weekend spent with Mickey and pals at Disneyland, only 7 men converged at the Students’ Union building at 5.45am. Fighting back hangovers and sleep deprivation, the bus left for the almost 3 hour journey down to the tournament.
Arriving at 8.30, the Men discovered they were on to play first. With final squad member Wilsher, having safely negotiated the workings of inner city London transport, joined the team, the match against Brighton began. The first set was a comfortable warm up for Bristol, with Brighton making a few unforced errors that gifted points to Bristol, allowing for a 25-13 first set win. The second set was a harder affair, with Brighton finding their feet, however thanks to fantastic ‘pancaking’ from Justin Hui and serving from the ever-reliable Pawel Laskowski, Bristol won the second set 25-18 and thus the game 2-0.
The Men’s next game was against Chichester. Fuelled by Powerade, an unearthly amount of sandwiches and some ‘steer fry’, confidence was high going into the match. Again, in the first set the Men started strongly, and with good play from James Lydall and Jacob Webster, ran out 25-17 winners. Perhaps due to some over-confidence, in the second set the Men’s focus slipped and simple errors began to be made. With all 6 players missing a serve, Chichester were gifted points and pushed the set all the way until the end. Nerves were huge, but Bristol managed to win the set 27-25 and again take a 2-0 victory.
Despite securing 2 wins out of 2, the Men’s heads began to drop after the disappointing performance in the previous set. Perhaps sensing this, the absent (through no fault of her own) coach Danielle Simpson sent what can only be described as a text straight from the heart and mind of Shakespeare. With her words stirring the team emotionally, the men were ready for the next game against tough opponents – Cardiff.
The Men played much better in this game, with good setting from Mike Avery, and hitting from Scott Caddick. Despite this, the strength of Cardiff was too much and they took the first set 25-13. Bristol came back much stronger in the second set, with Wilsher getting out wide to help Lydall block off Cardiff’s main hitter. Cardiff again, however, showed their quality and had the game at 24-16, with 8 match points. To their credit, Bristol managed to pull back 4 points, showing great perseverance, before John House, set up perfectly for the middle hit, decided to spear it wide, giving Cardiff the set and the win 2-0.
With Cardiff having now all but won qualification into the next round of the cup, Bristol knew their only chance stood with beating final team Falmouth. And after a two hour wait and a couple more sandwiches and energy drinks, Bristol woke up Justin Hui from his pitch-side slumber and started the final game. The Men were certainly tired and enthusiasm was low on court, as Falmouth began to punish Bristol’s mistakes, taking the first set 25-18. It was at this point that something within the team flipped and emerging back onto the court for the second set, Bristol were a new team. With Laskowski running round the court like a man desperate to relieve his bowels, and Hui keeping every ball hit into the Bristol side alive, Bristol opened up a healthy lead. Everything clicked into place in the final set, with every single player playing out of their skins to get the win for Bristol, which was finally secured with a 25-11 final set win.
Bristol thus took 2nd place overall on the day, which keeps the hopes of qualification for the next round alive. Well done to all of the boys on the day who got up so early and played so well throughout.
Player of the Day: Justin Hui
Written by John House, 1st Team Captain