Gillian Higgins, Assistant Sport Development Officer at Sport Liverpool, describes the successes our Men’s Volleyball team has achieved this season, which culminated in HRH Princess Anne presenting the team with medals for winning the BUCS Big Wednesday competition.
After securing the league title last year, our Men’s Volleyball Club have managed to go one better with an unprecedented league and Trophy Cup double, without losing a single match all season.
Last year, half of the team’s players graduated. Despite this, the Men’s Volleyball Club entered into the new academic season bolstered, having been joined by Jesus ‘Chuy’ Perales – who represented Mexico in the last Olympic Games – and semi-professional volleyball player, Bruce Acu from Canada.
BUCS Big Wednesday
BUCS Big Wednesday is the culmination of the higher education sector’s team sport programme and the event saw over 60 of the UK’s top university teams head to Nottingham to compete for various national titles.
After beating Derby in a rather one sided semi-final, Liverpool knew a stronger challenge lay ahead in the form of the University of East Anglia. The final was a closely fought contest from the first point to the very last. Liverpool worked hard to take a commanding two-set lead and looked to take that momentum into the third set and clinch the match without reply.
However, East Anglia had other ideas and their 6’ 5’’ power hitter from the Czech Republic produced a barrage of attacks that breached the Liverpool defence with alarming consistency until the match was even at two sets all.
For the fifth and deciding set, the arena was full and the atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation.
Liverpool led from the start, but East Anglia were never more than a point or two behind. The tension became unbearable for the Liverpool support when a late surge from East Anglia provided them with the first match point at 14-15.
However, Liverpool did what they’ve managed to do in every close match this season – they held their nerve to save the match point and move the score to 16-15 with a match point of their own.
With resolute defending, East Anglia kept the ball alive for longer than most teams could ever manage but the constant pressure proved too much even for their star attacker who sent the ball just wide and out of court to give Liverpool the set, the match and the national trophy title in an epic contest lasting just short of two and a half hours.
Final score: University of Liverpool 3 University of East Anglia 2
(27-25, 29-27, 24-26, 18-25, 17-15)
Liverpool’s perfect season ended in regal style with HRH Princess Anne there to present the team with their winner’s medals and the national trophy.
The BUCS finals were hosted by the University of Nottingham at their new £40 million sports complex.
University Director of Sport and Men’s Volleyball Club coach Andy Craig commentated on the win, saying: “Liverpool has never won this trophy before and I’m so pleased that this team has been able to make history with such an impressive unbeaten run. We have a small but very talented and close-knit squad and every player has played a part in this success.
“I’ve been really impressed with our resilience under pressure this year and we needed that again today when we were match point down against a good all-round East Anglia team. The majority of our players will graduate this year but they have life-long memories of their University volleyball experience which ended with a national trophy and a meeting with a member of the Royal Family!”
Their successful season was rounded off in style at the annual AU awards, where the team won ‘Top Team’, ‘Elite Athlete of the Year’ and ‘Coach of the Year’.