Angel in action for the BluesDik Ng

Angel Wang is reflective when I meet her, via Zoom, to talk about all things volleyball, Varsity and voyages of the transatlantic kind.

Fresh off the back of a long journey to face Durham in the BUCS National Championship, the American exchange student is sanguine about their 3-0 defeat, pointing out that Durham are the top professional team in the country. Despite the result, she is pleased with the Blues performance this term. She should be: this year’s Blues have made it to the Nationals for the first time since the 2014/2015 season and also performed well in the Student Cup finals. Why has the team been so successful this year? Angel says it’s a mixture of having good players, including lots of master’s students who are all really good, as well as being on the same page as her teammates.

“Why has the team been so successful this year? Angel says it’s a mixture of having good players, as well as being on the same page as her teammates.”

This good form bodes well for the Blues’ upcoming Varsity match against Oxford, and Angel says she’s pretty confident of victory as Cambridge have already beaten the Dark Blues at the Student Cup. The match went to five sets on that occasion, but Angel thinks this time the game will be over probably in 3 or 4 sets as “we know how they play now”. She even goes as far as predicting a 3-1 Cambridge victory, based on Cambridge strength in defence and serving. The libero position will be particularly important in the Varsity match. This role of defensive mainstay will be crucial in keeping Oxford from scoring. Such positional focus is an example of the tactics and skill required to play the sport at a high level. Volleyball, Angel says, is not as easy as people think. Contrary to the lazy games you may have played on the beach, played properly the sport “takes a lot of control and practice” and requires “a lot of strategy” in what is usually a battle of brains rather than sheer brawn.

Angel is well-suited to such a contest. An exchange student from Caltech in the United States, she is well accustomed to both high level sport and intense academics. At home she captains the varsity squad while also focusing heavily on academics. Surely this has made the transition to Cambridge easier? Despite some differences in her degree (her Computer Science programme at Caltech is more theoretical than the Cambridge course), the general environment is similar. From the standard of the volleyball (US Division 3 is roughly equivalent to high level UK university teams), to the pressures of balancing academic work with the time commitments of sport, her time in Cambridge hasn’t been a huge step away from her normal life.


Mountain View

Coxing for Cambridge

She is also keen to point out the universal impact of sport in forging friendships. Arriving as an exchange student at the beginning of Lent term, she was (understandably) worried about making friends. The team has really helped her fit in socially. “I’m really glad I’ve found this team”, she says, emphasising their close bond and how it helped her overcome a challenging period of adjustment at the start of term.

It is this bond which Angel and her teammates hope propels them to Varsity victory on Saturday.

Volleyball Varsity takes place on Saturday (04/03) from 9am in the University Sports Centre.