If the National League squad wanted a peek into what challenges lay ahead, they certainly got it on Sunday in Round 1 of the National Cup.
Against a very experienced and very organised Lincoln Cannons, Athena struggled to get into the match until the the third set as they lost 3-0, With such little time together to knit the existing regional league squad and the new recruits together, this was always going to be a tough match but there were some good signs for the future.
Last year's Division 3C champions certainly started strongly as the Athena girls seemed a little over-awed by the occasion. Athena began with Sarah setting, Alysia opposite, Kristy and Kamila through the middle, Petra and new player Diana as outside hitters and Algi as libero. Unfortunately, they looked leaden-footed in service receive, the serving was off-key and the hitting was not decisive enough to breach Lincoln's defence and Lincoln ran out 25-13 winners. Coach Gordon freshened things up for the second set by bringing Paulina on for Sarah and Monika on for Alysia but Lincoln quickly re-asserted their authority to spring into a 10-2 lead. In the first set, Athena managed to settle down but they couldn't find a good rhythm in the second as Lincoln continually found holes in their defence.
For the final set, Kristy moved to outside in place of Diana and Tereza came into the middle. With Kristy out wide, the team looked a lot more structured, Kristy's commanding voice making a difference to the defence and her hitting creating a lot of problems for Lincoln. The set was neck and neck with neither team getting more than a point advantage until Lincoln just edged it 25-21, winning the match 3-0.
Despite the scoreline, there were some great signs for Athena, The new players showed well, including Tereza creating some fabulous blocks on her debut, Paulina looking assured as a setter and Diana looked very useful as an outside hitter. Once they bed in to the team and learn how each other works, it should be a very exciting team.
Huge thanks to Sports Way Management for our fabulous kit. It is a beautiful design, they were really helpful and turned the order round in double quick time.
Athena's new NVL squad looked good in their pre-season friendly against Ashfield Vipers. Using a mixture of players from last year's title winning regional league squad and new additions, coach Gordon MacDonald was able to try out a number of different permutations and, considering that the squad have not yet had a training session together, they pulled out an excellent performance to win 4 out the five sets played.
New setter Paulina put in a very good performance, Petra was outstanding, new hitter Diane showed great promise and, across the whole squad, there were some really pleasing elements. after the match, Gordon said "Although there are a few things to work on, the basic core of what we want worked well".
Many thanks to Ashfield for coming down to play and we look forward to seeing them again in the league.
The new season starts soon and, with three teams, it promises to be a busy time for Leicester Athena.
11:00 Sunday 2nd September: Squad meeting at Morningside Arena
19:30 Wednesday 5th September: Local league training starts at Morningside Arena
11:00 Sunday 9th September: NVL Friendly match against Lincoln Cannons at DMU Queen Elizabeth Leisure Centre
19:30 Wednesday 12th September: Local league training at Morningside Arena
15:30 Sunday 16th September: National Cup match against Lincoln Cannons in Lincoln
A National League friendly and then a cup match in the first 2 weeks? Wow, that is starting with a big bang.
If you are free on Sunday 9th, please come down to cheer us on in our friendly, you can see how we fare against a Division 2 team!
Last night, our Regional League team were crowned Champions of the East Midlands Volleyball League! We couldn't be more proud of you girls and now its time to do the same at National League.
We love these anime-style drawings of some of our players drawn by our very own Charlie. We think they are fabulous drawings and really capture the spirit of Athena.
We are going to have to find a way to get them printed into banners for match-time!
If you think those are good, check out this wonderful poster drawing.
Thank you SOOOOO much, Chatlie!
Excitement builds as the fixtures for our first ever season in the National League come out. Check our National League page for all the details.
We start on the 14th October in Loughborough and our first home matches will be on the 16th December. All fixtures will be triangular fixtures, featuring three teams and each team playing two matches ... that could mean a leg-killing 10 sets of volleyball. We had better get fit now!
Added to that, we have just agreed a deal with De Montfort University to play our home matches at Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Leisure Centre, De Montfort Uni, Leicester, LE3 5LX. We hope that our partnership with DMU will continue to grow to help both us and them grow!
Even though the season has ended, it hasn't stops the Athena girls from carrying on playing. Whether it is the grass of Victoria Park, Ashcombe's summer tournament or the sand of the Loughborough Uni beach courts, there is always an opportunity to play more volleyball.
Leicester Athena celebrated the end of their second ever season with an Awards Night and Annual General Meeting at Peter's Pizzeria in Leicester.
The night was a chance to look back at what we have achieved in the past year and award people for their hard work as well as look forward to the new season and start to plan.
Congratulations to the following people:
Regional league squad
Player's Player of the Year: Adela Romero
Most Improved Player: Faye Rigkou
Most Valuable Player: Kristy Logan
Local league squad
Player's Player of the Year: Charlie Surridge
Most Improved Player: Emma Spiridon
And a special mention for Petra Szőllősyová for being named DMU's Sportswoman of the Year. Also awards were handed out to Kamila (this year's most broken bunny), Sarah (love Bunny) and PanPan (Best Supporter).
Next year, we will have three teams and they will be led by:
National League: Sarah Booth
Regional League: Julia Golinska
Local League: Charlie Surridge
As well as all the club stuff, we said Happy Birthday to Faye and Congratulations to newly-engaged Sarah. As well as eating pizza, we hit Gelato Village for ice cream and Cafe Bruxelles for some dancing.
A huge congratulations to Sarah, Alysia, Kristy, Petra, Hannah, Charlie, Emily and Beth for completing the Midlands Half Toughmudder.
Throughout the 5 miles of mud and obstacles, the girls kept smiling and they well-deserved their beer and burgers at the end.
The girls were running in aid of Family Fund and in aid of new club equipment. If you want to donate to their fund-raising, please click here.
East Midlands Regional League
Thursday 3rd May
Hermitage 0 Leicester Athena 3
Athena's regional league team cast aside any disappointment from their 5 set defeat against Darkstar to put in a powerful performance against Hermitage.
Athena had a number of players unavailable through injury, illness and work, leaving Alex to start her first match as single setter, Faye showed her adaptability by playing as middle hitter for the first time in her life and Kristy took over the captaincy from Sarah.
All season long, Athena have been slow in starting, but they showed no hint of that by blasting Hermitage away in the first set. The accuracy of pass, the movement in both attack and defence and fearsome attacks had Hermitage reeling as Athena won the set 25-5
Hermitage came back stronger in the second set but Athena built a steady lead throughout the set aided by great serving from Sam. A little drop in concentration meant that the passing to Alex was not as accurate as in the first set. Towards the end of the set, Erin came on for Kristy for the last few points. Athena won the set 25-19.
The intensity dropped at the start of the third set and Athena found themselves 6:11 down when coach Paul called a time out. The break allowed Athena to regain focus and they powered their way to a 3-0 win: 25-5, 25-19 , 26-16.
Well done to Kristy, Sam, Alysia, Adela, Alex, Faye and Erin. Alex had an excellent game as setter, calm, accurate and making good decisions. Faye did really well in such an unfamiliar position, her serving and passing were spot on. Sam had a great game, her little tips and dinks causing Hermitage all sorts of problems. Kristy was nominated as MVP but we all thought that Sam deserved it.
Thanks to Charlie for coming out to support and provide Facebook updates, it is very much appreciated. One more to go!