The club would like to offer its congratulations to our regional league captain, Sarah Booth, for being awarded "Volunteer of the Year" by Volleyball England.
Sarah dedicates an immense amount of time to coaching local league Loughborough Panthers, playing and coaching for De Montfort University teams and, of course, helping to set up Athena.
We love Sarah's enthusiasm and knowledge and dedication and we know this award is very well-deserved.
Ashfield Vipers got revenge for their earlier defeat to Athena with a tight, tense five-set thriller.
Athena started with Sarah setting, Petra making her debut as opposite, Kinga and Elisa outside, Sam and Valentina through the middle and Joy as libero.
The first set was close all the way, with neither team more than a couple of points ahead. In the end, Athena ground out a 25-23 win. In the second set, Coach Kaerger reshaped the team with Erica coming into set, Sarah moving to outside and Elisa sitting out. However, Athena's struggles with a float serve re-appeared and they struggled to get back on terms after letting Vipers gain a 7 point lead in the middle of the set. Towards the end of the set, Athena rallied to make the set score a little more respectable with Athena losing 25-18.
Athena switched back to the starting line-up and it paid dividends with Athena in easing out a 4 point lead at the end of a close set. The fourth set was tight all the way through, but a great serving set by Ashfield's number 12 swung the set their way, evening up the match.
Athena started the deciding set strongly and went into a 5-3 lead, but another good serving set pushed Ashfield into 14-11 lead but Athena were not done and Sarah's serving brought the match to 14-14 in the final set. Sadly, Ashfield managed to clinch the next 2 points to win a great match of volleyball.
Elisa was voted MVP by Ashfield, Petra was outstanding in her first match for Athena, Sam played her best match for Athena and Joy really grew into the role of libero. For such a new side, there are still a lot of positives to take from the match and Athena move onto an away fixture against Hermitage.
Athena's perfect start to their first ever regional league campaign crashed to an end when they came up against last season's champions, Darkstar Derby.
Athena began the first set with Erica playing as setter and Kristy in the middle. They started with better intensity than in the previous couple of matches, but could not cope with the low float serves from Darkstar. Darkstar built a commanding lead but Athena began to play much better towards the end of the set to close the gap to 16-25.
A tactical switch to play Kristy as an outside hitter meant that Kinga had to give way as Sam filled for Kristy in the middle. The reshaped team took some time to gel but they fought back from 22-17 down to win the set 25-23. The joy on the faces of the coach and Athena players was clear to see, but they could not sustain the pressure in the 3rd set.
Poor service receive play meant that they gave up 18 points service receive faults Darkstar who won the set 25-8. Despite putting in a lot of hard work, the fourth set showed a similar pattern and Darkstar deservedly won the match 25-16, 23-25, 25-8, 25-12.
There was no questioning the effort from captain Alysia, MVP Kristy, Kinga, Elisa (on her debut for Athena), Valentina, Sam, Erica and Rhetta, but they could not match Darkstar on this occasion.
Athena had to show a lot of battling qualities to beat a PVC side that was unbeaten in 3. Bereft of many players, the local league team looked to Valentina and Kinga from the regional league team to bolster their ranks. and the changes seemed to create doubt for the players as they really struggled in the first set. They were a long way down when Julia stepped up to serve. Five good serves later, Athena found themselves winning the set 25-23.
Joy then came on for Olga to set in the second and the team again started slowly, In a mirror of the first set, PVC pulled away into a commanding lead only to be dragged back at the death by some solid serving by Valentina, a much improved back court performance especially from Liza and fabulous hitting from Julia,. Athena stole the set 25-23 and thereby won the match.
In the third set, Joy and Olga were setting with Erica now moving into a very unfamiliar position as outside hitter. The third set was nip and tick with PVC picking holes in Athena's defence and the built up a strong lead of 23-16. Another round of strong serving from Valentina brought the scores closer but PVC sealed the final set 25-23.
PVC may feel aggrieved as they played really well, but mental toughness meant that Athena won without playing anywhere near their capabilities.
Well done to Joy, Olga, Kinga, Valentina, Liza, Erica and MVP Julia.
In their first regional league match at their home, Athena came from a very slow start to beat Nottingham Rockets 3-0.
Whether it was the weight of expectation after their searing hot start to the season or the nerves of playing in front of a crowd, Athena played with the handbrake on for the majority of the first set.. Their play was littered with errors and their movement was too slow in all phases, but, facing a 22-17 deficit, the real Athena showed up and they started to play with pace and power and on the front foot.
After winning the first set, 25-23, Athena then started the second set as they finished the first and quickly built a commanding lead. Joy slowly grew into the match in the role of libero, her first league start for Athena's regional league team, to provide a great defensive platform. Apart from a tiny lapse of concentration at set point, it was a very good team showing.
Coach Kaerger changed things for the final set with Erica coming on to set and Sarah moving to outside hitter and Erica showed her qualities with a series of beautiful sets. Athena cruised to the third and clinching set, winning 25-17.
A huge well done to Sarah (MVP, yet again), Alysia, Erica, Kinga, Kristy, Joy, Sam and Valentina. Next week, Hermitage come to the Arena. Looking forward to it.