East Midlands Volleyball League
Sunday 31st March 2019
Derby Darkstar 3 Leicester Athena 1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-12)
Athena's regional league team made an excellent start against Derby Darkstar but could not hold on to secure the victory.
Athena started with Eli setting and Adela coming in as opposite to cover for the injured Julia and absent Ioana. Kamila and Marta began as middle hitters and Edyta and Algi were outside hitters ... and they started with a bang. They served hard, fought for every ball, chased every mishit pass and hit hard. From the noise and court and the smiles on their faces, you could see that they were in the "zone" and they put Darkstar onto the backfoot. It was close but strong serving by Kamila sealed the set 25-21.
We knew that Darkstar would come back strong, they are a talented team and they didn't disappoint, but Athena held their nerve and carried on fighting and hitting the ball when it was there to be hit. Marta was immense at the net and Eli's setting was on teh money. It was another incredibly tight set, but this time, Darkstar managed to put in a set of strong serves at the end of the set to pull away 25-22.
Alessandra replaced Algi and provided a different attacking dimension. Once again the set was close up until Darkstar's setter and MVP Kaminskaite sent over a series of devastating serves to pull ahead 16-8. It was a deficit that Athena just could not close and Darkstar closed it out 25-17.
Sam now came on for Marta but Darkstar quickly jumped into a 10 point lead. Suddenly, Athena were looking tired and were no longer passing with the same relaxed fluidity. Milly came on for the visibly tiring Kamila and played well but nothing could stop a rampant Darkstar winning the fourth set 25-12 and winning the match 3-1.
As Athena's MVP, Adela, said "We became too cautious in the second set, that is why we lost". That should not detract from the fact that, once again, Athena showed flashes of excellent play and there are signs that next season could be a very good one if this group stays together.
Leicester Athena Volleyball Club's NVL squad won their last two matches of their inaugural season in the National Volleyball League become champions of Division 3 Central.
Athena first beat Coventry and Warwick Riga and then second placed Norwich Spikers in todays double header to finish the season with an 15-1 season. Athena’s precise defence matched with their powerful attack proved too much for Coventry and Warwick Riga as Athena started their day with a 3 sets to 0 victory. After a short break, they then took on Norwich Spikers and played magnificently to win 3-0 and clinch promotion to Division 2 North.
This is an impressive achievement for a club that was formed only 3 years ago. After winning the East Midlands league last year, the first team entered the National League and have dominated the division with some impressive displays finished with the highest number of points scored and least number of pints given up. In 16 matches, they only lost 9 sets which shows how their performances have dominated the league.
Next season, Division 2 North!!!!
Athena completed a double-header of victories to ensure they finished their first season in the National League as champions.
A month ago, Athena beat Norwich in a tense 5 set battle in Leicester but the feeling was that the victory had given the squad a massive boost in confidence and so it proved to be. Athena blitzed Norwich 3-0 demonstrating tremendous coverage and crushing attacks.
Athena started with Sarah setting, Adela as opposite, Karolina and Alexandra through the middle, Diana and Kristy as outside hitters and Petra as libero. And Athena were out the blocks fast.
Athena were clearly in the mood to seal the title and their hitting put Norwich's defence under all sorts of pressure. Kristy was hitting hard as was Alexandra and Adela's serving propelled Athena to a 25-11 first set win.
The second set followed the same path, as Petra and Diana's passing, Adela's mobile covering set up attack after attack. Athena won 25-13.
Athena's intensity dropped at the start of the third set and Norwich managed to pull away into a 16-8 lead but Athena were not to be outdone. Their consistent attacks and their determination to win even the long, scrappy rallies saw them pull back until they sealed the third set 25-22 to cue the celebrations.
Karolina won her second MVP of the day but there were so many great performances. It was a performance of agility, teamwork, effort and phenomenal power.
Athena are champions of Division 3C and can now spend the summer preparing for life in Division 2 North.
Athena showed no sign of nerves on a big day for the club. Needed to win both matches to be sure of promotion, Athena dominated Coventry and Warwick Riga.
Athena started with Paulina serving and Alysia as opposite. Teresa and Karolina played as middle hitters, Diana and Kristy played as outside hitters and Petra as libero.
Athena started strongly and built a big lead only for Riga to claw it back, but solid serving and a strong attack helped Athena to win their first set of the day, 25-19.
With that first set on the board, Athena then relaxed with Karolina in devastating form at the net, Tereza serving point after point and Petra solid in defence.
Athena sealed the match 25-19, 25-12, 25-13.
Karolina was named MVP.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Wednesday 20th March 2019
Leicester Athena 3 Hermitage 0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-22)
The regional league team scrapped their way to victory in their home match against Hermitage. It wasn't a pretty match but their hard work and determination saw them home.
Athena started with Eli as setter and captain, Ioana as opposite, Sam and Amanda as middle and Edyta and Algi as outside hitters. The first set was close as both teams struggled for fluency. But Athena's ability to chase lost causes and win the long rallies helped them edge ahead to win the set 25-19.
Athena began the second set serving and Sam's serves helped build a strong 6-0 lead. Hermitage made a valiant effort to close the gap before Eli's serving and Algi's refusal to quit on any ball closed the match out 25-16. Milly came on for Sam late in the second set to gain more valuable court time.
Athena started strongly in the third set with Amanda and Ioana starting to serve well and with Sam covering back court. Once more, Hermitage fought back to 12-12, but Edyta's jump serves caused Hermitage a lot of problems. Alessandra came on for Edyta and made some good hits. Athena chased and chased and ground out the third set 25-22 to win their first match since beating Lincoln.
The regional league team has developed a consistent core of players and it has been reflected in some good performances and now a win. This team is growing together and has even coped with injuries to Julia and Marta. Well done to Edyta for her MVP nomination - well deserved for her hitting and serving ... but kudos to Algi for her covering and passing.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Saturday 16th March 2019
Ashfield Vipers 1 3 Leicester Athena 0 (27-25, 25-15, 25-5)
Athena's regional league team may have lost to Vipers 1, but they showed signs of how good they are going to be in a tremendous first set.
Athena started with Eli setting, Ioana as opposite, Marta and Sam as middle players and Algi and Edyta as outside hitters. And they started with a bang! The energy, commitment, teamwork was outstanding as they took the game to a very good Ashfield Vipers 1 team. Their plan to suffocate Vipers' dangerous attack worked as they blocked all cross court attacks, forcing Vipers to work harder to win points. As the set came to the end, though, Vipers showed their experience and began to claw back and only hit the lead in the final few points as they won 27-25.
After such a close set, Athena were clearly a little deflated but they kept within a couple of points with Vipers through the first half of the second set. A strong serving set from Sewell pulled Vipers ahead as Athena started to make mistakes in the service receive. Alessandra came on for Ioana as opposite but Athena could not turn it round and lost the second 25-15.
Alessandra stayed on for Ioana and Amanda came on for Marta but Athena fell 12-0 down at the start of the third set as they struggled to return Smith's serves. Milly then came on for Sam but that was the set and match over as Vipers closed things out 25-5.
Despite the result, the first set showed that this inexperienced Athena team can play high quality volleyball and they will improve as they continue to gel together.
Well done to Marta for her second MVP nomination in 7 days, well deserved for her good serving, big blocks and smart hitting.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Saturday 9th March 2019
Ashfield Vipers 2 3 Leicester Athena 1 (25-11, 14-25, 25-15, 25-10)
Ashfield Vipers' young team were fresh from reaching the semi-finals of a national U18's schools tournament and they showed their skill and their togetherness as they beat a patched up Athena.
With Julia injured, Ioana started as setter and captain for Athena. Eli played as opposite, Amanda and Marta played middle and Alessandra and Edyta were outside hitters. It was an inexperienced team: Eli playing her first match as opposite, Alessandra and Amanda were playing only their second matches of the season.
Athena started very well, matching Vipers blow by blow until Viper's #10 came to serve at 8-7 down. Her hard, deep, accurate serves caused huge problems for Athena who could not build a telling attack. Her impressive serving display took the set away and Vipers 2 won 25-11.
Athena came right back and built a steady lead, helped by great serving from Edyta, some massive blocks by Marta and Eli and by some solid hits from Alessandra. Athena won the second set 25-14.
Edyta and Alessandra switched sides for the third set to help Eli out at opposite, but the change unsettled the team with Eli and Alessandra losing their place in the rotation. As their focus began to slip, Athena's first pass struggled and it was the turn of Vipers' #12 to put together a serving set that built an unassailable lead and they took the third set 25-15.
Athena's struggles with formation continued into the fourth set as minds began to tire and Vipers 2 sealed the match 25-10.
At times, Athena's play was excellent and they played better than any time this season, so there was a lot of positives to take from the match. They did lose their way too many times as they struggled with the rotation but it was merely a reflection of the patched up team with new players and people playing out of position.
Congratulations to Marta for a well deserved MVP nomination and a huge thank you to Milly who didn't manage to get on court today but provided relentless and noisy encouragement from the bench. That is true teamwork.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Wednesday 6th March 2019
Leicester Athena 1 Lincoln Cannons 3 (11-25, 25-16, 21-25, 20-25)
Athena's chances of beating Lincoln Cannons were hampered by injuries to captain, Julia, and setter, Eli.
Athena started with Eli setting, Julia playing opposite, Marta and Sam middle, Edyta and Algi playing as outside hitters. But Athena started very slowly. Their passing was inaccurate causing Eli problems with setting. Lincoln's serving was not dangerous but it was accurate and when Athena did build an attack, their defence was well-organised enough to cope with anything that Athena threw at them. Late in the first set, Julia went up to block and came down hard on her right ankle twisting it. She was carried off court in tears and taken to hospital for x-rays. Ioana came on for Julia in an unusual position for her. Lincoln won the first set 25-11.
Athena swapped Kamila for Sam, and they played with greater intensity and built a strong lead. The pass was more consistent, giving Eli the chance to feed Kamila whose hits caused Cannons problems. It wasn't great volleyball, with lots of swinging arms and desperate lunges, but hard work and determination drove Athena to win 25-16.
Lincoln came back stronger in the third set and took a big lead, but Athena re-grouped and started to eat back into the lead. Marta's serving finally clicked and she produced an excellent display that pushed Athena to within 2 points. Coach Paul, then brought Amanda on for Marta in the back court but Lincoln stretched away again to win 25-21.
Athena brought on Sam for Marta and both teams worked hard with barely more than 3 points between the teams in the fourth set, but Athena could not close the gap and Lincoln won the match 25-20.
With Julia's injury and Eli struggling with a long-standing injury, it was a difficult evening for Athena but it did feel like an opportunity missed considering the players who were on court. It felt like a disjointed performance with a lack of fluidity. Thankfully, Saturday brings another match and another chance to build up a head of steam.
UPDATE: Julia has a badly sprained ankle and it is likely that she will be out for up to 2 months. Take your time Julia and come back even stronger!