East Midlands Volleyball League
Monday 26th November 2018
Loughborough Students 1 Leicester Athena 3
In their first match of the season, the regional league team showed great togetherness to beat Loughborough Students. With last year’s championship winning squad moving up to the National League, this is a brand new Athena team composed of a mix of new players, local league players from last year, plus support from Adela and Algi from the NVL squad.
Athena began with Eli setting, Julia as opposite, Milly and Marta playing through the middle and Edyta and Algi as outside hitters. As was only to be expected, it was a nervous start and Athena fell behind quite quickly in the first set, but the girls never stopped working and played with such a great spirit that they began to claw back on Loughborough’s advantage. Eli’s and Edyta’s serving caused problems for the Students and Marta grew into the match, however, Loughborough had enough to win the first set 25-22.
Coach Paul changed the team for the second set, bringing on Ioana as setter, Emma as middle and Adela as outside. Once more, serving was key but Athena’s teamwork and determination to always get the ball back helped them push into a big lead which they held out to win the second set.
Eli came back on for the third set and Athena were now playing with confidence. Marta’s passing from backcourt was exemplary and Eli produced some delightful back-sets for Julia to finish. The momentum was now with Athena and they comfortably won the third set.
With Edyta on for Algi, Athena eased out the match, although, they did wobble when in sight of the finishing line – the excitement of the win meaning that they became a little rushed in their technique. But the recovered their composure to seal victory.
Eli was voted MVP for her destructive serving and for her solid setting, but there were so many other highlights. Marta was fabulous in her first regional league game, Emma showed that middle is her position, Edyta hit the ball with intelligence and Julia showed her game craft by picking out holes in Loughborough’s defence. There will be tougher matches ahead, but everybody played their part and did so with big smiles and warm hearts and that will hold the team in good stead.
Leicestershire Volleyball League
Monday 12th November 2018
Loughborough Students 2 Leicester Athena 1
Athena's local league team got their season off to a solid start against Loughborough Students at the Sir David Wallace Hall in Loughborough.
For Amanda, it was a strange experience as it was here, 2 years ago, that she fell and broke both arms. Happy to say the memories did not affect her at all.
First set nerves
Athena played a mix of experienced and emerging players. This was Charlie's first match as setter, for Eli, Laura, Aleksandra and Eve, it was their first matches for us and for Amanda, it was her first match since that injury. With so many new players, it was unsurprisingly that it took some time to settle. In the first set, the starting six of Charlie, Ioana, Alex, Amanda, Adela (getting some much needed practice after missing a lot of training through work) and Kasia were soon down by 5 or 6 points before Coach Paul called a time out and asked the players to take a breath and remember to enjoy themselves. Loughborough, however, were relentless and their serving stretched the lead out even further through some very good serving until Athena began to settle into the match. Even so, Loughborough won the set 25-18.
Laura and Eve's first time on court
For the second set, Paul brought on Laura, Eve and Eli for Kasia, Aleksandra and Charlie. Laura was clearly nervous but she pulled off some fabulous first passes on service receive. The movement and positioning around the court showed how much work they have done in training. The changes of personnel were designed to give people court time but it did mean that the momentum that Athena were beginning to build at the end of the first set and Loughborough won the second 25-18 again.
A fabulous finish
For the final set, Charlie and Eli were setters, Alex and Eve played middle and Adela and Kasia were back as outside hitters. Some fabulous serving from Kasia helped Athena into a strong lead and Eve served five in a row to seal the set 25-9.
It was a performance that they all should be very proud of and it shows that this group has the potential to grow and improve. A big thank you to Sarah, the NVL captain, for coming to support and chip in with wise words.
National League Division 3C
Sunday 4th November 2018
Nottingham Rockets 3 Leicester Athena 1
Athena lost their first NVL match as they came up against a very organised and dangerous Rockets team. After the first match against Vipers, Coach Gordon made one change to the side that finished against Vipers with Petra coming on for Diana, Monika as opposite, Karolina and Tereza middle, Paulina setting and Kristy as outside.
Once more Paulina's serving was clinical as was Kristy's hitting and Petra's passing. It meant that Rockets could not cope with Athena's firepower, Athena winning the first set 25-9.
The same team started the second set and it was a tight affair with Rockets stepping up their block and backcourt defence. The set was nip and tuck, with the lead changing several times but, in the end, Rockets created a lead which Athena could not catch up and Rockets won 25-20. Once again Petra and Algi produced a great display in back court and Monika's hitting as opposite won a lot of points.
Kamila replaced Tereza and Adela replaced Kristy for the third set .. but the serving began to falter with every player serving out at least once. The first pass began to flatten out reducing the hitting opportunities. Kamila got a few great hits in through the middle, Petra's hitting was consistent and won point after point and Adela's pass grew as the set went on. Despite all this, destructive hitting from Rockets caused problems to our block and Rockets won 25-21.
Kristy and Sarah returned to the line-up for the final set but it was clear that Athena players were tiring. They were quieter on court, not moving as quickly and the pass began to lose its accuracy. Despite more great hitting from Kristy and Monika, Rockets tied up the match with a 25-21 win.
It was a good wake-up call to the NVL newbies ... proving that there are big, strong teams out there and that fitness counts. Well done to Monika for her MVP nomination.
National League Division 3C
Sunday 4th November 2018
Ashfield Vipers 0 Leicester Athena 3
Athena put in a very strong performance against Ashfield Vipers in the reverse fixture of our first NVL triangular.
Athena started with an imposing line-up: Sarah setting, Tereza and Karolina through the middle, Diana and Kristy outside and Algi as libero. The match started tight until it came to Alysia's serve - her deep, looping serves caused Vipers problems and Athena managed to eke out a lead. Diana's hitting was assured, accurate and moved the Ashfield defence around whereas Kristy provided a number of spectacular kills. Athena won an edgy set 25-16.
Paulina replaced Sarah as setter for the second set and Athena upped the intensity. Paulina starred with her serving, as she helped the team to an 8-0 lead which Ashfield could not recover from. Athena were more vocal and sharper on the pass. This enabled Paulina to set up the hitters and Karolina and Kristy were in devastating form as they buried hit after hit.
For the third set, Monika came on for Alysia. The serving was on point as Kristy, Karolina and Paulina all caused Vipers problems with their serve. Diana and Algi were immense in back court as they picked up everything and delivered pass upon pass to Paulina's head. Athena rounded out the match with a clear win 25-16, 25-10, 25-14.
Vipers nominated Kristy as MVP but we all through that Algi was the real star. She was outstanding as libero.