Athena celebrated Christmas with a meal at The Distillery in Leicester on Sunday night. Despite the snowy conditions, 14 of us made our way into town and had a fun evening chatting, eating and drinking cocktails.
The night was tinged with emotion as it was also time to say goodbye to our lovely Kinga who is returning back home to Poland. She leaves knowing there is always a place for her in the bunny family.
It was a successful return to league action as Athena's regional league team beat a game Nottingham Rockets at the Leicester Sports Arena last Wednesday.
Coach Paul had a big squad to call upon as he called up a few players from the local league team and Lisa, Joy, Erin and Julia all got to show what they can do.
Athena started with a strong team and breezed into a healthy lead. Erin made her regional league debut as libero and produced a series of good passes to Sarah. With Petra and Kristy as outside hitters, Sam and Kamila through the middle and Alysia as opposite, Athena were too strong for the Rockets. Liza then came on for Sam for her first taste of regional league action and played very well.
The second set was a disappointment as Athena put in a very rare poor performance. Their movement in backcourt was slow, passes inaccurate and that meant a close, tight set where Rockets were always slightly ahead. Athena lost the set 25-19.
In the third and fourth sets, Athena played like their usual selves allowing Paul to make changes and experiment. Joy came on as libero and put in one of her best performances, while Julia showed her qualities as outside hitter with a string of good serves and hits. Rebecca came on for Kamila through the middle and Liza got a few minutes at the end of the fourth set.
All-in-all, it was a good match with Coach Paul able to change things around and bring in a raft of new players as part of their development. With two 17-year olds, a 20 year old and with 2 DMU students, it is good to see younger players starting to make their mark with the regional league squad.
Athena won 25-9, 19-25, 25-12,25-11 .... and Kristy bagged her first MVP of the season.
Athena suffered defeat in their National Shield match against a very good MK City outfit.
After losing to Ashfield in the first round of the National Cup, Athena dropped into the National Shield and faced another regional league team from Milton Keynes.
The first set was very close with MK City's outside hitter, Walker, causing all sorts of problems for Athena's block defence. Using her as their main outlet, Walker esnured that MK City won the first set 25-21.
The second set followed a very similar pattern with Athena fighting hard to stay in contention. Athena's attack sharpened up in the second set with Kristy, Sam and Adela all making strong contributions. Yet again, KM City's greater firepower helped them to win the set 25-20..
It wasn't until the third set that Athena managed to consistently blocker Walker. Sam and Kamila, in particular, made huge blocks against her and Sarah worked really hard ti set the block properly. Eventually, Walker began to hit into the net more and MK City started to use different options which allowed Athena the opportunity to defend more and create better attacking options. Even when MK City got through the block, Rhetta's back court defence was outstanding. Athena squeezed the set 25-21.
The release of joy from Athena players was evident but it meant that they lost that intensity and aggressiveness and they could not get their first pass going in the fourth set. Even bringing Michelle on for Kristy, while Kristy was in back court, could not change things enough. The fourth set was a bit of damp squib after the excitement and promise of the third set and MK City sealed the match 25-12.
It was a really high quality match played in an excellent spirit and it was a great advert for regional league level volleyball. Well done to Sarah, Kristy, Kamila, Sam, Alysia, Rhets and, especially, to Adela ... MVP!!!!