East Midlands Volleyball League
Monday 17th December 2018
Nottingham Casualties 3 Leicester Athena 0
At the end of the day, Athena were undone by some excellent serving from Casualties and our difficulty in receiving hard, flat serves.
Athena started the first set slowly as the team settled into the rhythm of the match, but a strong serving round from Julia saw the team draw level at 12-12, but Casualties strong serving allied to a number of small individual errors meant that Casualties were able to see the set out, 25-19.
Athena started the second set with the same six (Eli, Julia, Sam, Emma, Edyta and Adela) and were much more competitive for a long time. Once more, Casualties' best player (Steph, 17) stepped up and reeled off a series of flat hard serves which Athena could not deal with. The 25-16 scoreline is a lot more brutal than the performance. There was a lot to praise about Athena’s play: Eli’s setting is coming on leaps and bounds, Julia showed great intelligence in her hitting and tips and Adela’s pass was back to its best.
For the third set, Ioana came onto set with Eli replacing Sam through the middle. Erin came on for Edyta but an ankle injury early in the third set saw her carried off. Thankfully, the damage did not seem to be too serious. With the change in personnel, the team took some time to settle back down but they faced the same problems in service receive. They got a lot closer, only losing 25-21.
Most of the Athena regional league team has stepped up from local league last year and it will take time to adjust, but with a few small improvements in service receive, it is clear that Athena will start winning soon.
National League Division 3C
Sunday 16th December 2018
Leicester Athena 3 Tamworth Spartans 1
Athena won their first ever home National League match by beating Tamworth in an extremely entertaining match. In a clash of styles, Athena’s power based attack were pushed a long way by a street-wise and dogged Tamworth team.
Athena started with Paulina setting, Alysia as opposite, Kristy and Petra as outside, Tereza and Karolina as middle and Algi as libero. Athena started slowly, they looked tentative and nervous and Tamworth built a strong early lead, but Athena began to pass to the setter, Paulina created opportunities for Karolina, in particular, who finished off with some fearsome hits. Athena slowly ate into Tamworth's advantage and took the set beyond the 25-point to finally clinch a gritty win, 28-26.
This gave the Athena girls a huge confidence boost and they dominated the second set with some great serving from Paulina, Karolina and Petra. They won the set 25-13. Then Tamworth showed their quality by pushing back and grinding out another tight, tough set, 27-25. They refused to let the ball drop and their setter found gaps time and again with her tips.
But Athena were not to be deterred and lifted the quality of their serve, pass, set and hit to win the fourth set 25-15 and win their first home match 3-1.
It was a fabulous performance against a really good Tamworth team and it shows the Athena are here to fight all the way to the end. Well done, ladies!
National League Division 3C
Sunday 16th December 2018
Leicester Athena 3 Northampton 2
Northampton recovered from a poor match against Tamworth to really stretch Athena in the last match of the day. Athena started brightly with Sarah setting, Monika as opposite, Kamila and Karolina as middle hitters, Algi as libero and Adela and Kristy as outside hitters. Despite some variable passing, Sarah was able to feed Kristy and Kamila with some excellent sets and they were dispatched viciously. Athena edged a bigger and bigger lead throughout the set to win 25-17.
If Athena were feeling complacent, that was wiped away by Northampton who won the next two sets with a tenacious performance in backcourt with some fabulous covering of hits and tips – they always made Athena have to take one more swing to win the point. Northampton won the second set 25-17 and even with a change at setter and middle (Paulina and Tereza replacing Sarah and Kamila), they could not break down the dogged defence from Northampton. Northampton won the third set 25-22.
With Alysia and Petra restored to the court, Athena roared right back, working hard to win some very gritty, long rallies and levelling the match with a 25-16 set win.
Athena certainly showed no nerves in the final set shoot out, dominating every phase of play to win 15-5.
First home series, two wins and a first 5 set win … a very good return for a day of hard work. Well done to Tereza for her backcourt work (not bad for a middle), to Adela for some her amazing pickups, Kristy for her hitting and Petra for some fearsome serving.
Leicestershire Volleyball League
Wednesday 12th December 2018
Leicester Athena 0 PVC 3
The local league team put up a good fight against a very experienced PVC side. Athena started with Ioana and Charlie setting, Alex and Anna as middle hitters and Nikki and Adela as outside. The match flowed back and forth on serve but PVC started to pull ahead through their middle players, Tereza and Rachel. Their experience, height and skill level as too much for Alex and Anna who are still only just learning their role.
In the second set, Kasia replaced Nikki and showed some excellent movement at first. Once more, the middle hitting from PVC was key as they pinched point after point. For the final set, Emily came on as part of her volleyball education.
As mentioned before, this is a very inexperienced team with a number of players in only their first or second season of playing volleyball, so putting up such a good fight against a PVC side that can boast players of considerable experience and skill showed that they are all progressing well. Charlie is learning quickly as a setter, Kasia has improved immensely over the past 12 months and each player can point to improvements they have made.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Wednesday 5th December 2018
Leicester Athena 0 Nottingham Rockets
Athena's regional league squad were out-powered by a strong Nottingham Rockets squad that was littered with NVL players, however, it was one of their non-NVL players, Montana, who did the damage with some excellent middle-hitting.
Before the match, Coach Paul had mixed news, Marta had recovered from her sprained thumb but Amanda's sprained finger was not strong enough to play.
Athena began with Eli setting, Julia as opposite, Marta and Tereza through the middle and Algi and Edyta as outside hitters. Strong serving from Rockets allowed them to build a lead in the first set, until a strong serving round by Julia brought the set back to a 2-point margin. However, Rockets started to control the ball on their side of the net and that allowed their powerful hitters to pull away and win the set 25-17.
Sam replaced Marta through the middle and after the first round of serving, it was a very tight set, but once again Rockets showed their experience to ease into a 25-19 set win. For the final set, Coach Paul brought on Ioana to set, Emma and Marta for Tereza and Sam through the middle. Despite so many changes, the fight and commitment from Athena meant that it was even after the first round of serving, but a fearsome set of swerving and dipping serves from Rocket's Gosiincar, created a gap that Athena could close and Rockets won the third set and match 25-15.
Paul declared himself happy with the work that everyone had put in, their movement and cover was excellent. Rockets were simply stronger on the day but there were a lot of positives and this inexperienced side should take heart from this performance.
Well done to Captain Julia for her MVP nomination. Very much deserved.
Thank you to Laura and Petra for scoring, to Charlie for refereeing and to Anna and friends and family members who came to support.
National Shield Round 2
Sunday 2nd December 2018
Loughborough Students 0 Leicester Athena 3
Leicester Athena’s national league team played in their 3rd ever National Cup game on the 2nd December against Loughborough Students. Both teams play in the same division, W3C, however, we have not played each other yet this season. Going into the game blind, unsure of the strength of their opponent, Leicester Athena came to the game with 10 of their players. Coming from an early morning training session, and a pub lunch, the team were ready to play to the best of their ability.
The first set started with Paulina setting, Alysia opposite, Kamila and Karolina through middle, Petra and Kristy outside, and with Algi as our libero. Athena were receiving first and won the first point. With some strong blocking from Kristy and Karolina they then quickly strode into an 11-6 lead. Although Loughborough rallied and gained in score, using some strong attacks, Algi always seemed to be in the right place at the right time (sometimes thanks to a reminder from Coach Gordon!) and managed to pass the ball perfectly to Paulina to setup a strong attack which more than always won the point. Athena finished out that set 25-19.
The second set started similar to the first, the only change was to bring Diana on for Petra through the outside. The set started slightly slower than the first, however Athena strode into a minor lead, keeping that up throughout the majority of the set. Some great passing meant we were able to setup for a quick attack. Diana, coming from her beach volleyball past, threw Loughborough with her short roll shots through 4, which caught them out many times, earning us some well-deserved points. A great moment was when Alysia and Kamila blocked back-to-back hits, shutting out Loughborough’s outside attack and creating a euphoric sense of pride. We quickly strode away, with Kristy serving 5 points at the end of the game to get us to match point, then Diana serving the last winner point to finish the set out 25-17.
Coach Gordon changed the lineup slightly for the 3rd set, with Sarah setting, Monika opposite, Kristy and Diana through outside, Karolina and Kamila middle, with Algi as libero. This last set was a bit more touch and go, with Athena falling into a loss of 6-13 when Coach Gordon called a timeout. It took Athena a while to get their heads back into the game, with the passing becoming a bit wayward, and Loughborough’s game rising. It got to a 12-18 deficit for Athena to really get into the game, and not wanting to push the game to 4 sets, Petra came on for Diana and the girls started to be more accurate with their technique. When it came to captain Sarah’s turn to serve, she managed one ace and a couple of non-returnable serves. The rest were returned and picked up easily, set up, and attacked with ferocity. We clawed it back and were neck and neck throughout the rest of the game to 24-24. Diana served the next 3 points, and Athena finished the set 26-24.
Athena had just won their first ever National Cup game and are through to the next round!
We said at the beginning of the season that although participating in the National Cup was fun and purposeful to take what we practice into a real game, it wasn’t going to be our priority over our league games. However, that does not mean that we weren’t excited to win!
We go onto play the next round of the Shield tournament on the 6th January at our home venue of De Montfort University.
Match Report by Sarah Booth, Photo by Marcin.