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.