Monday 9th March 2020
Loughborough Students 2 Leicester Athena 1 (25-19, 25-22, 25-18)
Decked out in the super new kit from Sportsway Management, Athena’s local league team took on Loughborough Students on Monday night and showed how far they have improved this season.
Athena started with Charlie and Rachael setting, Alex and Anna middle hitters and Ioana and Maria as outside hitters. Athena started nervously and the first set was a story of little mistakes and errors. The first pass was wayward and there were a few serve errors, but when the ball was in play, Athena’s movement and precision was very impressive. Anna, in particular, caught the eye with excellent serving and strong passing and Ioana’s covering was excellent. Sadly, there weren’t enough fluent periods and the Students won the first set 25-19.
The second set was completely different with Athena playing with confidence. Alex was dominating play in front and back court, Maria was hitting well and the whole team clicked. Their movement and cohesion showed how hard they have been working in training. Athena were well ahead in the set when they had a little wobble. After losing so many sets and matches, it was to be expected for them to get a little excited as the finish line appeared, but they calmed themselves down and won the set 25-22.
The final set began in much the same vein, but with the scores at 9-9, one of the Students started serving and her hard, low, accurate serves caused problems for Athena. She took the set to 17-9 when she was substituted by the Student’s coach, but the damage was done. Athena traded points with Loughborough as Rachael showed how much she is developing in her first year and Charlie was there urging players on. However, Loughborough saw out the match by winning the final set 25-18.
Coach Paul was delighted with the overall performance. It was a clear demonstration of the effort in training and they are developing into a good team that plays well-structured volleyball. Junior players, Evie and Barbora got some valuable court time as did Sab, who was returning after a stiff shoulder.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Sunday 8th March 2020
Leicester Athena 2 Lincoln Cannons 3 (25-20, 25-21, 23-25, 18-25, 12-15)
Leicester Athena’s regional league team blew a commanding 2 sets lead to lose to a well-organised Lincoln Cannons side on Sunday.
Playing in their fabulous new black and red kit from Sportsway Management, Athena started with Eli setting, Ioana opposite, Sam and Tereza middle, Edyta and Allie as outside hitters. With Joy injured, they played without a libero for the first time this season.
Athena cruise into the lead
Athena started well, they showed great defensive organisation to overcome a stubborn Cannons side who, themselves, repelled some great attacking plays from Edyta and Tereza. Allie was hitting really well, connecting with some fabulous wide sets to hit down the line. The first set was a little scrappy with passes going awry, but Athena worked their way through it to take control. Coach Paul had the luxury to blood debutant Emily who, despite only playing for a couple of months is showing a wonderful ability to learn. They won the first set 25-20 and looked even more fluent to win the second set to 21.
The wheels begin to fall off
Athena started the third with Julia replacing Edyta as an outside hitter. They continued to plug away as Lincoln Cannons upped their game and made some more dangerous attacks. Athena’s focus was beginning to wane as the set continues. Things looked very finely poised when a moment of misfortune seemed to change the momentum of the match. Tereza fell in back court and twisted her ankle. Emily was brought on again, but this time into the more complex middle hitters position and Edyta was brought back on for Julia. However, the disruption affected the concentration and Cannons won a very tight set by 2 points.
Lincoln grab the initiative
With their tails up, Cannons began to punish Athena errors with Athena looking tired and disorganised. Tereza was back on but her ankle was hindering her. Sam, though, was beginning to hit very well and won some crucial points, but Cannons greater consistency helped them pull ahead to level the match with a 25-18 set win.
For the final set, Julia replaced Ioana as outside and Emily came on again for Allie but Cannons were not to be denied. They quickly forged a strong 7-3 lead and, although Athena rallied, they sealed the match.
Well done to Lincoln who played really well and created a fabulously entertaining macth with long rallies and lots of skill and endeavour.
There were some high points:
Monday 17th February 2020
Loughborough Students 2 Leicester Athena 1 (25-13, 19-25, 25-18)
Athena's local league side won their first set of the season with a great display of teamwork, scrambling and hard work.
Due to a number of players not being available, Athena had to mix and match with Charlie playing her first ever match as an outside hitter, Eve playing her first match through the middle this season and Priya making her debut.
Athena started with Ioana and Rachael setting, Eve and Alex playing middle, Charlie and Maria as outside hitters but they struggled to control their nerves and were quickly behind. The first pass was poor, too few attacks were generated and too many serves went out, giving Loughborough a big advantage. When the ball did get to the setters, Athena matched the Students in the longer rallies but the Students won the first set 25-13.
Priya replaced Maria for her first match with us and her industry in the backcourt meant that Athena were able to pick up the loose pass, recycle the ball and force Loughborough into mistakes. Charlie grew into her role including the champagne moment of the match where her serve receive went high to the setter, who pushed a great set wide for Charlie to leap and drive an excellent cross-court winner. Athena won the set 25-18.
Maria came back for Priya and Evie came on for Rachael for her third ever match. Loughborough picked up their play and their serving again put Athena under pressure, but this time, they carried on chipping away, thanks, in part, to some excellent serving from Alex. Despite that, Students sealed the match 25-18.
Rachael had a fabulous match belying the fact that she started playing in September, Priya showed that she is going to be an excellent addition to the squad and Charlie's leadershisp was brilliant as always.
National Volleyball League - Division W2N
Saturday 15th February 2020
Leicester Athena 3 Manchester Marvels 1 (17-25, 25-16, 25-20, 25-21)
Athena overcame their customary slow start to impose themselves on a very organised and dangerous Manchester Marvels 1 side.
Slow start gives away the first set
Athena began with Sarah setting and Adela opposite, Kristy and Amy played as outside hitters, Alex and Karolina through the middle and Algi as libero. From the first point, Marvels looked up for the battle as their libero made a great save from an attack by Karolina and their serve caused lots of problems to a very static Athena service receive team. The poor first pass transmitted through the team to cause nervousness and confusion which gave the advantage to Marvels. It wasn't until the first technical timeout, where they were 8-4 down, that Athena began to put together attacks to worry Marvels and at 10-8 Marvels called a time out to give themselves a chance to regroup. Marvels to rediscovered their form with Paschali leading from the front with her hitting, awareness and her serving and Marvels saw out the set 25-17.
Athena power back into the game
Coach Gordon made a couple of small tweaks and brought Michelle on as libero and, straight away, Athena looked more composed. Suddenly, their attack clicked into place with Amy looking particularly dangerous with a fine range of power hitting and smart placement. Karolina was working hard to find winners through the middle but Marvels' libero was always in the right place to get the ball back. A strong set of serves by Alex pulled Athena into a commanding lead which, despite a late fight back by Marvels was enough to see them win the set 25-16.
Athena see out the match
Backed by a small but vocal support, Athena now had the bit between their teeth and began to impose themselves on Marvels. They started the third set with Paulina as setter and their serving, back court coverage and hitting wore down Marvels. Adela’s work in the backcourt was fabulous, covering everything, she seemed to see the game better than anyone else. Added to that a couple of crucial blocks was enough to gain her the MVP nomination. Kristy began to fire now, hitting booming winners from out wide and Athena saw the match out, winning the third set 25-20 and the fourth set 25-21.
Athena lost to Marvels in their first match in Div 2N but showed how far they have come by this confident and powerful display. Once they shook off their first set nerves, they looked imperious and now have a 5 and 5 season and look well placed to push on.
Well done to Adela for her first MVP nomination of the season, her all action display certainly warranted such an accolade.
National Volleyball League - Division W2N
Saturday 8th February 2020
Tameside 2 Leicester Athena 3 (23-25, 25-22, 25-27, 25-12, 12-15)
Leicester Athena travelled North to Manchester, to play against Tameside VC for the first time this season. They took with them 7 players and 1 coach with neither of their 2 libero players available to make the journey.
Athena edge the first set
In the first set, Athena started with Sarah setting, Amy and Kristy as outside, Karolina and Alex through middle, and Adela as opposite. In true Athena fashion, they got themselves to a 6-1 deficit. As we were just warming up, this continued until a second timeout was called by Coach Gordon at 12-20. This seemed to be the motivation that we needed to really get our head in the game properly. Kristy then started serving at point 13 and continued until Tameside called a timeout at 23-21. Backed up by the rest of her team, Kristy continued to serve until we won the set 25-23.
Tameside even things up
Gordon kept the same line-up in the 2nd set as the 1st, and this time round, Athena didn’t give Tameside the lead they wanted. Throughout the set, the movement and communication on Athena’s side of the court was much better than the 1st set. However, this could also be said to be the same for Tameside. They brought on a different and clearly more experienced middle player who caused us issues within our defence, however she was very closely matched with the likes of Karolina through our middle. The entire set was neck and neck, with timeouts being called by both teams at 20:20, 22:22, and 22:24. However, Tameside got the final 25th point, and the game scores were reset to 1:1.
Athena win third set cliff-hanger
In the 3rd set, Petra was brought on as an opposite for Adela. Although Petra plays as an opposite player at her university, she has not played as an opposite with Athena for over 2 years and is most commonly an outside player. This however, didn’t seem to phase anybody. Having started the set with a 6-0 lead, thanks to Alex’s controlled and accurate serving, which continued until Tameside called a timeout at 2:11. This seemed to spur them on, however we were able to fight them off to the next technical timeout. We continued our day full of great serving, with Sarah serving 5 points to take us ahead of the opposition. This combined with some great back court defence thanks to our newly back court middle players, we managed to close the set out 27-25.
Once more, Tameside roar back in the fourth
We kept the same line-up for the next set, however our communication and defence just wasn’t in the game like it had been before. Tameside had changed their setter and were picking up a lot of the scrappy points. We had some good moments in this set, including some amazing defence work from Amy, but the set finished 25-12, making the scores of the game even once again at 2:2!
Athena win in 5!
We decided to leave the last set in the past where it well and truly belonged! Having received first service once again, we gained an initial lead, followed by swapping courts at 8:7. Throughout this set, you could see the wish and desire in people’s eyes to win this game as the service kept swapping sides after 1 point each. A Tameside timeout was called at 7:11, where Coach Gordon advised us to change our defence strategy as Tameside were constantly tipping the ball into our centre court catching us out. Therefore, our back court middle player was changed to stand in the middle of the court with 1 job only – pick up those tips! This worked, and we sailed through the rest of the set to win 15-12.
Sarah wins her first MVP of the season
To say the team were happy about winning was an understatement! There have been many times this season where this team have been so close to winning games, but have lost out at the very last minute, leaving them proud of their accomplishments, but disappointed at the same time. This was well and truly something to feel accomplished by, and has proved to be one of the best game they have played so far. Congratulations to our Captain, Sarah, for gaining her first MVP nomination of the season. However, further congratulations go out to the rest of the team for believing and trusting in each other both on and off court.
They move onto play Manchester Marvels next Saturday, 15th February at home.
Thank you to Martin Henfield of Manchester for the use of his amazing photographs. See more of his work on Flickr by clicking here.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Sunday 2nd February 2020
Leicester Athena 1 Derby Darkstar (11-25, 15-25, 25-12, 18-25)
Athena's regional team failed to reach the standards of recent matches as they lost to a very talented Derby Darkstar team.
Darkstar dominate with the serve
Coach Paul started with more-or-less the same team that beat Hermitage: Eli setting, Julia as opposite, Sam and Amanda through the middle, Tereza and Edyta as outside hitters and Joy as libero. The early exchanges were very even with both teams passing and attacking well, Julia showing great presence of mind to hit smart balls into gaps in Darkstar's defence. But, at 4-6 down, Darkstar's Stryzowska came up to serve. Her low, strong serves caused huge problems for Athena. Despite two time-outs and Adela replacing Edyta, Athena only broke the serve with the score at 17-6. Such an onslaught ruined any confidence or flow in the team and Darkstar ran out the set easy 25-11 winners.
Adela replaced Tereza for the second set but Athena failed to get into gear. Nervousness affected every contact, with the first pass to the setter still being wayward. When an attack opportunity was created, the hitters snatched at the ball, hitting the net 3 times in succession. Alessandra replaced Edyta and Tereza moved to the middle to replace Amanda, but Darkstar still won 25-15.
Athena fights back
After 2 exasperating sets, Athena finally began to play. Alessandra's extra height began to tell as she powered a number of excellent line kills. In backcourt, as well, Joy's passing improved and her positional sense meant that she was able to field a lot of Derby attacks, Alessandra added more calmness to the defence and Adela seemed to be everywhere covering the tips. Athena won the set 25-12 proving that they have the skills and firepower to compete.
That positive energy carried onto the fourth set with Sam blocking well, Tereza making some crucial hits and Alessandra continuing to hit well. But a loss of concentration popped the bubble of confidence and Athena stuttered. With Athena starting to fall behind, a strong serving set from Eli brought the score back, but Athena could not get back to the levels in the third set and Derby closed the match out 25-18.
Well done to Derby who thoroughly deserved their victory, but the third set showed that this was an opportunity lost.
Congratulations to Adela for being nominated MVP and thank you to Charlie for refereeing excellently and to Saffron from the NVL team for scoring.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Sunday 26th January 2020
Leicester Athena 3 Hermitage 0 (25-9, 25-11, 25-19)
Athena’s regional league team cruised to a 3-0 win over Hermitage.
Adela stepped into the outside hitter role with both Julia and Ioana missing. Eli was setting as usual, Amanda and Sam played middle and Edyta and Tereza played as outside hitter .. Joy was the libero.
Athena started brightly with Eli and Adela serving very well. Despite the first pass not being accurate, Eli was able to set up Edyta, Tereza and Adela for a number of killer hits. Hermitage had no answer to the constant attacks and Athena won the first set 25-9.
The second set started scrappily. Athena were still accumulating points through their hard, pinpoint serving but the sharpness of attack was missing due to some sloppy passing. Alessandra was introduced for Tereza half way through the set and quickly eased into the pace of the match. Athena won the set 25-11.
Alessandra kept her place for the start of the third set. The first pass improved and that allowed Athena to attack harder, but it also led to an increase of hitting errors. Joy’s passing, in particular, really picked up as she delivered the ball exactly where Eli wanted time and again. Halfway through the set, Terzea came back on, this time for Edyta. With two sets in the bank, Athena’s concentration level began to slip leading to a series of silly errors, but a time out with Hermitage leading 14-16 re-invigorated the team. Athena powered through the remainder of the set to win 25-19.
Once more, Athena’s regional league team showed that they have some devastating power when serving and attacking.
Well done to Adela for being nominated MVP.
Thank you to Petra for refereeing and to Alex and Maria for scoring.
Wednesday 22nd January 2010
Leicester Athena 0 Loughborough Students 3 (11-25, 14-25, 9-25)
Despite the scoreline, this was a much better performance by Athena's local league team, they were simply beaten by a much more experienced and better team.
Athena started with Ioana and Charlie as setters, Alex and Anna as middle hitters and Nikki and Maria as outside hitters. And they started very well. They passed well, they moved well around court and communicated well. Nikki's pass was excellent and, for such a young player, she really took ownership for the service receive. Ioana was chasing any wayward passes and getting the ball up for the hitters. However, Loughborough were very well organised, their pass always made it to their setter and their serving was strong and accurate. It was the serving that undid Athena and they began to stretch away with two very strong serve rounds to win 25-11.
Athena started the second set with the same players, but this time they started slowly. Eventually, they began to pass better allowing Alex and Anna to hit hard through the middle. Yet again, though, service receive was Athena's weak point. Rachael replaced Charlie as setter and Sabina came on for Alex but they could not arrest the slide and they lost 25-14.
Athena had a definitely youthful look about the team for the final set as Coach Paul made lots of changes. Emily and Charlie played outside, Sab and Alex played middle and Evie and Ioana played as setter. With so many changes, it was unsurprising the they struggled to gel, but the inexperienced team worked hard and showed a lot of promise.
Although Athena's local team has yet to win a set this season, as individuals and as a team, they are improving. Ioana worked tirelessly and showed a lot of leadership. Sab's pass and hitting looked very good Evie was excellent as setter, Alex and Anna are becoming good middle hitters. A little bit more work on service receive that they will start to click!
Thank you to Amanda for scoring, and to Barbora, Catarina for line judging. It was good to see so many of our junior squad turning up to play and help out.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Sunday 13th January 2020
Lincoln Cannons 1 Leicester Athena 3 (25-21, 22-25, 16-25, 12-25)
Athena's regional league team made up for a slow start by beating Lincoln Cannons 3-1.
Athena started with Eli setting, Julia opposite, Sam and Amanda as middle hitters, Tereza debuting as outside with Edyta and Joy as libero. Their last match or training session was mid-December and the rustiness showed with poor communication, wayward passes and a lack of movement in the backcourt.
Athena's slow start
Lincoln were very strong in defence and they worked hard to recover balls. Their tactic seemed to be to get the ball over the net and wait for Athena to make mistakes and Athena duly obliged. Poor serves, failing to deal with soft Lincoln serves and poor positioning meant that Lincoln won the first set 25-21.
Coaches Paul and Sarah kept the same side for the second set and they slowly started to come alive. The pass was more controlled and Eli was beginning to find Tereza and Edyta. Tereza, in particular, began to hit with real authority. It was close and edgy still, but Athena won the second set 25-22.
Athena begin to dominate
Athena was now started to flow. More accurate passing allowed Eli to set beautifully and Edyta was showing great intelligence with her placing and Tereza was using her height to her maximum advantage. Through the middle, Sam was starting to fire and Julia was using her court-smarts to find holes in the Lincoln defence. The serving was more consistent, putting pressure on Lincoln who were making more and more mistakes. Athena eased to the third set 25-16.
As Athena started to click into gear, Lincoln started to retreat and the fourth set was a . comfortable one. Amanda's serving was hitting its mark as was Eli's and Edyta and the whole team was beginning to move and adjust and play like a well-oiled team. Ioana had to be rushed onto court as an emergency outside hitter while Tereza had to leave the court for a couple of points for a nature break, but nothing phased the team now. Athena won the set 25-12.
After such a long lay-off, it was a very good performance from Athena. They threw off any rustiness to dominate Lincoln and win their 5th match of the season.
Eli wins MVP
Well done to Eli for her MVP nomination but there were valuable contributions from everybody.
Friday 10th January 2020
PVC 3 Leicester Athena 0 (25-19, 25-13, 25-5)
A very inexperienced local league team struggled to make an impact against a solid PVC team.
Missing Ioana and Amanda, Athena started with Charlie, Eve, Maria, Anna, Alex and Rachel, who was a starting player for the first time. Athena started slowly, falling 6-1 down before Coach Paul called a time out. Nervousness and tightness meant that Athena's first pass was non-existant. Athena continued to struggle until they were 12-5 down. Youngsters Evie and Nikki replaced Eve and Maria and the team relaxed and began to make headway, clawing the set back to within 2 points before PVC closed the set out 25-19.
Athena started the second set with the same team that started the first but they really struggled to cope with PVC's serving. They fell behind and lost their confidence. Once again, Coach Paul made changes with Evie and Sab coming on but there was to be no turning the set round.
For the third set, Sab, Nikki and Evie all started but Athena still failed to pass the ball to the setters and they lost the last set 25-5.
It was a disappointing defeat, but it is a reflection on the inexperience in the team. Charlie, Anna and Alex have been with us for less than 3 years, Alex coming back from a nasty looking ankle injury in October. Eve, Maria and Sab have been with us less than a year. Rachel started playing this year and Nikki and Evie are young and learning quickly.
So we will learn so me lessons, work hard and get ready for the next match.