Athena's local league team showed a lot of nerves at the start of their match against PVC, but by the end they were showing their skills.
Captain Charlie said, after the match "Out of the last three matches or so, this has been my favourite." Despite her strong desire to win, she recognises that this team is about development. "It’s about how we learn. How we practice. How we believe in ourselves, and that changes how we play ... individually and as a team."
Athena has Charlie and Ioana as setters, Amanda returning from a broken finger as middle hitter along with Anna and Alex. Alex had to play with a plastic mask after breaking her nose whilst playing beach volleyball on holiday recently. Edyta and Nikki were outside hitters.
Athena's slow start
Amanda started on the bench and the six on court just froze. They struggled to cope with the hard deep serves from two of PVC's better players and lost the first set 25-9.
With Alex taking her turn on the bench, Athena started to find their feet, they relaxed into the match. Anna made a couple of great blocks and Amanda hit some good winners - all based on the fact that the defence were able to pass the ball to Charlie and Ioana with some regularity. However, PVC's greater experience saw them edge a much closer second set.
For the final set, Anna stepped off and Nikki started to relax into the match and showed how solid she is when receiving the ball. The movement and teamwork were excellent and they took PVC very close.
Lessons to learn
As Charlie said, with such an inexperienced squad, this season is all about development and they showed that, when they relax, that they can play good volleyball and worry other teams.
Here is Charlie's assessment of her team mates:
Thanks to Charlie for her words
Athena's regional league match against Ashfield Vipers 1 was a mixed bag.
Athena started the first set with Paulina setting, Julia opposite, Sam and Kamila as middle hitters and Edyta playing outside with Alessandra making her debut. Marta, who had been knocked down by a flying ball in the warm up had to sit out the first set with Ioana and Milly. It was a tough beginning for Alessandra, as Athena started very slowly and looked out of sorts. Vipers served well and hit hard and strolled into a big lead. At one point, it looked like Athena would struggle to make it to double figures, but strong serving from Sam helped Athena get to 14 points by the end of the set.
Marta felt well enough to play. so Kamila replaced Alessandra as outside hitter and Marta played through the middle. Athena looked much more balanced and started to pass better and attack better. Their attack started to move Vipers's excellent defence around and the set was more even and of a much higher quality. Despite the improved performance, Vipers were still attacking from all points and they managed to sneak the set 25-22.
Athena's good play extended into the third set where they took the lead. Their movement and work-rate was excellent and they were playing their best volleyball of the season. Kamila's hits were towering, Julia constantly found holes in the Vipers defence and the blocking was keeping Vipers' attack contained. Athena won the third set 25-19.
Vipers seal the deal
Sadly, Athena could not keep the same intensity in the fourth and Vipers took control again. The introduction of Alessandra and of Ioana, her first match back after injuring her thumb last month, could not change Athena's fortunes and Vipers won the fourth set 25-11.
Coach Paul was happy with some of their play, with Athena looking very dangerous on the attack at times, but they will have to learn to play with more consistency.
Well done to Julia for picking up yet another MVP award. Like all good captains, she certainly leads from the front.
Athena's regional league team played a tough, smart match to beat Lincoln on a cold and crisp Sunday.
With neither Eli or Ioana available, Paulina, one of the NVL setters had to step in to take charge of Athena's attack. Julia played opposite as usual, Adela and Algi played as outside hitter and Marta and Milly played through the middle. With a new setter and with Milly playing only her second match of the season, it took a little time to settle down, but Athena served well and passed well to ensure that they were always within a point or two of Lincoln throughout the first set. For a team that has struggled to convert their chances this season, Athena then showed admirable calmness to close out the first set 25-21 with Paulina serving out the final 4 points.
Team work comes to the fore
Sam came onto replace Milly, who had played really well considering her inexperience, and straight away Sam's physical presence helped to put pressure on Lincoln's middle hitters. Once more, this was a tight set with the difference being that Athena had their nose in front for most of the way. Paulina had found her range allowing Adela and Algi to start hitting harder and the team worked hard to win a number of lengthy rallies demonstrating togetherness and determination. As with the first set, it fell to Paulina to serve out the set 25-21.
Edyta replaced Adela as outside hitter and slipped in seamlessly. Marta and Sam's blocking was taking effect as Lincoln's most effective attacks were now mis-firing. Athena pushed into a comfortable lead, even when the play became scrappy, they found ways to win points. Julia's serving and her cheeky little dinks were eye-catching but it was underpinned by a great work ethos. Athena won the third set 25-17, sealing a 3-0 win.
Paulina named MVP
Congratulations to Paulina who won MVP, but every player deserves credit, The post-match meal on the outskirts of Lincoln was a worthy reward.
Leicestershire Volleyball League
Wednesday 23rd January 2019
Leicester Athena 2 Loughborough Students 1
Two strong teams went head to head at the Morningside Arena and produced an entertaining match full of skill, endeavour and long rallies.
Injuries and other problems have ravaged the local league squad, so Athena drew from the regional and national league squads. Charlie and Eli were setting, Algi and Edyta played outside with Alex and Sarah playing middle. ... that is Sarah the NVL setter playing through the middle for possibly the first time since school!
It took time for Athena to settle with such a makeshift team and Loughborough made the best of the opportunity to pull into a strong lead 8-2 lead. But Athena began to settle down and pass better and began to eat into that lead until they were drawing level at 23-23. But the Students managed to recover their composure and win the first set 25-23.
Athena were much better in the second set and were in front all the way through, Both teams were very strong defensively and a little light on the ability to kill the point, so there were a lot of long rallies. Athena worked out that by getting the ball back and making Loughborough set up another attack was putting pressure on the students and forcing mistakes. With Athena in the lead, Nikki came on for Edyta for the last few points.
The third set started off more evenly, but Athena's defence and back court work was impressive and they kept getting the ball back to the other side of the net, forcing Loughborough Students to make another play. Once more Nikki came on for a few more points at the end to build her experience and Athena comfortably won the final set to seal a 2-1 victory.
It was a good victory and against a well organised Loughborough team. The two teams meet again on Monday, let's hope for the same result.
National League Division 3C
Sunday 20th January 2019
Leicester Athena 3 Loughborough Students 0
Although Athena had a win against Loughborough in a shield match in early December, Loughborough came out strong forcing Athena to fight for every point
In set one, the starting line up was Sarah as setter, Alysia as opposite, Kristy and Diana through four, Kamila and Tereza through middle with Algi playing libero. A good first pass gave Sarah options among her hitters. Alysia in particular had some great shots placing the ball in areas that Loughborough struggled to cover. With Sarah's sneaky backsets over to Loughborough and Algi's great defence, Athena were able to squeeze out a first set win 27-25.
In set two, Athena's momentum continued. Adela came on for Alysia and proved to be an asset to the team. She would not let the ball hit the floor, even if that meant her being out place on occasion. With great serve receive and excellent defence, Athena was able to pull off another set win with final score 25-19.
The final set challenged Athena and it was a constant battle for points between the two teams. Athena's intensity dropped giving Loughborough the lead 11-16. However, with some good defence, including a great one-armed dig by Sarah and some line shots by Kristy, Athena were able to close the gap. It was neck and neck up to the very end but Diana showed courage and what she can truly do with some incredible hits that finished the set 28-26
Athena wins another league match 3-0!! Well played by everyone with special shout out to Algi for winning MVP and to Diana for her amazing back court defence and outstanding hitting.
Match Report by Kristy Logan
East Midlands Volleyball League
Wednesday 16th January 2019
Leicester Athena 1 Ashfield Vipers 3
An injury to Ioana, Athena's setter, midway through the second set really disrupted things in this regional league match against Ashfield Vipers 2.
With a big squad to choose from Coach Paul selected Ioana to set, Julia opposite, Emma and Marta middle and Edyta and Erin as outside - it was an inexperienced line-up but he wanted to see them put Sunday's training into practice.
Vipers start strong winning the first 2 sets
The first set started nervily with both sides making mistakes but Vipers 2 settled and Athena struggled to keep pace. The team battled hard and their defensive cover was very good, but they could not create enough telling attacks against a very organised Vipers 2 back court. Vipers 2 won the first set 25-17.
With a big squad to choose from, Paul changed the team for the second, Kamila and Sam coming into play through the middle and Algi replacing Erin. With a more experienced line-up, Athena kept Vipers 2 on a very short leash with neither team able to create a substantial lead. That changed with the score at 12:11 when Ioana and Algi clashed going to a tipped ball and Ioana sprained her thumb. Bravely, Marta volunteered to step in and play as setter. But the injury clearly disrupted Athena's flow and Vipers 2 put on 14 points to Athena's 5. They won the second set 25-16.
Athena fight back
Edyta came on to set and did an amazing job considering that she has not set for many, many years. Ioana provided great support and direction from the bench and Julia was directing things on court. Teo played as outside instead of Edyta and Marta came back on for Kamila. Everyone lifted their game to help out Edyta and Athena took the lead right from the start of the set and did not let that lead go. Although Vipers did pull level towards the end, Athena won a thrilling third set 25-23.
Emma replaced Marta through the muddle for the fourth set but the fightback hit the buffers as Athena's service receive disintegrated. Vipers 2 launched themselves into a 9-0 lead and Athena's confidence sunk through the floor and they only just made it to double figures as Vipers won the final set 25-10.
It was a disappointing end to the match. There were elements of good play and excellent coverage, but the lack of a consistent block and the lack of training time showed in the performance. Coach Paul held his hands up and said "I made a few changes throughout the match as I wanted to give players court time, but it ended up affecting our fluency and rhythm"
Well done to Julia for being nominated MVP ... again!
Leicestershire Volleyball League
Friday 11th January 2019
PVC 0 Leicester Athena 3
The local league team won their first game of the season with a solid victory over PVC.
Athena fielded a strong team with Ioana and Charlie setting, Sam and Alex, Edyta and Sarah as outside hitters and it was a competitive match between the two teams. It was Sam's second match of the season and she began to look back to form with strong hitting through the middle. Edyta and Sarah provided a great platform through their passing and Charlie's setting showed signs of her continuing development.
Athena powered through the first two sets, 25-19, 25-17. In the third set, Nikki and Emily replaced Sarah and Edyta to give these two 15 year olds more court time. It was great to see them getting involved and making some telling digs.
All in all, it was a good match, played in a great spirit and a timely morale boost to the local league team.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Saturday 12th January 2019
Nottingham Rockets 3 Leicester Athena 0
The regional league team pushed a well-organised Nottingham Rockets side a long way but were unable to convert their chances.
Athena were missing a number of players, and a much changed team took some time to settle in the first set with their service receive being quite wayward. Evenso, Athena managed to keep step with Rockets with Eli setting, Julia opposite, Kamila and Sam playing middle and Edyta and Tereza as outside hitters. Eli's strong serving and great cover from Julia and Edyta meant that the first set was finely balanced at 19-18. But then Rockets upped their tempo and served the set out 25-19.
Marta replaced Sam for the second set and her passing in the back court helped Athena stabilise their pass to Eli but Rocket's solid defence and intelligent attacks helped them grow a 16-9 lead which they never relinquished, winning the second set 25-19.
In the third set, Sam replaced Kamila and the team began to play at a higher tempo with a lot more communication. It meant that they managed to get ahed on the scoreboard for the first time. Service switched back and forth with Tereza and Sam hitting well, Julia conjuring up some wonderful winning points and Eli serving hard. As the set drew to its conclusion, with Athena ahead, a few nervous plays handed Rockets victory.
Rockets played very well and defended brilliantly, but it did feel like this was an opportunity to missed by Athena.
Congratulations to captain Julia for her nomination as MVP! Very well deserved.
National Shield Round 3
Wednesday Wednesday 9th January 2019
Leicester Athena 0 Derby Darkstar 3
Leicester Athena put up a great fight against Division 1 opponents but bowed out of this years' cup competition at the third round stage.
Derby are flying high in Division 1 and provided Athena with their stiffest test to date, but Athena started brightly in the first set, with Sarah setting, Adela playing opposite. Kamila and Tereza as middle hitters and Kristy and Diana as outside hitters. Athena played with commitment and fearlessly and they pushed their opponents all the way through the first set, up until the second technical timeout. But Derby showed their greater power pushing ahead to win the first set 25-17.
Derby were now in their groove and their hitting and float serving was causing Athena problems, but Adela's cover and work ethic kept the rallies going and Kristy's hitting was punching holes in Derby's defence. Despite their determination, Derby pulled ahead to win the second set to 17 once again.
Paulina replaced Sarah as setter but Athena still continued to struggle to handle Derby's greater power and accuracy and the third set was lost 25-16.
It was a brave fight by Athena who were without a number of players. A huge congratulation to Adela who was voted MVP by Darkstar in her first match playing as opposite. A worthy reward for her hard work.
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.