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.
East Midlands Volleyball League
Monday 26th November 2018
Loughborough Students 1 Leicester Athena 3
In their first match of the season, the regional league team showed great togetherness to beat Loughborough Students. With last year’s championship winning squad moving up to the National League, this is a brand new Athena team composed of a mix of new players, local league players from last year, plus support from Adela and Algi from the NVL squad.
Athena began with Eli setting, Julia as opposite, Milly and Marta playing through the middle and Edyta and Algi as outside hitters. As was only to be expected, it was a nervous start and Athena fell behind quite quickly in the first set, but the girls never stopped working and played with such a great spirit that they began to claw back on Loughborough’s advantage. Eli’s and Edyta’s serving caused problems for the Students and Marta grew into the match, however, Loughborough had enough to win the first set 25-22.
Coach Paul changed the team for the second set, bringing on Ioana as setter, Emma as middle and Adela as outside. Once more, serving was key but Athena’s teamwork and determination to always get the ball back helped them push into a big lead which they held out to win the second set.
Eli came back on for the third set and Athena were now playing with confidence. Marta’s passing from backcourt was exemplary and Eli produced some delightful back-sets for Julia to finish. The momentum was now with Athena and they comfortably won the third set.
With Edyta on for Algi, Athena eased out the match, although, they did wobble when in sight of the finishing line – the excitement of the win meaning that they became a little rushed in their technique. But the recovered their composure to seal victory.
Eli was voted MVP for her destructive serving and for her solid setting, but there were so many other highlights. Marta was fabulous in her first regional league game, Emma showed that middle is her position, Edyta hit the ball with intelligence and Julia showed her game craft by picking out holes in Loughborough’s defence. There will be tougher matches ahead, but everybody played their part and did so with big smiles and warm hearts and that will hold the team in good stead.
Leicestershire Volleyball League
Monday 12th November 2018
Loughborough Students 2 Leicester Athena 1
Athena's local league team got their season off to a solid start against Loughborough Students at the Sir David Wallace Hall in Loughborough.
For Amanda, it was a strange experience as it was here, 2 years ago, that she fell and broke both arms. Happy to say the memories did not affect her at all.
First set nerves
Athena played a mix of experienced and emerging players. This was Charlie's first match as setter, for Eli, Laura, Aleksandra and Eve, it was their first matches for us and for Amanda, it was her first match since that injury. With so many new players, it was unsurprisingly that it took some time to settle. In the first set, the starting six of Charlie, Ioana, Alex, Amanda, Adela (getting some much needed practice after missing a lot of training through work) and Kasia were soon down by 5 or 6 points before Coach Paul called a time out and asked the players to take a breath and remember to enjoy themselves. Loughborough, however, were relentless and their serving stretched the lead out even further through some very good serving until Athena began to settle into the match. Even so, Loughborough won the set 25-18.
Laura and Eve's first time on court
For the second set, Paul brought on Laura, Eve and Eli for Kasia, Aleksandra and Charlie. Laura was clearly nervous but she pulled off some fabulous first passes on service receive. The movement and positioning around the court showed how much work they have done in training. The changes of personnel were designed to give people court time but it did mean that the momentum that Athena were beginning to build at the end of the first set and Loughborough won the second 25-18 again.
A fabulous finish
For the final set, Charlie and Eli were setters, Alex and Eve played middle and Adela and Kasia were back as outside hitters. Some fabulous serving from Kasia helped Athena into a strong lead and Eve served five in a row to seal the set 25-9.
It was a performance that they all should be very proud of and it shows that this group has the potential to grow and improve. A big thank you to Sarah, the NVL captain, for coming to support and chip in with wise words.
National League Division 3C
Sunday 4th November 2018
Nottingham Rockets 3 Leicester Athena 1
Athena lost their first NVL match as they came up against a very organised and dangerous Rockets team. After the first match against Vipers, Coach Gordon made one change to the side that finished against Vipers with Petra coming on for Diana, Monika as opposite, Karolina and Tereza middle, Paulina setting and Kristy as outside.
Once more Paulina's serving was clinical as was Kristy's hitting and Petra's passing. It meant that Rockets could not cope with Athena's firepower, Athena winning the first set 25-9.
The same team started the second set and it was a tight affair with Rockets stepping up their block and backcourt defence. The set was nip and tuck, with the lead changing several times but, in the end, Rockets created a lead which Athena could not catch up and Rockets won 25-20. Once again Petra and Algi produced a great display in back court and Monika's hitting as opposite won a lot of points.
Kamila replaced Tereza and Adela replaced Kristy for the third set .. but the serving began to falter with every player serving out at least once. The first pass began to flatten out reducing the hitting opportunities. Kamila got a few great hits in through the middle, Petra's hitting was consistent and won point after point and Adela's pass grew as the set went on. Despite all this, destructive hitting from Rockets caused problems to our block and Rockets won 25-21.
Kristy and Sarah returned to the line-up for the final set but it was clear that Athena players were tiring. They were quieter on court, not moving as quickly and the pass began to lose its accuracy. Despite more great hitting from Kristy and Monika, Rockets tied up the match with a 25-21 win.
It was a good wake-up call to the NVL newbies ... proving that there are big, strong teams out there and that fitness counts. Well done to Monika for her MVP nomination.
National League Division 3C
Sunday 4th November 2018
Ashfield Vipers 0 Leicester Athena 3
Athena put in a very strong performance against Ashfield Vipers in the reverse fixture of our first NVL triangular.
Athena started with an imposing line-up: Sarah setting, Tereza and Karolina through the middle, Diana and Kristy outside and Algi as libero. The match started tight until it came to Alysia's serve - her deep, looping serves caused Vipers problems and Athena managed to eke out a lead. Diana's hitting was assured, accurate and moved the Ashfield defence around whereas Kristy provided a number of spectacular kills. Athena won an edgy set 25-16.
Paulina replaced Sarah as setter for the second set and Athena upped the intensity. Paulina starred with her serving, as she helped the team to an 8-0 lead which Ashfield could not recover from. Athena were more vocal and sharper on the pass. This enabled Paulina to set up the hitters and Karolina and Kristy were in devastating form as they buried hit after hit.
For the third set, Monika came on for Alysia. The serving was on point as Kristy, Karolina and Paulina all caused Vipers problems with their serve. Diana and Algi were immense in back court as they picked up everything and delivered pass upon pass to Paulina's head. Athena rounded out the match with a clear win 25-16, 25-10, 25-14.
Vipers nominated Kristy as MVP but we all through that Algi was the real star. She was outstanding as libero.
National League Division 3C
Sunday 21st October 2018
Ashfield Vipers 0 Leicester Athena 3
Athena started strongly during their 2nd match of the day, this time against Ashfield Vipers. With a starting lineup of: Sarah setting, Monika opposite, Karolina and Kamila middle, and Petra and Kristy outside the only change to our usual order of play was Diana, who starred as our libero for the first time with our team as Algi couldn’t stay for the 2nd game. However, this made no difference to the way Athena usually play as they made their name known to Vipers, and with great serving and great attacking, they beat Vipers 25-6 in the first set.
Vipers started to get their heads in the game more in the second set, and with a substitution of Tereza for Kamila, and Adela for Petra, there was a slight delay in Athena getting settled in the second set. It took the team a while to really get going, losing a few points in the beginning of the set from silly mistakes which were very unlike us. However, with some brilliant defence work from Diana, it made the way for Sarah to set to all attacking players and it was just too much for Vipers to keep up with, so we soared away to a 25-20 win.
In the last set, despite some players now being tired from having played 2 matches in a row, Athena kept up their focus and with a further change of Petra back on for Kristy - the team came back from a few points deficit to a trail blazing win of 25-16. When they won, there was a huge amount of cheering because once again, Athena had won in their first National League games!
This was our first triangular ever as a club, but also our first games in National League, and Athena absolutely flew away with their performance, impressing not only their supporters, opposition, coach, but more importantly, themselves!
We play Nottingham Rockets and Ashfield Vipers in another triangular again on the 4th November in Nottingham. Lets hope we can recreate the same success as Sunday!
Match Report by Sarah Booth
National League Division 3C
Sunday 21st October 2018
Nottingham Rockets 0 Leicester Athena 3
Athena's first National League Division 3 game on Sunday for Athena was a great success.
Against Nottingham Rockets, Athena started strong and kept their game on the same pace. The teamwork and good communication on court stayed with Athena players until the end and resulted in a 3:0 win.
Coach Gordon’s line up decision for our Bunnies was Paulina setting, Alysia opposite, Karolina and Tereza through middle, Kristy and Petra as outside hitters with an amazing support of Algi as libero. Athena’s serve and receive was good and that created a great opportunity for Paulina to set to all attacking players. A strong play and good movement helped Athena to win the first set 25:15.
In the second set Tereza, playing with a cold, was substituted for Kamila as a middle player. Support and cheering from Sarah, Diana, Monika, Tereza and Adela kept the six on the court motivated and focused. After losing 3 points, it was Kristy’s turn to serve. Great consistent serving and strong attack helped Athena to keep the serve on their side and they won the set 25:3.
The final set was a bit more intense as Athena lost their focus and made unnecessary mistakes. A strong attack through the middle from Karolina and great pick-ups from Algi as libero made sure that the bunnies did not give up and bounced back stronger then ever and turned the set around which meant they won 25:18. When the ball landed on the ground last time in the game and score changed to 25, the happiness and joy of Athena’s players and coach Gordon was amazing, after all…they had just won their first NATIONAL LEAGUE season game!
Great work on the court and off the court from all players and congratulations to Kristy to be nominated as MVP.
One last thing ... we would like to point out one thing on this picture. Look at that COVER!
Match Report by Petra Szőllősyová
If the National League squad wanted a peek into what challenges lay ahead, they certainly got it on Sunday in Round 1 of the National Cup.
Against a very experienced and very organised Lincoln Cannons, Athena struggled to get into the match until the the third set as they lost 3-0, With such little time together to knit the existing regional league squad and the new recruits together, this was always going to be a tough match but there were some good signs for the future.
Last year's Division 3C champions certainly started strongly as the Athena girls seemed a little over-awed by the occasion. Athena began with Sarah setting, Alysia opposite, Kristy and Kamila through the middle, Petra and new player Diana as outside hitters and Algi as libero. Unfortunately, they looked leaden-footed in service receive, the serving was off-key and the hitting was not decisive enough to breach Lincoln's defence and Lincoln ran out 25-13 winners. Coach Gordon freshened things up for the second set by bringing Paulina on for Sarah and Monika on for Alysia but Lincoln quickly re-asserted their authority to spring into a 10-2 lead. In the first set, Athena managed to settle down but they couldn't find a good rhythm in the second as Lincoln continually found holes in their defence.
For the final set, Kristy moved to outside in place of Diana and Tereza came into the middle. With Kristy out wide, the team looked a lot more structured, Kristy's commanding voice making a difference to the defence and her hitting creating a lot of problems for Lincoln. The set was neck and neck with neither team getting more than a point advantage until Lincoln just edged it 25-21, winning the match 3-0.
Despite the scoreline, there were some great signs for Athena, The new players showed well, including Tereza creating some fabulous blocks on her debut, Paulina looking assured as a setter and Diana looked very useful as an outside hitter. Once they bed in to the team and learn how each other works, it should be a very exciting team.
Huge thanks to Sports Way Management for our fabulous kit. It is a beautiful design, they were really helpful and turned the order round in double quick time.
Athena's new NVL squad looked good in their pre-season friendly against Ashfield Vipers. Using a mixture of players from last year's title winning regional league squad and new additions, coach Gordon MacDonald was able to try out a number of different permutations and, considering that the squad have not yet had a training session together, they pulled out an excellent performance to win 4 out the five sets played.
New setter Paulina put in a very good performance, Petra was outstanding, new hitter Diane showed great promise and, across the whole squad, there were some really pleasing elements. after the match, Gordon said "Although there are a few things to work on, the basic core of what we want worked well".
Many thanks to Ashfield for coming down to play and we look forward to seeing them again in the league.