Leicester Athena Volleyball Club's NVL squad won their last two matches of their inaugural season in the National Volleyball League become champions of Division 3 Central.
Athena first beat Coventry and Warwick Riga and then second placed Norwich Spikers in todays double header to finish the season with an 15-1 season. Athena’s precise defence matched with their powerful attack proved too much for Coventry and Warwick Riga as Athena started their day with a 3 sets to 0 victory. After a short break, they then took on Norwich Spikers and played magnificently to win 3-0 and clinch promotion to Division 2 North.
This is an impressive achievement for a club that was formed only 3 years ago. After winning the East Midlands league last year, the first team entered the National League and have dominated the division with some impressive displays finished with the highest number of points scored and least number of pints given up. In 16 matches, they only lost 9 sets which shows how their performances have dominated the league.
Next season, Division 2 North!!!!
Athena completed a double-header of victories to ensure they finished their first season in the National League as champions.
A month ago, Athena beat Norwich in a tense 5 set battle in Leicester but the feeling was that the victory had given the squad a massive boost in confidence and so it proved to be. Athena blitzed Norwich 3-0 demonstrating tremendous coverage and crushing attacks.
Athena started with Sarah setting, Adela as opposite, Karolina and Alexandra through the middle, Diana and Kristy as outside hitters and Petra as libero. And Athena were out the blocks fast.
Athena were clearly in the mood to seal the title and their hitting put Norwich's defence under all sorts of pressure. Kristy was hitting hard as was Alexandra and Adela's serving propelled Athena to a 25-11 first set win.
The second set followed the same path, as Petra and Diana's passing, Adela's mobile covering set up attack after attack. Athena won 25-13.
Athena's intensity dropped at the start of the third set and Norwich managed to pull away into a 16-8 lead but Athena were not to be outdone. Their consistent attacks and their determination to win even the long, scrappy rallies saw them pull back until they sealed the third set 25-22 to cue the celebrations.
Karolina won her second MVP of the day but there were so many great performances. It was a performance of agility, teamwork, effort and phenomenal power.
Athena are champions of Division 3C and can now spend the summer preparing for life in Division 2 North.
Athena showed no sign of nerves on a big day for the club. Needed to win both matches to be sure of promotion, Athena dominated Coventry and Warwick Riga.
Athena started with Paulina serving and Alysia as opposite. Teresa and Karolina played as middle hitters, Diana and Kristy played as outside hitters and Petra as libero.
Athena started strongly and built a big lead only for Riga to claw it back, but solid serving and a strong attack helped Athena to win their first set of the day, 25-19.
With that first set on the board, Athena then relaxed with Karolina in devastating form at the net, Tereza serving point after point and Petra solid in defence.
Athena sealed the match 25-19, 25-12, 25-13.
Karolina was named MVP.
That's what it meant to Athena's National League squad to win against Norwich and it was a phenomenal performance against excellent opposition.
For the last home match of the season, Athena played their best volleyball. They started with Paulina setting, Adela opposite, Karolina and Tereza middle, Diana and Kristy outside with Petra switching to libero.
Athena's strong start
Once again, they started strongly, buoyed by their earlier win and by the chance to pit their wits against a team that had only lost one match all season. Karolina's and Kristy's serving, Karolina's monster hits opened up Norwich so many times and some terrific blocjking blunted Norwich's dangerous attack. They sped into a big lead winning the set 25-13.
But Norwich showed why they are top of the league coming back in the second set. They put on an awesome display of fast-paced attack and committed defence that had Athena all at sea. Two sets in and the match was level.
Close rallies and fabulous skill
From then on, both teams played their A game and it was tight all the way through. In the third set, Sarah came onto set and her nous made Athena a little more street tough. Adela's passing, coverage and hitting through opposite were excellent, and Kristy and Karolina continued to show why they are two of the best attacking players in this division. Athena kept their noses in front to win the set 25-21.
Athena started the fourth set brightly, playing with confidence and commitment. There were some excellent long rallies with both teams recovering the ball time and time again. Norwich seemed to be able to hit from anywhere and put the Athena defence under constant pressure, but Athena held firm right through to the closing points of the set .. until Norwich fought back to win the set 27-25.
Athena shows true resilience to win
It was a heart-wrenching feeling to miss out the fourth set when they had been ahead for so long, but Athena showed true resilience to burst into a 6-2 lead in the fifth and deciding set only for Norwich to fight back once again. But Athena kept their composure and sealed a memorable and fabulous 3-2 win 16-14 in the final set.
It was a high quality match where both teams played great volleyball and it showed how far Athena have come in such a short time to take on the table toppers and beat them ... it showed great technique, great togetherness, great resilience.
Athena started their final home triangular of the season with a convincing win against Telford.
Athena started with Sarah setting, Alysia opposite, Tereza and Karolina through the middle, Petra and Kristy as outside hitters and Diana as libero.
Athena have been guilty of slow starts so far this season but not this time. They leapt into action from the first point. Sarah's smart serving helping pull out a quick lead which they never looked under danger. Their pass was consistently accurate which allowed Sarah to feed Karolina and Kristy for big hits.
The second set started off in a similar vein, but after the first technical time-out, Athena started to freeze. Their pass became jagged and inaccurate and they were undone by Telford's smart attacks and lobs and dinks. But after the second technical time-out, they re-found their focus to seal the second set 25-17.
Kamila had come on for Tereza in the second set and she started the third and came up with a couple of excellent hits. Alysia was as accurate as ever hitting opposite and, b the third set, Petra was hitting hard and flat. With everyone playing with a really relaxed and calm attitude, Athena powered to the win 25-9.
It was an excellent performance against a dangerous opponent who started the day in fourth position.
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
National League Division 3C
Sunday 20th January 2019
Leicester Athena 3 Telford 0
After an already hectic morning playing against Loughborough Students in the first game of our home triangular fixture, Leicester Athena had to prepare again for another match against Telford Ladies for the 3rd fixture of the day. At our last home game, the pause in between games turned out to be detrimental to our own mentality – meaning we were slow to get our heads into the match before. We weren’t going to let that be the case again for this match.
Athena makes a strong start
In the first set, Athena started with: Paulina setting, Alysia opposite, Diana and Petra outside, Kristy and Tereza through the middle with Algi as our trusted libero once again. The girls rocketed off to a great start, with pressure coming from our service, Telford struggled to get their first pass to the setter meaning a lot of their attacks were coming from off the net and weren’t as powerful as they had wished. By far the most outstanding moment of the set was the constant serving, receiving, and hitting by Tereza. She served for 7 points and every receive she took during this round of service was beautifully passed right to the setter. This meant that Athena could do what they do best – dig, set, hit, and Telford just couldn’t keep up. Athena won the first set 25-6.
Athena take control
The line-up for the second set was kept the same by Coach Gordon, who decided it was best to keep the momentum from the first set going. At this point, Telford raised the level of their game, and although they tried to place the ball in the corner of our court to catch us out – this didn’t mean much as majority of the time it was covered by Kristy or Algi anyways. With every pass that came in, Paulina was able to beautifully set it to exactly the right place so it could be killed with style and Telford definitely underestimated the hitting power of both Diana and Petra. The end of the set finished with an absolutely cracking shot from Diana – hitting the ball straight through the blockers hands and right onto the floor before anyone had the time to blink. The second set finished 25-22.
Three and out!
The 3rd set was once again kept the same, though Adela did come on for Alysia during the middle of this set. Athena were fighting hard, running on motivation and adrenaline, wanting to end the game then and there, and therefore taking the 3-0 win for themselves. Our passing unit once again were doing fantastically, picking up every ball that wasn’t already covered by the block, making it an easy job for Paulina to set so one of the hitters could kill the ball. A fantastic moment (though maybe it shouldn’t have happened in the first place!) was when a miscommunication happened between Kristy and Petra, meaning Petra had to dive “for her life” across the front of the net and still managed to get the ball back up so Paulina could set it (but luckily not to Petra again who was still on the floor!), which of course became Athena’s point. The set went quickly, with Athena squeezing out every last point they could. It really showed as Tereza was libero’d off in the backcourt for Algi at point 8, and only returned front court again at point 24! Of course, Athena won the set 25-12.
Tereza's MVP award
Massive congratulations goes out to Tereza, who bagged herself her first MVP vote of the season! It really was well and truly deserved.
Once again it was another double home victory, and even better than last time as both games of the day were 3-0. These 2 wins mean that we are now placed 3rd in the W3C League, with 2 games in hand on the teams in 1st and 2nd place. Our next game is on the 10th February in Coventry – a game which should put us into 2nd place if we win both.
Match report by Sarah
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.
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.