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!!!!
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.
Training today saw a lot of new faces, some brand new! Today was Bethan’s’ first day, with Jelanshi, Sue, Ann, Adele and Sabine’s second or third training session with Leicester Athena. This meant we had a very mixed bag of players of all abilities. We also had players from our Regional and National Squads join us in this practice session!
To start off and to warm us up, we did some fitness drills with some cones and small hurdles to work on agility. We then we moved into our usual warm-up that we do at each and every session, whether it’s before training or a match.
Then, Coach Paul took the newcomers to one side to practice some of the basics. They started with hand-eye co-ordination by passing the ball back and forth, and then moved onto some volleying and digging practice.
The more experienced team practiced a drill involving blocking, receiving, serving, setting and spiking the ball. The drill involved the team having more precision in their technique. Due to the sheer volume of players, people weren’t keeping warm and the accuracy of the volleyball wasn’t up to scratch ~ so Paul switched things around. We moved onto a drill involving digging which warmed up the team a lot more! We built up a good sweat practicing our receiving!
Paul then ran some positioning drills including where on court each player is meant to cover during the rally. When the attack was through the outside (position 4), the middle (position 3) or through the right side (position 2), players had to move fast into their defensive positions.
After all the drills were done, we then had a couple of practice matches to put the positioning into action. Anna enjoyed working on our positioning on court the most this week, since it’s something that will keep the ball in play for longer.
Sue said “There were a lot more continuous volleys this time! Made it good fun!”
Some of the new players feel that training this week will leave them aching, and I know that will make coach very happy. ☺
With a bit of time left afterwards, we played “Queen of the Court” and some of the newcomers participated to have a small taste of how fast things move during play.
All in all it was an amazing turn out, with Charlie, Ioana, Alex, Anna, Eli, Paulina, Jelanshi, Emma, Edyta, Ann, Adele, Beth, Sabine, Sue and Nikki at training ~ 15 players!
Let’s keep it going team!
Charlie ~ Local League Captain
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
When we started the club, 2 and a half years ago, we were focussed on creating opportunities for women and girls to play volleyball in Leicester. Our dream was to create a fun, inclusive and yet competitive club. As we enter our third season, We think we have made good progress - but it is difficult to know how well we are doing since we are the ones setting our own goals. So, to have Volleyball England write such a positive and supportive article has taken our breath away. That recognition will re-double our efforts and will keep us humble.
Click here to read what Volleyball England said about us.
Thank you to Michael Hallam for taking the time to get to know us and to write about us.
The new season starts soon and, with three teams, it promises to be a busy time for Leicester Athena.
11:00 Sunday 2nd September: Squad meeting at Morningside Arena
19:30 Wednesday 5th September: Local league training starts at Morningside Arena
11:00 Sunday 9th September: NVL Friendly match against Lincoln Cannons at DMU Queen Elizabeth Leisure Centre
19:30 Wednesday 12th September: Local league training at Morningside Arena
15:30 Sunday 16th September: National Cup match against Lincoln Cannons in Lincoln
A National League friendly and then a cup match in the first 2 weeks? Wow, that is starting with a big bang.
If you are free on Sunday 9th, please come down to cheer us on in our friendly, you can see how we fare against a Division 2 team!
We love these anime-style drawings of some of our players drawn by our very own Charlie. We think they are fabulous drawings and really capture the spirit of Athena.
We are going to have to find a way to get them printed into banners for match-time!
If you think those are good, check out this wonderful poster drawing.
Thank you SOOOOO much, Chatlie!
Excitement builds as the fixtures for our first ever season in the National League come out. Check our National League page for all the details.
We start on the 14th October in Loughborough and our first home matches will be on the 16th December. All fixtures will be triangular fixtures, featuring three teams and each team playing two matches ... that could mean a leg-killing 10 sets of volleyball. We had better get fit now!
Added to that, we have just agreed a deal with De Montfort University to play our home matches at Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Leisure Centre, De Montfort Uni, Leicester, LE3 5LX. We hope that our partnership with DMU will continue to grow to help both us and them grow!
Leicester Athena celebrated the end of their second ever season with an Awards Night and Annual General Meeting at Peter's Pizzeria in Leicester.
The night was a chance to look back at what we have achieved in the past year and award people for their hard work as well as look forward to the new season and start to plan.
Congratulations to the following people:
Regional league squad
Player's Player of the Year: Adela Romero
Most Improved Player: Faye Rigkou
Most Valuable Player: Kristy Logan
Local league squad
Player's Player of the Year: Charlie Surridge
Most Improved Player: Emma Spiridon
And a special mention for Petra Szőllősyová for being named DMU's Sportswoman of the Year. Also awards were handed out to Kamila (this year's most broken bunny), Sarah (love Bunny) and PanPan (Best Supporter).
Next year, we will have three teams and they will be led by:
National League: Sarah Booth
Regional League: Julia Golinska
Local League: Charlie Surridge
As well as all the club stuff, we said Happy Birthday to Faye and Congratulations to newly-engaged Sarah. As well as eating pizza, we hit Gelato Village for ice cream and Cafe Bruxelles for some dancing.
A huge congratulations to Sarah, Alysia, Kristy, Petra, Hannah, Charlie, Emily and Beth for completing the Midlands Half Toughmudder.
Throughout the 5 miles of mud and obstacles, the girls kept smiling and they well-deserved their beer and burgers at the end.
The girls were running in aid of Family Fund and in aid of new club equipment. If you want to donate to their fund-raising, please click here.