Match Report Leicester Athena vs Ashfield Vipers by Sarah Booth
It’s been a week since we saw our regional team compete against the Ashfield Vipers National League team. Hosted at our temporary home of De Montfort University, we entered the first round of the Volleyball England National Cup. It saw us play against a more experienced and well-developed team – which set out to be a great competition and challenge for us.
We entered the National Cup originally to try and prove two things to ourselves:
Athena make a strong start
Our first set was unlike any other first set we’ve ever had. Almost surprisingly, our heads were in the game straight from the beginning of the game – which often seemed to not be the case throughout last season. We dominated the first set, as Ashfield seemed taken aback by the level and standard we were playing at. With great teamwork and efficiency, we won the set 25-13. Our second set was more unstable – we started overthinking the way we were playing and making some wrong decisions. Vipers had started to gain their strength by this point, as their mindset had now changed compared to the first set, and admittedly it was a harder game for us compared to the first set. We did, however, win the second set 25-23.
Vipers start their fight-back
During the third and fourth set, we lost a lot of the momentum that we had fought so hard to gain. Despite changing players around, the tiredness and fatigue was really affecting the game we were trying to play and we became our own worst enemies. Vipers had hit their stride within the game and were taking advantage of that. As a team, we worked well together to try overcome this, but it was difficult. Throughout however, we were positive about the situation that we were in. With a few words from Paul, we fought harder in the fourth set, but the fatigue felt by all players was our problem. We lost the third and fourth set 25-13 and 25-16.
The nail-biting finish
In the last set, we made a couple of positional changes and found some rejuvenated energy from somewhere! This set was different – everyone knew this was our last chance to prevail. It was 2-2 and we knew we only had a short amount of points to really make a difference. We fought hard in this set and kept up with Ashfield for the entirety of the set. It was a great recovery from the last two sets, and everyone had a more positive outlook on the game at this stage. However, despite some great shots, and a good block from Kristy (the only one of the game!), we unfortunately lost 18-16. We pushed this set as much as we could, and by the end of the game, Ashfield Vipers were just as tired as we were.
A feeling of immense pride
Although we lost, as the captain, I am enormously proud. We played against the Vipers' regional team last year and won the first game but lost the second game 3-2 ... 17-15 in the last set. Last Sunday's game was basically the same point difference loss as last year. The only difference is the level we were playing at; last year was regional and this game was national league level. The fact that we were able to produce the same outcome at a higher level, despite the loss, just proves to us that we can achieve the 2 outcomes that we set out to do in the beginning. The only thing that stopped us was the fitness levels of all players, and this is something that can get better over the next year – so the possibility of us playing at a National League level next year seems very realistic.
I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and the celebrations, food, and drink afterwards for Coach Paul’s birthday was even better. Thank you to all those that supported us – from the scorers, line judges, and supporters cheering for us, it was much appreciated.
Most importantly, thank you to my team for being the best team I have ever played with. You girls make it all worth it! Now….onto the Regional League!!!