The women’s volleyball first team continued their fantastic start to the 2016/17 season, by defeating fellow Yorkshire side Sheffield in the first round of the Northern Conference Cup, securing their fourth consecutive straight games victory with a fantastic performance at the Gryphon Sports Centre.
Leeds, who were defeated in last year’s cup final by Sheffield Hallam, will have been confident of getting their cup campaign off to a great start against Hallam’s city rivals, after defeating them in the league last week. The home side served to get the match underway, and got off to an ideal start, with miscommunication from their opponents helping Leeds win the first two points. Determined to avenge their league defeat, Sheffield showed some good skills to overturn this early lead, before great reactions from Laura Alborghetti to make the dig put the scores level at six all. The next eight points were shared between the two sides, before Leeds showed what they were capable of to gain a four point lead. As volleyball is such a fast paced sport, there is likely to be some close calls for the referee to make, and that was certainly the case in the first game, with Sheffield being adjudged to touch the net on multiple occasions, to put the home side 18-13 ahead. Leeds stepped up the pace in the final few points with some good spikes, to win the first game 25-15.
The second game was very even in the early stages, with the first dozen points being shared evenly amongst both teams. Great serving from Hannah Storey put daylight between the two teams, with Leeds taking advantage of this with some fantastic teamwork, scoring eleven unanswered points to lead 17-6, as the match looked to be slipping away from the away side. The best period of play for Sheffield came at the end of this second game, as they began to play some free-flowing volleyball without any pressure from the scoreboard. Good serving, as well as rugged defensive work from the entire team, cut Leeds’ advantage from 22-9 to 22-14, before good hands from Alborghetti, combined with two good serves from captain Cathrine Laffan put the home side one game away from victory, winning the second 25-14.
Sheffield took the lead in the third game, leading 7-4 in the early stages, with stand-in coach (and society president) Nigel Sibanda calling a time out to give the home side chance to regroup. The tactic worked, with Leeds winning fifteen of the next nineteen points, putting them just six points away from the next round of the cup. Once again, close calls from the referee seemed to be going in Leeds’ favour, and this perceived injustice seemed to fire up the Sheffield side, as they closed to within one at 19-18, before a good spike from Alborghetti stopped the rot. Miscommunication between players was a common theme from the away side, and this cost them dearly in the latter stages of the match, as they twice gifted points to Leeds by leaving the ball. This extra cushion seemed to help the home side relax, and after spurning the first match opportunity with a netted serve, they took the match at the second attempt, winning the third game 25-19.
After the match, Sibanda was delighted with how the team had performed, especially as some players have only recently joined the first team, saying ‘It’s a rebuilding team, a few were here last year but it’s basically a new team, but they’ve got some strong players and it’s going great so far’. With performances like this from a ‘rebuilding’ team, there is no reason why they can’t go one better than last year, and bring cup glory to Leeds.
Photo Credit: Luke Etheridge