Team Bristol vs Team Southampton & Cardiff Celts (05/11/2016)

Team Bristol vs Team Southampton & Cardiff Celts (05/11/2016)

Remember remember, the 5th of November… When the Ladies 1sts traveled yet again to the Welsh country to face Team Southampton and Cardiff Celts in another NVL fixture. With our two drivers buckling up for another fun-filled roadtrip, and after a quick pit-stop for Karoline ‘I Need Coffee’ Dronnen to get her fix, we arrive at the venue just in time to watch our competition before going on court.

First match, against Team Southampton, started off pretty shaky. And I mean fairly tragic, losing the first set 25-8 (maybe due to short warmup, maybe the small numbers, but either way we would rather not talk about that set). Second set was more balanced, yet it still meant a fairly comfortable win for Southampton, until the last few points when Bristol picked up some speed. As new strategies were put in place, with Shatha ‘Blocking Queen’ Al-Huneidi going back to middle and Abigail ‘I Can Play Wherever’ Wooden taking her spot as outside, as well as middles blocking line in 2 so that the setter can cover tips, the opposition had no idea how to react, as they see their star-hitter having trouble finalizing her favourite winning shot. The two teams keep a steady pace until Southampton gets a 6-point lead, moment where a time-out is called on the Bristol side. What you could see afterwards was nothing short of inspiring: a perfectly coordinated team, vocal at every point and confident in every pass. Also, a dodgy call from the ref regarding some double-touch / blocking confusion, until Lorena ‘I Would Fight With a Ref For A Living’ Balan turned it around.

With so much power, it comes as no surprise when Bristol wins the third set. The momentum was kept throughout the 4th set, with Karoline ‘I’ll Keep Eating A Banana, It Seems To Help’ Dronnen completely recovering from her dizziness, setting perfectly to 3, where Al-Huneidi and Wright were there to smash it every single time. Great covering and smart hits from 4 thanks to Alissa ‘Malaysian Superpower’ Ambrose and Abigail ‘Coach On Call’ Wooden, and especially fantastic passes from the back line by Catherine ‘I Am Not Stressed, Why Are You Looking At Me?!’ Wright, helped Bristol reach the deciding set. However, the Southampton team managed to gather all their resources and get in the lead, and despite an anger-fuelled power-ball from 2 from Balan and valiant team effort, Bristol loses 16-10. We did get to see some fiery arguments between the ref and the opposition, culminating in yellow card, then red card for rude conduct, which was highly entertaining.

On to the next one, Cardiff Celts. Feeling slightly discouraged that the win didn’t materialize in the previous match, the ladies lacked the enthusiasm that would have put them in the lead, and hence losing the first two sets. Motivated by the very narrow loss in the previous set (26-24), Bristol ups their game and wins the next one at a comfortable difference. Do you see a pattern now? Unfortunately they were not able to replicate the previous match, losing in the fourth and final set.

Playing 9 sets in a row took a toll on all players, but especially on the drivers who also had to go behind the wheel for another hour. Or more, if your name is Abigail ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ Wooden, who went ahead to explore the Welsh country even further, heading to Swansea before realizing it might not be the right direction. I’d blame it on the loud sing-along competition with the Spanish referee, Nacho, who I hear made the trip so worthwhile!

It’s worth noting that the incredible chemistry on court during the first match sparked a reaction in the audience as well, with ‘our fan’ making himself known by a direct phone call to the captain’s mobile number two days later. #yesitisascreepyasitsounds

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Players of the Match: Shatha Al-Huneidi & Catherine Wright. When these ladies turned on their sass, they were absolutely unstoppable, whether they were serving, defending, or hitting!

Written by: Lorena Bălan

Team Bristol Ladies vs Wessex 2 & Cardiff Falcons (23/10/2016)

Team Bristol Ladies vs Wessex 2 & Cardiff Falcons (23/10/2016)

23rd of October marked the first home NVL game for the ladies of Team Bristol, in a triangular fixture facing Wessex 2 and Cardiff Falcons.

DISCLAIMER: Apologies for the delay and for a style of writing for which the descriptor ‘chaotic’ is an understatement.

First game was against Wessex 2, and it ran in a similar fashion to its away counterpart. Clean hits, great blocks, good covering, opposition didn’t stand a chance. Matter of fact, second ref was so bedazzled by the way Bristol played, that she mistakingly blew the whistle for no apparent reason, only to correct herself a minute later and asking to repeat the point. Some may blame it on old age. Some are mean people. Great pipes from Abigail ‘This Girl Is On Fiiireeee’ Wooden, solid defending of the back line from vice-captain Catherine ‘Extremely English’ Wright and clever play from Alissa ‘Cheeky Tips’ Ambrose gave the Bristolians the lead they were aiming for, which gave them enough confidence to try new things. Including a quick back set to Wooden who, despite a terrified “WOAAAA”, still successfully scored a point. Last set saw an incredible effort from Patty ‘The Floor Is Your Friend’ Balliou to save a ball, but the pancake was eaten by the confusion created on court and it was too late for her team-mates to realize the ball might have still been in play. Final set also counted 8 serves in a row by Lorena ‘Exhale of Doom’ Balan, in the usual preceding eery silence, where even the scorers were afraid of dropping a single pen. Game ends 3-0 for the ladies in maroon.

Second game was against a team with questionable name choice but really solid players, Cardiff Falcons (I told you). The first set would prove to be extremely close, with both teams winning the serve every other point, and staying close until the second technical time-out at 16-15. However, the energy slightly dissipated and Falcons win the first set, despite Sylvia ‘Tornado’ Betrosian’s refound hunger to smash some hits from 4. Second set saw a bigger lead forming in favour of the Cardiff team, despite great efforts from Karoline ‘Setter On Call’ Dronnen to give the ladies a chance to hit back. Third set was a similar story to the first one, at least until halfway through, when tiredness took over and Bristol made a few mistakes in a row. Highlights of the match include an interesting double block from Abigail ‘Queen of the Court’ Wooden (#DoubleDedication) deciding to use both her hands and her head to complete the defence (point of course won by the home team). Not only that but she thought any other player would be able to mirror her determination, sending one of the passes straight into Balan’s face later on. You can definitely say she gave a whole new meaning to the song lyrics “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you…”. Not sure how much I liked it though? She made it up though with great advice to tip behind the block, strategy which paid off a couple of times. Unfortunately, it was not enough to get back into the game, as the opposition’s middle player consistently hammered quick balls into the floor, no matter the rotation, and Bristol loses 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-17).

Special thanks to the Men 1sts who helped with scoring and line-judging, you guys are awesome.

Player of the Match(es): Abigail ‘The Asset’ Wooden, without a shadow of a doubt. Next time you all play ‘Queen of the Court’, you should aspire to be like Abi, as I’m sure the whole game idea & name were inspired by this player, who gave it her all and more and she rocked every single set. Watching her play on Sunday was nothing but a thing of beauty, we can only hope we get to see more of it!

Written by: Lorena Bălan

Wessex 2 vs Team Bristol Ladies

Wessex 2 vs Team Bristol Ladies

On the 25th of September, the Ladies 1sts tackled a challenge of their own. No, it was not the upcoming start of term, but the first NVL match in the history of the UoB Volleyball Club. No pressure?

Therefore, a dream team of 6 courageous souls ventured out to Bournemouth, with no subs, no coach, and no fear.. sort of. Before the warm-up, new captain Bălan decided to try out something new and have the girls choose one personal target for the match, and have everyone not only work on their own goal, but also help out others reach theirs throughout the game. Because here, at the Volleyball Club, we make wishes come true. With warm-up done, fines escaped via Lorena ‘Smooth-Talker’ Bălan and her somewhat useful ability to bullshit her way out of trouble (I think Sylvia and everyone else knows to wear black shorts now), and rotation sorted, the match was ready to start, with Team Bristol on the receiving side.

The ladies quickly won the serve and the show was on. Smart, yet powerful hits through 4 from Sylvia ‘Gray Shorts’ Betrosian, strong cross-court hits and line pushes from 2 by Lorena ‘Signature Move’ Bălan, as well as perfect sets from Karoline ‘Fun-sized Setter’ Dronnen gave Bristol a comfortable lead, getting to the first technical time-out at 8-4 and a 100% focus on the game. Impeccable covering behind the block from Alissa ‘Always There’ Ambrose and on the 9m line from Abi ‘Libero Who Out?!’ Wooden, as well as thundering pipes from Shatha ‘The Force’ Al-Huneidi ensured a smooth journey towards the end of the set, when our lovely setter recreated a moment that has become iconic to Rob ‘Sweaty Betty’ Pennifold, with the ball slipping through her hands when trying a quick back set for the middle. A moment that has brought smiles to all faces on court, including the first and second referees, and shall not be forgotten soon. Nevertheless, Team Bristol secures the first set at 25-14 and, needless to say, everyone was ecstatic.

Second set started with Shatha ‘The Thunder’ Al-Huneidi serving and immediately put us in the lead. The ladies kept up the momentum from the first set, with the Wessex 2 team calling the first non-technical timeout of the match at 12-2 for Bristol. Communication on court maintained its great levels throughout the set, with strong, unreturnable serves courtesy of Al-Huneidi, Dronnen and Betrosian, and consistent passes from all team members, until they reached the end at 25-10.

Third set saw a very slightly more nervous beginning of the set, but after the first technical time-out, the ladies found their inner peace and slowed it down appropriately. As the Wessex 2 team grew more nervous, tipping behind the block, the Bristol ladies were always there waiting for the opportunity to put the ball back in play, with Alissa ‘The Saviour’ Ambrose and Sylvia ‘Gray Shorts’ Betrosian saving every point. Final set didn’t leave the opponents a chance to get a 2-digit score, ending at 25-9.

Needless to say, a fantastic start of the new season and their brand new NVL careers, we can only hope the trend will last for as long as possible!

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Player of the Match: Shatha Al-Huneidi without a shadow of a doubt, for her smashing serves, consistent accurate passes and incredibly powerful pipes. You could feel fear levels rising on the other end of the court as she was jumping (still way above the net) to hit from 6, leaving the Wessex team with no options to return.

Written by: Lorena Bălan (yes, I’m still pedantic as ever with the ă)