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
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