The lead up to the CEV Small Country Division Women’s qualifying round began sometime last year. Training was regular with at least 1 long session a month. As the competition date approached the training intensity was upped with the women meeting twice a week from the end of May and through June. One session was used as match practise where they gained some great match experience through playing PVC, Queens and the NI boys U17 teams. A big thanks to those teams for their help!
Head coach Callum Grieve had the women working hard throughout, bringing them back to basics to begin with and building from there. The final team of 12 were picked in May.
The competition grew closer and closer and Sunday 19th June saw the girls’ last session here in NI before the competition. Callum focused on some of the team’s weaknesses and spent some time working on them. It was an intense session getting as much coaching packed into the 5 hours as possible but alas the final session was done. The girls were tired, some even falling asleep on the car ride home, but that was it, the next time the team of 12 would be together would be on route to Luxembourg.
Thursday 23rd June arrived and the team’s travels began. From Belfast to London, London to Luxembourg, they were on their way. The day was long with the travelling beginning at 3am for some and due to some delays at Gatwick, not finishing until almost 7pm.
On the Thursday evening the women had a late night training session in the hall where the competition was to take place. All paperwork reviewed and signed off, the team were ready to play.
Friday evening was their first match. The draw saw the girls face the hosts, Luxembourg, a tough draw. Both teams fought hard with Northern Ireland taking an initial lead. Luxembourg didn’t take long to catch up however taking the set 25-18. Luxembourg then continued to dominate the match taking the next two sets 25-11 and 25-7, seeing the final score as 3-0.
Saturday saw the girls take on a team from slightly closer to home, Scotland. The NI girls clearly brought their previous day’s loss with them mentally onto the court and struggled to play at their best against a strong Scotland side. Scotland won the match 3-0 (25-13, 25-4, 25-11).
Last day of the competition saw the girls take on the eventual winners of pool B of the championship, Iceland. The NI girls stepped on court with a lot more heart and drive than the previous games. With a few changes to the team by coach Callum Grieve, the girls did what they could against a very strong opposition. Iceland’s serves were difficult to deal with and in the end Iceland won the match 3-0 (25-8, 25-13 25-6) and in turn the competition.
Looking to the future of the team, the girls are keen and committed to using this experience to learn, grow and develop as individuals and as a team. The future is unknown for now with applications opening soon for coaching staff, but the girls plan to work on whatever the future brings.