Ashcombe share spoils at first Grand Prix.


Picture thanks to Joe Nutt.

Ashcombe Volleyball Club’s Under 18 team travelled to the National Volleyball Centre in Kettering on Saturday 7th February to play in the Volleyball England National Under 18 Grand Prix. The Under 18 Grand Prix series have been designed by Volleyball England to provide top level junior players with the opportunity to compete at a high level on a more regular basis. The Grand Prix take place over 2 weekends with the Finals taking place alongside the National Volleyball League Super 8 finals weekend in early April. Ashcombe were one of 8 sides taking part in the Women’s competition, being drawn in pool A alongside Newcastle Staffs, Ashfield Vipers from Nottingham and London Malory Eagles.

Although the young Ashcombe team were nervous, they were looking to prove themselves worthy of a place at this top level competition. Coach Freda Bussey had made changes to the line up from their previous outing bringing Rachel Higgins in at setter alongside Maddy Nutt and moving Ailsa McDonald to outside hitter with Pam Munsing. With Lydia Goodwin and Katie Begley playing in the middle position the team had the fire power and strength at the net to take on all comers. Ashcombe went from strength to strength during the game and Midori Koide came on as an effective substitute to provide relief. Newcastle used their England player Rosie Barley to good effect but Ashcombe’s strong block was able to keep her attack plays to a minimum and she was forced to make a lot of hitting mistakes.

With the set score at 2-1 to Ashcombe, Coach Bussey changed the line up and put 15 year old Issie Russell through the middle which allowed Lydia Goodwin to hit through 4. The change was a great success with Russell taking on a lead blocking role and Freya McDonald playing as Libero allowing the team to attack more. The final 3-1 score was a great result for Ashcombe and a boost to their confidence.

The second game of the day for Ashcombe was against Ashfield Vipers who featured 3 England players amongst their number. Ashcombe started with the line up as they finished the first game and this strengthened the block and attack against the strong attacking Ashfield side. The long day showed in the Ashcombe team’s play towards the end of the match where both mental and physical fatigue set in. The game went 3-1 to Ashfield leaving Ashcombe tired but not broken. They were beaten by the better team on this occasion but the Dorking side know they have much more to give in the next round when they face Malory London on Sunday 1st March. A win would put Ashcombe into contention for a second round place against one of the qualifiers from Group B – Leaf Wessex B, London Lynx or the Black Country.

Coach Freda Bussey was pleased with the effort shown by all members of the squad and happy with the improvement shown in the general level of play produced on the day which bodes well for the next Grand Prix.