Two Ashcombe Volleyball Players involved in UK School Games Victory.
Ashcombe Volleyball’s Rachel Higgins and Katy Begley were both in the England Cadet (U-17) squad which won the Sainsbury’s UK School Games in Manchester. The 16 year olds, both part of Ashcombe’s National Volleyball League Division I squad took part in the three day competition against teams from Scotland West, Scotland East, Northern Ireland, Wales and England Juniors (U19). Not only did the team win but they did not concede a set across the competition. Additionally, Begley was named as one of the ‘Golden Ball’ Winners for the top 6 players of the tournament.
This was Higgins’ first taste of international representative action, Begley having taken part in last November’s Northern European Volleyball Zonal Assocation Under 17 cup held in Kettering. Both Girls have previously represented the South East, as well as Ashcombe in the National and Surrey Volleyball Leagues. Both were part of the Ashcombe squad who made the last 8 of the Volleyball England U16 Cup Competition last season.
The England Cadets, as the younger of the two England sides began the competition as underdogs with very little expectations upon them as for many this was their first UK School Games. However after their first encounter, a convincing 2-0 win against East Scotland. Growing in confidence, they moved on to dispatch Northern Ireland and West Scotland in similar commanding fashion. On Day 2 they faced their senior counterparts from the England Juniors, the pre-tournament favorites. Strong hitting from the England Cadets saw them surge past the Juniors and full of adrenaline they then delivered the most dominant performance of the competition to thrash a young Welsh side, not allowing them more than 10 points in a set to complete the grand slam of first round victories.
This set the Cadets up perfectly for the final on day 3 facing Scotland West, with England not having let another side take a set from them all weekend. Despite a nervous start from England which saw them trail 10-3 after the opening exchanges, the help of their coaches, the crowd and families helped to settle them into the game. They showed great determination to grind out the first set 25-14. The dominance shown in their comeback carried into the second set where they led initially before Scotland West wrestled back the initiative to leave the final drawn at 24 points apiece. Needing to win by two clear points, the tension was palpable throughout the Sugden Sports Centre, however the English girls held their nerve to prevail 28-26 , taking the set, match and championship and be crowned Sainsbury’s School Games champions 2014. Emotions were high for the England Cadets as the rest of the team ran on to court to celebrate victory and the crowd delivered a standing ovation to salute the magnificent achievement of the Cadets.
Both girls were delighted with their achievements and the friendships they had made whilst in Manchester and the pre-games holding camp. On their way home from the games, they said ‘The experience of the Games will stay with us for a very long time as it has given us fantastic memories which will last a lifetime. It’s been great to be part of a team that has come a long way.’
Ashcombe Volleyball Club Chair Carol Fogarty said ‘Well done to all our Ashcombe Ambassadors who have done us proud during this tournament. I am excited at the prospect of a really strong Ashcombe team and club for many years to come.’
Both girls will be part of the Ashcombe National League Division 1 squad for this season who begin their campaign away to Sheffield on the 4th October.