Over the last two weekends, over 20 junior Rockets players, many of whom are part of the East Midlands Junior Squads, have been involved in the preliminary rounds of the Volleyball England Junior National Championships. For the first time in the club’s history, Nottingham Rockets now have 3 squads through to the second round including an U18 women’s side. Congratulations to all involved!
After arriving in Barton, Rockets first game was against York VC, who as an established club side were one of the favourites to take the group. In their first game as a team, the Rockets took no time to gel together with first-rate receiving from outside hitters Sarah and Courtney making easy work for the setters. Good team play and only 2-3 unforced errors on our side meant an easy first set win and Rockets were off the mark! Concentration lapses did creep in the middle of the second set to allow York to put themselves back into the game, however again the strong serves from Sarah in particular forced them to make errors and Rockets took the match 25-14, 25-20
The second game was against an inexperienced John Cleveland College side and gave Rockets the chance to show their squad depth. Once the nerves disappeared there were strong individual performances from Jade, Chloe, Vicky and Enya who at 14, is one to watch over the next 4 years in the competition! Consistent serving from all combined with the tactical experience of NVL players Lauren and Ailis meant JCC were no match for Rockets in the first set. The second went much the same way and an excellent run of 8 serves from Vicky meant another strong score line for the Rockets girls and the squad’s second 2-0 win.
Finally they faced hosts Barton Blockers, who showed great improvement throughout the tournament and were a tricky team to play against, keeping seemingly impossible balls off the floor. The girls started off a little nervy and Barton took an early first set lead, with the rest of the set remaining tight until Rockets edged two points ahead to set point. A missed serve made for a nerve wracking finish but an excellent corner shot from Ailis gave Rockets the set 25-23. The second set started much better; confident serving from Lauren, Stephanie and Courtney put Barton under pressure as they struggled to form a three touch attack. However, some receiving errors kept Barton close and there was a big cheer from the home bench when they overtook York’s point score and claimed the second qualification spot. However, Rockets girls kept their concentration and finished off the match with a powerful cross court kill from Ailis.
Nottingham Rockets now go on to the next round on Sunday the 16th of January, where they will face Tameside, who took last years U16 Girls title, Wigan Seahawks and the winners of the Northern qualification group.
Squad: Courtney Dilks (Captain), Sarah Howsam, Melissa Large, Lauren Bell-Brown, Stephanie Hoi Ki Fu, Ailis Hunter, Enya Powell, Chloe Marriott, Jade Thompson and Vicky Johnston. Coaches: Kate Rothery and Marta Larraona-Puy
U16 Boys and U18 Men
Both junior boys’ squads are also successfully through to the second round of the National Championships. The U16 boys put in a confident performance on Saturday to win their qualification group outright and will now be placed with London team, Boswells A in the next round on Saturday the 15th of January.
The Under 18 Men had a tougher time in Barton upon Humber, with strong opposition from Newcastle Staffs ‘B’ who won the group overall. Victory against the hosts Barton Blockers and a withdrawal from John Cleveland College ensured they took the crucial second qualification spot. Next round sees them face Team Northumbria. Bolton VC and the winners of the Eastern group. The date is to be confirmed shortly.
For more information on Nottingham Rockets Volleyball Club visit www.nottinghamrocketsvolleyball.co.uk