DMUsport’s Women’s Volleyball 1st Team ended last term on a high at the top of the National League.
This first-person account from Olivia Webster (1st Team captain and secretary of Volleyball Club) and Oliwia Stryszowska (1st Team player and treasurer of Volleyball Club) explains how the team faced a host of Covid-related uncertainties and tackled a lack of returning students to enter the National League for the first time and rise to the number one spot by the halfway point of the season.
‘From being thrown into the season prior to university starting and without a full squad, to finishing the term at the top of our league, it has been an extremely exciting and developmental period for the DMU Volleyball Women’s 1st Team.
‘During Covid-19, the realities of team-based sports like volleyball changed dramatically. DMU Dragons teams did not train for months, club growth stopped, and the teams patiently waited for approval from government officials. Although DMU had established women's and men's teams, the majority of the players had graduated while the pandemic was still raging.
‘We built our teams around a few returning players and welcomed several new players to the 1st Team squad. The trials drew a large number of players, and the club was able to form a Women's 2nd squad with the goal of developing skills and eventually transferring players to the 1st Team.
‘Although the DMU Dragons were not yet established and ready to compete, with the assistance of the Sport Office, coaches, committee members, and captains, the Women's 1st Team were able to compete in National Volleyball League Division 3.
‘This is the first time that DMU has ever entered a team into the National Volleyball League, so we were unsure of how we would adapt to the new competition environment and deal with the experienced opposing teams. We started off a little rocky by losing our first two games of the season back in September 2021. Due to the pandemic and the season starting before our university term began, our team was unable to train together with a full squad before playing our first NVL games. We had only eight players who were able to play the first two consecutive matches, with one having to come off injured, so the results were disappointing but not all that surprising given the circumstances.
‘As highly passionate and competitive individuals, we struggled to digest the losses, but we took important lessons from those two games and committed ourselves to improving our performance. We identified our weaknesses and recognised areas to focus on developing throughout the season ahead of us.
‘As university began, we welcomed six new players to the 1st Team who are now all established members of our volleyball family, and throughout this first term the team has been able to build strong friendships, as well as develop trust on and off the court. Each player now has an admirable confidence in themselves and in each other when playing, which is great to see.
‘It has been challenging at times: some players have had to play out of position for the sake of the team, the stress of university work has been very prevalent, and let’s not forgot the injuries! Thankfully, our strength and conditioning coach, Sam Kibble, has managed to keep us in shape with activation sessions and early morning circuits (much to our despair). The National League holds games every other Sunday, with teams competing in a triangular structure. Two strength and conditioning sessions and two technique-focused trainings were provided by DMU to the club, allowing players to achieve the requisite fitness to compete in long-lasting matches. We would not be sitting at the top of our league today without the coaches’ and team’s commitment and resilience that we have each demonstrated this season, enabling us to successfully overcome obstacles.
‘This league requires maturity on the court, dedication to the team, and consistent attendance at training from our players, which is not easy given that the squad is formed of students, but the results are highly satisfying. The team's long-term goals are set high – coaches, committee members, and DMUsport’s Office are ready to rally behind the players and help them end the season with the greatest possible results.’
Olivia Webster, DMU Women’s Volleyball 1st Team captain, said: ‘As the captain, I could not be prouder of our team’s progress this year. This is my fourth and final year of playing for the team and it is so rewarding to see the development of not only this team, but the club as a whole. With the help of our amazing coach, Steve Jones, along with assistant coach, Kim Magdales, we have blossomed into a smart, competitive, and incredibly united team. Being able to boost our abilities by playing in the National Volleyball League is exactly what the team needed and very much deserved, and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity. I am beyond excited for the rest of the season, when we will continue to push ourselves to achieve our best, in the hopes of finishing the season with a promotion!’
Steve Jones, DMU Women’s Volleyball coach, said: ‘I have been bowled over with the progress that has been made by all the girls this term. This is testament to the culture that has been embedded throughout the club that builds on an emphasis on “team” and “individual responsibility”. This has ensured that new players understand that commitment and self-motivation are required throughout training and, critically, in competition. The match results from all teams have been outstanding and, as coaches, we could not have expected more but there has been a clear shift in development in this term with entry into a much higher league and the inclusion of a 2nd Team in the women’s team. We look forward to further progress in the Midlands BUCS Cup and the National Student Cup Finals, whilst maintaining league positions in the NVL and BUCS. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jess and Kim for their expertise and passion this year.’
Fixtures remining for DMU in the National League
If you would like to come along to the remaining fixtures and show your support for the team, here are the fixtures for the remainder of the league:
Posted on Monday 10th January 2022