Guernsey Volleyball Pre-Island Games Press release
With the 2017 Island Games less than one month away, the Guernsey volleyball squads are in their final stages of preparation. The biennial competition is being held in Gotland this summer, a small island off the East coast of Sweden.
Despite being one of the smaller sports on the island, Guernsey volleyball had a successful winter season and both the men’s and women’s volleyball squads are looking forward in anticipation to the Games. Both squads this year will be player coached with Carla Marley and Jen Lindfield taking on this role for the ladies for the first time, following the unexpected resignation of Rod Elmy earlier this year. Nick Gaudion and Sam Loveridge take on this role for the men for the first time also.
A number of the players who will be representing Guernsey this year have competed in the Island Games before however, the ladies team does have two debutants in the form of Becky Gauvain and Sasha Kazantseva both of whom shone for the B team in the recent Inter Insulars. Gauvain was even presented the MVP award for her valiant efforts and team captaincy on the day. The remainder of the squad have 37 Island Games appearances between them across Volleyball, Tennis and Swimming. The men’s team also have a number of first-time players at this year’s Games including Jack Robillard and Matt Wakeford. Jersey born Stuart Black will make his debut Games appearance for Guernsey, having appeared for Jersey volleyball twice previously. This men’s squad is the youngest for many years. Six of the ten men’s players currently play volleyball at their respective universities in the UK and Canada. This will bolster the team nicely as the team has a wide variety of experience against different opponents, standards and styles.
Due to a number of the men’s squad studying in the UK and further afield, it is difficult for the team to train together. Despite this, all players are training on a regular basis. The team plan to gel and refine tactics before the Games when the university students are back on island. The bulk of the technical and fitness training is already complete.
With a number of high-class Guernsey volleyball players working for the Aztec Group, an independent, owner-managed business specialising in alternative asset classes, the company kindly and generously sponsored the sport. Now employing over 580 people across six prime jurisdictions, the Aztec Group has been pushing the boundaries in fund and corporate services since 2001, with client-centric teams, multi-jurisdictional solutions and award-winning service. Aztec Group’s contribution has been used toward supporting the island teams in the lead up to the Inter Insular earlier this year and the upcoming Island Games. The squads received brand new playing kit, which was organised and supplied by the Aztec Group, the Guernsey Volleyball committee and the team at Fletcher Sports. This sponsorship has also been distributed accordingly as some unexpected extra costs affected all of the players due to represent Guernsey in volleyball next month.
Private Equity Administrators (PEA) is to sponsor the Guernsey Ladies Volleyball team at this year’s Gotland NatWest Island Games. The company, which administers private equity fund structures offshore and onshore, has bases in Guernsey, Denmark as well as Sweden where the event is to be staged. Guernsey player/coach Carla Marley says the funding is a great enabler for the squad: “The costs involved in playing in team sports at an international level can be prohibitive. We are extremely grateful for the financial support PEA has given us and we hope that we can do them and our many supporters proud on the court.” The costs of the Games have affected some of the Guernsey squad meaning they were not able to attend this year’s event. The same restrictions have been seen in Jersey so the teams are certain this will not be a deciding factor in their overall position.
The ladies squad has been training together since January with help from stalwarts Neil Elmy and Karen “Bucky” Archenoul. They have also had extra support with gym-based trainers Russ and Tom and the team at Tri-Fitness. The squad took the opportunity to play in the South West Championships a couple of weeks ago with much needed financial assistance from Generali Worldwide bursary. The team made it to the play-offs and came out of the competition in fifth place overall. The squad utilised the trip to rebuild confidence and eradicate the unforced errors made in the A team Inter Insular match. The weekend was also an opportunity to gel as a team, on and off court, and work on team tactics.
A change to the ranking system in the Island Games sees the ladies team seeded fifth out of ten and the men move up one spot seeded sixth out of nine teams. The ladies are playing in Pool A alongside previous winners Saaremaa, Hitra, Jersey and the host team, Gotland. The men’s pool is tough with two of the strongest teams in the competition present. They are playing in Pool B alongside previous silver medallists Faroe Islands, Aland & Greenland.
Both squads need to place second in the group stages to have any chance of fighting for a medal. “If we can clinch second in the group stages we will have done exceedingly well.” says Sam Loveridge, “We expect a strong showing from all our players and know we can push the top teams, we are certainly hoping for an upset!”
Guernsey Volleyball has endured mixed fortunes throughout the years at this level. The Scandinavian teams of Aland, Faroes, and the Baltic Sea Island of Saaremaa have dominated since its inception.
Guernsey faired well in both events in the early years, with the ladies winning a silver medal on home soil in 1987 and the men following two years later with their own silver in 1989. Following their silver, the ladies went on to lose out in the bronze medal play-off for the next 6 consecutive Island Games, finally breaking that in the Isle of Man in 2001, with a well deserved bronze medal. This was Guernsey’s last medal won in volleyball at the Island Games and it was the year in which Carla Marley debuted for volleyball.
In the noughties, the Guernsey sides started to tail off as the sport began a slow decline in the island. Strong teams such as Bermuda and Menorca only added to the pressure when they joined the Island Games family; Guernsey’s high table finishes started to teeter off. Despite this, the men placed in their highest position in 18 years in the Jersey Games 2 years ago and hope to improve on that in Gotland this year.
Mixed Division 1 Volleyball League
Leapfrog are still in the running for the volleyball mixed division 1 league title after a narrow win against current front runners White Rock. 'We knew this match was make or break for us' says one of Leapfrog's outside hitters, Tyler Thorne. 'Losing this game would have resulted in White Rock winning the league before playing their last match'.
With the Inter Insulars being held in Jersey just two days prior, it was evident that both teams were mentally and physically exhausted. To add insult to injury, the match did not begin until 9:30pm due to the previous game running over into 3 sets. Despite this, the players from both sides performed well and fought until the bitter end. With crucial members of the team missing, Leapfrog has no substitutions on the bench meaning there was no room for fault or injury.
The first set allowed both sides to get into the swing of things after a tiring weekend. Excellent hitting by married pair Ross and Emily Gledhill saw White Rock take the lead. Leapfrog, determined not to hand the game to the league favourites worked hard to ensure they were defensively strong. After 17 minutes, the set was over with White Rock taking the lead after a 25-17 win.
The second set saw some excellent volleyball being played. Tactical shots played by Leapfrogs Captain, Nick Gaudion, helped his team outsmart White Rock and assisted his team to edge ahead. Even after a gruelling 5 set match that lasted over 2 hours at the inter insular, White Rock's player of the match, Franky Hagger still maintained her high standard of play, blocking over the mens height net and attacking with power. Despite this, Leapfrog came out victorious is the second set with a 25-17 over White Rock.
It was all to play for going into the third with the league title on in the balance. Leapfrog used their momentum that was gained in the second set moving forward. It was point-for-point until it was time for the teams to switch sides, then it was the home stretch for the win. The pressure was on for White Rock as Leapfrog returned to court committed to the win and began edging forward on the scoreboard. Come 10:20pm, after a wearying 50 minute match, Leapfrog came out successful with a 15-11 defeat in the last set.
Earlier in the night, RB Coquelin made it two wins in a row with a straight sets victory over Generali Panthers. RB Coquelin were not at their best the previous weekends inter insulars affecting them too, and there were tired bodies moving around the volleyball court. Both named Most Valuable Players were playing out of their usual positions. RB Coquelin's Carla Marley and Generali's James Bubb played well despite being out of their usual positions. RB Coquelin did just enough to win the first set 25-19.
The second set saw a higher standard of volleyball as excellent serving from RB Coquelin's Lisa Dowinton gave her team a healthy run of points. When the set was close, RB Coquelin opened up a lead of 8 points. Generali rallied well but RB Coquelin continued to apply the pressure and won the match with a 25-17 final set score.
It is all to play for, particularly at the top of the table, as the title is all in the balance of the last matches and could potentially see the teams go to score difference in a tie-breaker situation.
Volleyball - Mixed Division 1
Monday 20 March 2017
RB Coquelin took on league hopefuls, Unite the Union, in one of their most anticipated matches of the season. RB Coquelin started strong and opened up a lead with good frontcourt play from player of the match Stuart Black. Despite Unite’s best efforts to close the gap and take the set back, RB Coquelin excelled and won the set comfortably with 25-16.
Unite the Union went out with determination to take the match to three sets, not disheartened by RB Coquelin’s strong start. The second set began point for point with excellent backcourt cover from Unite's player of the match Jen Morris. One of RB’s youngest players, CJ Elmy, showed just how much he has improved on court with superb blocking for his side. Unite did just enough to take the game to a deciding set with a 25-23 win.
The third set followed a similar pattern as the second. Despite RB Coquelin changing their rotation, it did not unsettle the team. They headed into the third set hoping to continue the momentum and take the match from favourites, Unite the Union. Unite beat RB to the half way mark and swapped sides ahead but excellent serving from Sharon Jones aided RB Coquelin to edge ahead and it was a lead they managed to just hold on to despite a strong come back from Unite. Much like the second set, the final score was close with RB Coquelin winning 15-13.
Earlier that night the Generali Panthers took on Leapfrog. The first set was a breeze for Leapfrog as strong topspin serving displayed by player of the match Tyler Thorne helped her team gain 16 points on the bounce. The serving paired with great court cover by Hannah Riley, playing opposite setter Becky Gauvain, saw Leapfrog steal the first set 25-8.
After a comfortable first set for Leapfrog, Generali came out in full force to stay in the game. Strong service was the theme for this match as Leapfrog’s Becky Gauvain had a run of 10 serves for Leapfrog which gave her team an early lead in the seconds set. It was then Generali Panther’s James Bubb took to the service box for Generali . He found the weak spots in the Leapfrog side and took full advantage. Long rallies saw both teams fight to keep the ball in play and eventually, despite Genrali’s best efforts, Leapfrog took the set 25-23 and therefore won the game in two sets.
GVA Ladies Division 1 – 13 March 2017
Monday night saw a hard fought battle in the women’s volleyball league when Nashcopy came against Itchyfeet recruitment.
Nashcopy lost a key player during the warm up as Emily Gledhill found injured herself. With the crucial inter-insulars taking place in Jersey next week (Saturday the 25th of March), Gledhill decided to sit on the bench and allow her body to recover in preparation. The match started with Itchyfeet on top with an excellent debut of setting pair Linda Stobe and Carly Tucknott. After getting into a rhythm, Nashcopy began to close the gap in the score however, it was too late as Itchyfeet fought on and took the set 25-19.
Nashcopy continued the fight in the second set with excellent hitting from Sarah Biggins, finding the gabs on the Itchyfeet side of the court. A strong service by Tucknott saw Itchyfeet close the gab as the match entered to its critical stages. Deep backcourt cover by Nashcopy’s inside hitter, Tyler Thorne, aided the team to win the second set closely with the scoreboard reading 25-23. Juliet Martel made her debut for the women’s volleyball league after playing with the Guernsey Volleyball Juniors. She displayed great promise and huge potential as she went up against many island players.
The third set was a hard slog for both rallied admirably back and forth. Great three-touch volleyball was played which was excellent practice leading up the inter-insulars where players from both teams will be playing together against Jersey. With most of the Itchyfeet players in the island squad, it was the perfect opportunity for the ladies to gel together. Eventually, Itchyfeet took the set 25-20.
The fourth set was ‘make or break’ for Nashcopy. After a pep talk from Island Captain, Carla Marley , Nashcopy took to the court determined to even the score. Itchyfeet also had a sense of purpose, as they were keen to finish the match, rather than taking the match to five sets. With good hustle from Itchyfeet and superior serving from Hannah Riley, Itchyfeet were able to take back the lead after Nashcopy’s positive start. The match concluded with a decisive shot by Itchyfeet’s named Most Valuable Player, Jen Morris, to clinch the fourth set 25-22.
Mixed Volleyball League Division 1 – Match Report
Monday night saw a top of the table clash in the volleyball mixed division 1 league. In what was arguably the most anticipated game of the volleyball season, front-runners White Rock faced second position team, Leapfrog in their 8 o’clock competition. Having lost to White Rock in their last match, Leapfrog were determined to even the score and beat the notorious team in black.
White Rock began strong with the first serve, setting the tone for the rest of the match. It only took Leapfrog a couple of points to win their first and turn the possession over. The bar was set high from the outset with both teams adamant that the win will be theirs. Despite fierce hits from White Rock players, Ross Gledhill and Ryan Martel, Leapfrog fought hard to keep the ball in play and displayed excellent teamwork in doing so. With this, Leapfrog narrowly won the first set which gave the team a huge confidence boost going into the second.
After winning the first set, Leapfrog knew White Rock would come back on court stronger in order to even the score. Accurate serving by White Rock’s Lev Kayacan pushed his team ahead as Leapfrog found themselves stuck in their rotation. After breaking the serve, Leapfrog took full advantage of their player of the match, Edgars Zalcamanis, as he was on top form, hitting through the middle. Towards the end of the set Leapfrog found themselves down by 2 points at 20–22. Despite building momentum by winning 3 valuable points in a row, White Rock proved they can fight back and took the set 25–23.
With an even playing field heading into the third set, it was all to play for. “You could feel the pressure right from beginning as both teams exchanged points with serving mistakes” said Leapfrog’s Edgars Zalcamanis, “but we knew what we had to do and make sure that we support each other. You always get satisfaction just by having great people around you that will always support each other. That is what ‘Leapfrog’ is all about.”
The final set concluded when a mammoth spike by Edgars found the court on White Rock’s side and Leapfrog took the set 15-10. Leapfrog’s win means White Rock’s winning streak has been broken.
The first match of the night saw Unite the Union face the Generali Pumas. With only five players at 7 o’clock, the Puma’s thought they may have to forfeit the match. With a sixth player arriving to Beau Sejour late, Unite the Union’s captain Gemma Nicolle displayed great sportsmanship as she allowed the match to be played competitively. The match was played and Unite the Union took the crown as they won 2 sets to 1.
The same night saw RB Coquelin face the Generali Panthers and Unite the Union go head to head with the Generali Pumas. RB Coquelin started in commanding form opening up a 13-3 lead with excellent net skimming serving from player of the match and stand in captain Carla Marley. Generali played some well-rounded attacking volleyball but RB Coquelin were too strong and won the first set convincingly.
RB’s Jerseyman Stuart Black was subbed off in the second set allowing young CJ Elmy to take his place this seemed to unsettle their team. Generali’s player of the match Carlos Laverello was building up the attack allowing his spikers to find holes in the RB Coquelin court. The set could have gone either way but RB did just enough to win in the match in 2 straight sets with a 25-23 scoreline.
The current league table stands with White Rock in top place, closely followed by Leapfrog. Having won the same amount of matches, the top teams are only separated by league points so every match is crucial. Unite the Union remain in third position.