12 days are all that remains until the Scotland Senior Women’s National Team steps on court to face Liechtenstein in the opening game of Pool B of the CEV Small Countries Division Championship in Malta. The temperature at this time could be in the mid to high 20s but the players in the squad are already facing the heat at home.
With the trials and tribulations of the domestic season now a fading memory the players’ attention is very clearly focused on cranking up preparations for the tournament. It’s all been about reinforcing systems of play and honing in on specific areas that we need to be able to execute effectively. Our blocking in particular was under the microscope at our double session on the weekend of 2/3 June in Wallace High School, Stirling.
With most club practice sessions now finished it was no surprise that Saturday started sluggishly as most players hadn’t touched ball for at least a week, if not more so. But by Sunday the performance level had gone up several notches and most noticeably at the net. The key to this change was in our blocking. Preparation and timing improved and there was greater clarity about the finishing action. As a result the back court defence had clear reference points to work around which created an ability to control the attack.
We have consistently spoken about the need for the players to challenge each other, to push each other to the next level. This applies to everything that the players do even in the warm-ups. When Sunday’s block-defence went up several notches all of a sudden the hitters did likewise. There was a calmness about the way in which they went about preparing to hit but there was a real tactic and sharpness in the execution. The setters had been working on giving energy to the ball and this simply added to the mix. It was a real vibrant and competitive environment.
The added ingredient to last weekend was that it was the final opportunity for the players to push for selection. As a coach this is never an easy time as there are bound to be players who are disappointed not to make it. Each player in the squad has bought into the Programme, made sacrifices and given their all at every practice session. Each player merited consideration for the final 12. But there are only 12 slots available. The task is to select the best balance of players to handle the challenge that lies ahead.
After some considerable debate a decision was reached and the players selected. They are:
Elaine Krawczyk (Troon, Prestwick and Ayr)
Laura Bolton (Edinburgh Jets)
Caroline Clayton (Troon, Prestwick and Ayr)
Hazel Gow (Troon Prestwick and Ayr)
Kay Wheatley (Troon, Prestwick and Ayr)
Linsey Bunten (Troon, Prestick and Ayr, Captain)
Claire Penny (City of Edinburgh)
Jill Runciman (Edinburgh Jets)
Alex Dickenson (Su Ragazzi)
Kirsty McLean (Su Ragazzi)
Jen Thom (Unattached)
Laura McReady (Su Ragazzi)
With just one more weekend session to go before leaving for Malta there is still time to push on even higher. We continued to turn up the heat at the weekend just past and our preparation will culminate with a final scrimmage match against the bronze medal winning Scotland Junior Men on Sunday 17 June at The PEAK, Stirling (FBS 10:30).
Then it will be a case of packing our bags and taking the final steps on this part of our journey. The players have been inspired and enthused by the success of the other three National Team Programmes. The silver and bronze medals won by the Junior Women and Junior Men respectively have given the girls even more determination to achieve their goal. The Senior Men’s recent notable achievement in qualifying for the Final in 2013 has provided the added spur to make it a clean sweep for Scottish Volleyball.
It is not a given by any manner of means. We need to play disciplined yet aggressive volleyball. We need to compete and we need to deal with adversity. We need to be able to focus on what we can control and be able to find solutions to the problems we are posed.
The simple message to each player is…
Believe in your Journey.
Believe in your Team.
Believe in Yourself.
SWNTP Head Coach
11 June 2012