The volleyball community of Orkney can be found on the mainland and it’s a thriving community at that. The Orkney Volleyball Association recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and hosts a strong club environment catering for senior, recreational and youth players.
The association is well supported by volunteers and the club boasts the Highlands and Islands Community Coach of the Year in Belinda Warnock. Belinda is PT of Physical Education at Stromness Academy and leads the junior volleyball programme there, where numbers at the volleyball afterschool club regularly exceed 30!
One of the most important aspects of this visit was to try and break-down the barriers for these talented pupils to compete in volleyball, as they are short of a competitive outlet at the minute.
I got the chance to meet all the members of the active schools network in Orkney and they were extremely helpful in ‘setting the scene’ for sport in Orkney, highlighting the facilities around the islands and the challenges presented.
Some even play in the 4v4 recreational side to the association. This league is a big undertaking for the club, however the rewards are there to be seen with 12 teams competing on a Monday evening at the impressive Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall.
Before the big match itself: Orkney vs Dundee University in the Women’s Scottish Cup. The Men’s team played against each other in a highly entertaining east vs west game, with Orkney east winning 3-2.
There was an exciting atmosphere for the first home game of the season with local supporters filling the stand behind the court. The visitors quickly became accustomed to their horizons as they took a 4-1 lead which forced the hosts into an early time-out. It had the desired effect as strong net play from captain Amy Housten brought the scores back level. She continued to lead from the service line with a run of serves that included two aces. Dundee University struggled to contain the strong service and the Orcadians took the first set 25-15.
The visiting students managed to establish their middle attack early in the 2nd set with both Sharon Versteeg and Maxi Kellner winning points but Orkney again pulled ahead taking a 5 point lead into the 2nd technical time-out. Long rallies and scramble defence were commonplace in a lengthy 2nd set but Orkney’s brilliant back-court defence lead by libero Laura Leonard that wore Dundee University down, and the visitors were looking disillusioned as they lost again 15-25.
Orkney kept the same 7 as had started the game but Dundee University coach Paul McPate changed it up with captain Sharon Versteeg moving to opposite and Guilia Capitani replacing local girl Anna Johnstone as libero.
These changes caused an immediate reaction from the travelling side as they took a 10-1 lead. Orkney’s Belinda Warnock managed to steady the ship with some calm back-court play and tactical hitting before introducing Gemma Reid and Yvonne Barrett into the fray and they went point for point with Dundee for the remainder of the set but were unable to amend their poor start going down 15-25.
Set 4 started intensely and there was very little between the two teams with Orkney taking a slender 16-14 lead into the time-out. Sharon Versteeg and Elena Velten stepped up with runs of serves for Dundee and they took the match into a tie-break after winning the set, 25-17.
The players had to dig deep in the fifth set as tiredness started to show in both teams. Orkney’s captain Amy Houston stepped up and lead the hosts to a 5 point lead at the change of ends. Velten and Waersted replied with kills but Orkney kept the points ticking over.
Some errors from Orkney gave Dundee a chance to get back into the game as Maxi Kellner hit a kill through middle to make the score 9-12. It was a great fight back from Dundee but it wasn’t enough to take the match with kills from Alison Poke and Amy Housten securing the set 15-13 for Orkney.
At the end of the match it was great to see a reporter from local press and radio there to promote the match and the teams ensured that it will be a lengthy report on a match that lasted over 2 hours.
A special mention to the referees who done a great job over the 5 sets, especially as the chances to get match experience have been so limited.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the club for their hospitality and ongoing hard-work in challenging circumstances, especially chairperson Mark Berry for assisting me with all aspects of my visit. Well done to all involved in the running of Orkney Volleyball Association.
If you are interested in getting involved withh volleyball in Orkney or would like to arrange some competitions with the club please contact OVA by email or contact the SVA office 0131 556 4633
Club & Participation Development Officer