Sports: U.K. volleyball teams aim high as school championships near
As the last volleys were made and the points added up in the season’s final volleyball games at RAF Lakenheath on Saturday, coaches from the four U.K. high schools turned their focus to the start of Thursday’s European championships at sites in the Kaiserslautern, Germany, area.
Lakenheath hosted London Central, Alconbury and Menwith Hill on a day in which each school played two games.
The Lancers lost to London Central in five sets, but beat Alconbury in four to finish 9-6, including 3-3 in Division I matches.
Mike Hogen, in his first year as head coach, said he was impressed with the performance of his team, which he said improved every week and lost “to the three top teams” in conference play.
Hogen has high hopes for Lakenheath in the championships. Two keys will be serving and a healthy Ashley Mansfield, who nursed an injury Saturday.
“Serves are a very important part of our game and we served poorly,” he said. “[An injured Mansfield] takes the chemistry away from the players.”
Division III London Central won both of its back-to-back matches Saturday in what coach Susan Payne called a good wind-up to a 7-3 season.
“We were improving to the end of the season, as we should have,” she said after topping Menwith Hill. “Beating a Division I team (Lakenheath) is a big deal for us.”
Now she’s looking forward to the Europeans. “Today gave us a lot of momentum,” she said. “We can play with the best of them. We’re going to be tough to beat.”
Alconbury, which will play in Division IV, also should be tough to beat, head coach Emily Dreiling said after defeating Menwith Hill in its first match Saturday.
It finished 11-2, and will approach the championships “one game at a time,” she said.
“I’m a little superstitious, but as far as that, we have the potential to go away as champions if we can work as hard as we have this season,” said Dreiling.
And if Division IV Menwith Hill proved something this season despite a 2-9 record, coach Fred Hicks said, it’s that the players have started to work together.
“Our team has gotten the hang of doing things better with each other,” he said of a squad that had 20 players last year but only eight this year. “We’ve been playing a lot better the last two years.”
And, despite their regular-season record, he believes they will fare well in the coming championships. “If we play well, we’re a top three team,” he said. “We’ve played London Central six times this year and Alconbury five times. We had a couple of good games against Alconbury.”