Get to know about our Women's Volleyball team who have started their 23/24 BUCS with a 3-game winning streak, who are Sport Coventry's Team of the Month for October!
After a successful 22/23 campaign that saw our women's volleyball team finish 3rd in a very competitive Midlands league, the team has kicked off the 23/24 season with an undefeated streak, dropping only 2 sets across 3 games played so far. We sat down with two of the team's leaders, Miriam Chow and Mireia Taberner, to shine a spotlight on our Team of the Month and get an inside look on how the season is developing so far.
Well, here we are - undefeated through October, a month into the BUCS season! What are your thoughts on how the season is going so far?
MT: For me, from the beginning, I was quite worried because we're basically a brand new team because we had only four returners from last season. So I was quite worried about the new team. And then, at trials, we were happy to see many girls coming in, and knowing we would get more new players. But, our training sessions began very close to the start of the BUCS season, so we made great efforts there to have some organisation within the team. While I know we're not like... we do have difficulties during the games, mainly down to communications and teamwork stuff because we're new to each other. But all our players have good attitudes towards the game and never give up so that brings us good results.
MC: As Maria said, we started the season with basically a new team. So in the beginning, it was like very hard to get to know each other. But I think the main reason why we are winning or having this success in games is because we all are trying really hard. Hard work is something that I think we all have in common. Then it's true that our coach is also making a great effort because we had to reallocate all the positions, so he actually made this happen. And in games, I would say we have a good connection. We didn't expect it, but since the beginning, we all made this effort to build a connection, to build a relationship all together. For basically a brand new team, we are all working really well together.
That's great to hear! Miriam, you mentioned your coach and the part he's played in getting this cohesive unit together. What are some of the things he has put in place to foster that environment?
MC: We had our coach, Devin, last year as well soI already knew his dynamic, how he plays and how he likes to train. So, it has been a continuation of this work. But I think also, half of the team is already familiar with this work system, because they are from the same region, and their approach to playing is always very clear, so it rubs off on everyone. But, he helped to put into practice those skills that maybe we already have, you know, personal skills, but also to play out there and work together and push ourselves to give our best, even if we don't do as well as we want or getting the outcome we expect.
MT: I'm in my third year now and in my first year, we didn't have any coach, but have had one last season and this season, so we know the difference between having and not having a coach. Even to the "little" things like organising training programmes and making subsituttions or deciding on tactics during matches. Or giving more fundamental and practical advice to us to make sure we get more improvements. And even though he does encourage us, sometimes he has strict instructions, so he got lets us know about it when we do not follow them and gets a bit mad at us. But we know that reason for that is that he wants us to improve and to push us to be better and do more. So for players, we get more motivation from that, and seeing that competitive nature in our coach. He helps know what the shortcomings are, but also what our strengths are and how to apply them in the games and facilitate our teamwork.
Personally, something that is really helping me is... I can be really hard on myself. So from the outside, Coach can see things that I don't see. For example, I think I just missed the point but he sees all the things and improvements made that I wouldn't have noticed like "okay you may have missed the ball, but you predicted where it would go and you read the little details" and he just reminds you of your development and keeps you motivated.
It's really encouraging to hear that you have such a supportive system in place. You both have talked a lot about improvements and work ethic - everyone working really hard which is what would be expected, with the team being part of our Team Phoenix program, which is our performance sport program. How have you felt that Team Phoenix has benefited you as a team, on and off the court? How do you think it has impacted your performance?
MT: Well, we have to do our S&C (strength and conditioning) sessions, which is really early in the morning and nobody really wants to have to get up that early. When you get to S&C, you're there thinking "why did I come here" because you're still really sleepy but once the stretching and warm-up games start, and you start talking with your teammates and going "omg I'm dead" and they say "me too!" it just starts to make it a bit more relaxed and you enjoy the company. For us it's basically more time for us to spend together off the court, even if it's just exerising in the gym. It just builds that connection and works to help our on-court performance, so it's really great.
MC: Exactly! Even though it's a short time in the morning, you still have to get up and get out there and push teammates to come together as well. It creates another chance for us to see the team, get to know them as people but also as athletes. So we get to see who's stronger, and who is fitter and then use that as motivation for yourself to try to beat them, so it also creates a bit of competition, which is also making us do better in the sessions.
As a team, what would you say your goal is for the season?
Both; Going back to Division 1!!
The players share a knowing giggle that suggests this has been a topic that has come up several times before.
MT: 100% going back to D1. We have been stuck in D2 since the end of my first year, when we had an injury-filled season. Then, last year we struggled to win against Warwick, and the last game of the season against Birmingham. Hopefully this year is our year to get back to D1 before we graduate! We want the girls next year to play in that top league. We've been in division 1 before and we know the difference in the level of compeition between D1 and D2 so we want to get our team playing back there. But most importantly, we just want to enjoy the game. This might be my last year playing here, of playing BUCS volleyball, so definitely want to enjoy it.
We know it's still early in the season, but have there been any highlights so far? Any moments that you've really enjoyed?
MT: So we've only played three games. But, the one against Oxford Brookes was a pretty... very exciting game, even though it was away and we couldn't have people supporting us. We enjoyed it so much. It was really tight. It was very challenging for us and even though it was challenging, it was the one we enjoyed the most so I would say that game against them. We had a few highlights, from really good plays and really good rallies and it's one that I would repeat because it was really such a good game.
MC: Yeah, we got feedback from the girls as well they really enjoyed the game against Oxford Brookes, because we had a situation where we got into quite a deficit but we ended up catching up. And even though we lost that set, it was still very very tight and we showed ourselves what we were capable of as a team so it was lots of fun!
Speaking of your personal experiences, you're both now leaders of the team, and the volleyball club, as committee members. How does that impact your leadership within the team and do you find it different to just being a member/player?
MC: I realise plenty more. First year, I just don't remember. And then, I'm a bran new committee member for this year. From the perspective of a 'normal' member the last two years, you just follow instructions from the committee and then do what we can and just attend the training sessions and it's all calm. For this year, it's got for me... it's like brought me from the outside in, seeing the the internal stuff going on in volleyball. For example, budgets and organisation stuff, like even tiny stuff like making sure we have balls or referees... REFEREES! Making sure referees are all booked and sorted. And then for me you know, the reason behind why you need to do things in a timely manner. It does take up a lot of time, being a committee member, especially when you have a club of 3 teams and recreational members to manage between three to four people. It has definitely taught me to work on my time management and it's a really great opportunity to push myself and develop more skills.
MT: I would say I see the things more from the inside, so I think it gives me more a sense of commitment to be more into volleyball, to ensure everything is sorted for all our members. So I would say that now, I'm more serious with everything. I'm always trying to make sure attendance stays up for training, S& C and matches, ensuring we all have the correct equipment for all our sessions, that there is someone available to lead the rec sessions. Basically wanting to do everything to make the club run at its best.
Final question for you both - particularly as international students - how has being part of volleyball, as a member and committee member, in Coventry shaped your University experience?
MT: It brought me discipline, commitment, and hard work, because as part of committee, you realise there is like so much that goes into getting every game, every practice, just everything, so much goes into getting it done. So, when it comes to attending practices, s&c, you take that seriously and understand the commitment. Ultimately, you're here on your own just take undertaking a course. So it only depends on you to attend classes and still focus on your sport. So throughout the three years of my journey here in the club, I would say I developed those skills of feeling 100% committed taking every time serious and seeing the best, the best out of myself and building relationships with people from all over the world.
MC: Pretty much similar to Mireia's but just to add on, like, a stronger sense of responsibility. You are responsible for so many things, and if they go well or not, it comes back to you. So you also need to learn to communicate between members, the committee and the Sport Coventry team as well. So it has shaped my sense of leadership, but also learning to be part of a team and like a family environment.
The team continues their title race against at home next week (15th November) against Worcester, whom they have already defeated 3-0 this season. The game will start at 1pm at Coventry University Sports Centre. Support the women either in person or by watching the livestream on the Sport Coventry YouTube Channel. Keep up with their progress via the club's instagram account - @covunivolleyball
Congratulations to Women's Volleyball First Team on being our October Team of the Month!