The volleyball club has always been a ‘performance’ team. Sscholars come and go each year, get a few wins, push for the titles. If they win then round of applause, if not, out go the old, in come the new, and the cycle repeats. This is not to say the club doesn’t like winning, but with players usually here for no longer than a year, it’s hard to invest into the long-term progression of the club, and not focus wholly on immediate performance.

The rationale comes from higher up. The club is marketed through the league success and elite training, which is something to be shown off, without a doubt. But this season the club has pushed to become more than that, to become an inclusive club, while maintaining peak performance.

The Leagues

This was the first time the club managed to field three teams on a weekly basis; the Men’s 1st, Women’s 1st, and Women’s 2nd team played in their respective BUCS leagues. With 27 matches played across the season UEL Volleyball racked up 18 wins, with a 0.66-win ratio for the season.

The Women’s 1st team lost their first ever set, let alone match, in three seasons to newcomers University of Essex. However, the women bounced back in a title decider game away in Chelmsford to bring the Premier South Title back to Docklands.

For the first time a women’s 2nd team was entered for BUCS, finishing the season on three wins and mid-table. At the start of the season there was three beginners and five scholars making the numbers to compete, but by the end of the season there was a team of 10 beginners competing week in week out for UEL.

The Men’s 1st team had a rough start to the season with two losses early on to Bournemouth University (BU) and University of Essex. In a history making match, the Blues battled to beat BU for the first time to take their win loss ratio to 1-8 against the scholarship side. UEL finished the season third in the league, with only four losses against them.

Across all sports at UEL, volleyball is the highest contributor to the overall BUCS points, claiming 139 for the season, closely followed by basketball on 103, a club that has four teams competing on a weekly basis.

BUCS Final 8s

Both the men and women’s 1st teams competed in BUCS Nationals in Bournemouth at the beginning of March. For the women, history repeated itself, losing the first pool game to eventual winners Durham University, and their semi-final to Northumbria University.

The Men managed to go one better than last season and finished 5th. After losing two pool matches to Northumbria and arch rivals BU, they rallied back to beat Durham University 2-1 in a closely contested 5/6th play-off match.

Participation

This season UEL Volleyball club has a record number of members – 35, which is a 40% increase on last year’s membership numbers. The addition of the second women’s team has helped boost numbers, along with scouting for scholars for the women’s first team which is at an all-time high of 14, double that of last year.

At freshers’ fair the club pushed the MyUEL Sports free volleyball session as opposed to the first team training. The first week saw over 40 participants at one session alone, since then the club has managed to regularly hit between 15-25 participants at each session, twice a week.

Charity

The club held their second annual Breast Cancer Match during their double header home fixture against the University of Essex. Although both the men and women lost, 3-1 and 3-2 respectively, the day was a massive success.

This year the club aimed to raise as much money as possible for CoppaFeel and Breast Cancer Care, in total the final amount raised reached £338.00. UEL Volleyball teamed up with the university CoppaFeel society to run a bake sale and table which raised £123 of the grand total.

Club chairman, Beth Gunter, and women’s captain, Cara Olden, volunteered for a day at a local foodbank to help sort food donated from stores into sections to be sent to various homeless shelters around London.

Anything and Everything

The men’s team travelled to Iceland in February to compete in the Stjaran International Invitational tournament. UEL came back champions and undefeated, and beat Durham University on their way to the title – which proved vital to their success in BUCS.

This year’s women’s challenge cup captain is part of the volleyball club. Your correspondent, Beth Gunter, beat off her opponents in various sporting and lip synching challenges to take the captain role. This year’s Challenge Cup will take place at Angelia Ruskin University on May 3rd.

The club said a hard farewell to head-coach Simon Loftus at the Christmas break. UELSports found two world-class coaches to replace the irreplaceable, in London 2012 Paralympic Head Coach, Ian Legrand, and the man who’s done it all, Jefferson Williams.

Going into the summer period there are three men’s, and two women’s teams in training for Beach Student Cup in June. The men have bought home the trophy for the last three years, and the women aim to bring it home for a second time.

The End

As the season comes to an end, UEL Volleyball Club will kit up one final time for Challenge Cup in May. There are final goodbyes to the whole men’s team and five of the women’s team. Over the summer, the coaches and players will rebuild, train, bring in new players and work to maintain the club as being all inclusive around university.

Chairman Beth Gunter, has officially handed over the reins to second-year scholar Aubrie Cresswell, who will lead the club next year to be more successful and build upon the stepping stone that’s been left in her wake.

For updates for the rest of the season and throughout the summer follow UEL Volleyball Club on social media by clicking on the pictures below:

Alternatively if you know someone who might want to join the club, or become a scholar for next season follow the link below:

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3059409/TeamUEL-Scholarships-Expression-of-Interest-2017

Until next season…

I am the Sports Editor covering UEL Volleyball and London Lynx for Rising East.

My knowledge of volleyball in England is extensive, drawing on my role as an experienced volleyball player as part of the UEL Sports Scholarship set up, and as chairman of the UEL Volleyball Club. I have a wide range of contacts providing me with exclusive access to the inside of the club workings and interviews with key personnel.

Having played in the Super 8 League myself, I have many contacts with all the clubs and know the coaching staff and team players.

I currently film for BT Sport, covering Dagenham and Redbridge Football Club for the Vanarama National League Highlight Show. This includes filming the match, getting first hand interviews and editing footage.