Cadette B Volleyball - the road to the Final
After two months of training, we finally had our first official round of matches as St. Mary's College Naas Cadette B squad on the 17th November 2014. The team consists of Claire O'Sullivan (captain), Emma Cusack, Ciara Durkin, Amy Slattery, Laura Fallon, Elaine Whelan, Aoife Coughlan, Emer Hegarty, Aoibhinn Lenehan and Eimear O'Connor. As you can imagine, there was quite a substantial amount of pressure, mainly because it was our first time playing together outside of training, and also that we were determined to get to the All-Ireland final. To do that, we acknowledged the fact that we had to win nearly all of our matches in order to achieve this goal.
Our three pool rounds went without a hitch; we defeated all of the teams we were up against, with the exception of one, Feathard, who we would play once more on a bigger stage, unbeknownst to us at the time.
The quarterfinals were once again held in St. Mary's. The only two teams left to play were Tramore and Mountrath. We defeated Tramore two sets to nil before we went on to play Mountrath. Something happened, our heads just weren't in the game, and we lost the first set. The second set was extremely tense, the point spread not budging up to 20 points. Finally, something clicked and after a long rally we managed to pull ahead and win the second set. The third set was a breeze, with a score of 25 -3 and Amy Slattery serving an outstanding 23 balls in a row.
In the semi-final, our opponent was St. Brigid's from Loughrea. The venue was University of Limerick, with the Cadette A semi-finals taking place on the court right beside ours. The game was tense and tight all the way through, however we lost the first set. Our confidence had been knocked dramatically by the sheer amount of net touch faults signaled by the referee, half of which shouldn't have been. But in the second set, we proved that we were fuelled with the drive to win. We scrapped and fought for every point, with excellent hitting from Aoife Coughlan, Clare O'Sullivan and Emma Cusack that enabled our offense to take back the set hit after hit. By the skin of our teeth we won 27 - 25 and made it to the third set. Confidence returned, we rose to the challenge once more, taking the final set home 25 - 23. The feeling of winning that match could only be compared to that of an All-Ireland final.
With less than a week to the final training intensified. Both squads, A and B trained together nearly every day leading up to the final.
On the day, we left St. Mary's with high hopes and the challenge of bringing the Cadette B All-Ireland title back to St. Mary's. We were first to play and we were up against Feathard, the only team to beat us so far. In the first set one could cut the tension in the air with a knife. Scoring the first point of the All-Ireland was a promising start. Our momentum didn't last long. What Feathard lacked in offense they made up for in defense, free balls and tips. Even knowing when they were about to tip, we couldn't cover it fast enough. Still we fought on, but lost the set 25 - 23. All of a sudden, the atmosphere surrounding our team dropped. No matter how hard we tried to fight, we just couldn't seem to get the ball back over the net. Our setters, Ciara Durkan and Aoibhinn Lenehan got every ball up, no matter where the pass went, but it still wasn't enough. Ball after ball went into the net, quickly eating away at our offense's confidence at an alarming rate. As our captain Clare O'Sullivan said afterwards, we just seemed to have the mentality that the ball wasn't going to go over. Doubt crept in, and soon even our defense began to crack too. In the end, it was inevitable. We lost, marking the end of our All-Ireland journey. Even though we came 2nd in all of Ireland in Cadette B volleyball, ten minutes after the last ball dropped it certainly didn't feel that way. After those ten minutes, we came to realise what an achievement it was to get to an All-Ireland final at all.
Looking back, this experience will make us stronger. When we move to the Senior stage, we will remember that day, and we will be determined to repeat our journey, but with All-Ireland victory as the outcome.
A massive thank-you to our coach Ms. Walsh; without her, we wouldn't have gotten as far as we did.