What a season

On March 6th the Essex Blades Women’s Volleyball Team clinically swept aside Newcastle University 3-0 (25:17, 25:22, 25:14) to earn their spot in the National Championship game on BUCS Big Wednesday, March 20th. 

Womens Volleyball BUCS Team Success 600 x 450

Words from Coach Alex Chinery

The achievement is the culmination of three years of hard work for the team, the core of which is comprised of athletes that have competed whilst completing their undergraduate degrees at Essex. With five of the starting seven falling into this category, a ratio far higher than their opponents and others left in the competition who favour a postgrad heavy approach, Essex has once again shown that it is the premier environment for young volleyball athletes who want to progress within the game and compete for championships.

After a BUCS Premier South campaign that saw the team win the title for the first time in University history with a 9-1 regular season record, the Essex Blades women continued their perfect run during the National Championship playoffs with the victory over Newcastle. The team has only dropped 3 sets all season, all of which came in their solitary defeat, 3-1, with a depleted squad due to injury before the Christmas break. In the other 11 matches, they have been faultless, sweeping all opponents by a 3-0 score line.

The Essex team is built with a unique balance of home grown British and European talent, complimented with a handful of postgraduate athletes from the USA. This approach is different from many of the other top teams in BUCS who favour rostering a larger number of American and European postgraduate athletes.

I love that the environment here at Essex has been built into one that allows both undergraduate and English athletes to develop and flourish. Our athletes work incredibly hard and have become phenomenal learners in their time working with us. To be able to impact the next generation of English Volleyball talent here at Essex is one of the things I am most proud of. This is a special group, of special women, so I am not surprised they continue to make history. Whilst other universities are trying their hardest to match what we can do here, there is no better environment for young undergraduate volleyball athletes to develop their skills than here at Essex.

Catherine Tolley Womens Volleyball BUCS Team 750 x 500

From our volleyball athletes 

Emily Priestley, undergraduate outside hitter, 3rd year student in SRES

2 x Captain, former England Junior National Team Athlete

“So many great people are involved with this programme and have supported me as an athlete and a person throughout my three years at Essex. The facilities here are the best in the country and are a great environment to develop in. I’m so excited to be representing my home county in a national final alongside my team.”

Madoka Weldon, postgraduate libero from the USA studying Organised Crime, Terrorism and Global Security

“With this being my first year with the Rebels, I’ve loved playing with like-minded people where we could establish a good support system for each other on the team. I feel like I can really trust my teammates on the court and in turn I know they trust me, which gives me the confidence to do my best job as a libero. I think this level of cohesiveness is pretty evident when we play and it’s the reason we’ve earned our place in the Super League Final 4 and the BUCS National Championship Game.”

Catherine Tolley, postgraduate superstar middle blocker, 4th year at Essex

BUCS team captain

“Finishing at the top of the women’s volleyball BUCS Premier South is a huge accomplishment for the women’s team at the University of Essex. This long-desired achievement stands as a testament to the unwavering dedication, commitment and hard work our women’s volleyball team has put behind this season so far. We have faced countless challenges and setbacks over the previous years, but our resilience and relentless focus on developing as a team has led us to this fantastic achievement. Every player has contributed to our success both on and off court. I am honoured to be a part of a team like no other in the country. This achievement stands as a milestone for the University, and with our eyes on the horizon, the women’s team will continue to push the boundaries of excellence and make history this year.” 

Did you know?

  • 8 out of 13 athletes came to Essex from junior clubs based in England  
  • 4 out of 7 starters were English, the most of any team in the BUCS Semi Finals
  • 10 out of 13 athletes started at Essex as an undergraduate student, including 5 out of 7 starters in the Semi Final


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