by Megan Burgdorf
On Saturday last, the Volleyball Association of Ireland hosted the Association Cup Final, the showcase event of the year. The men’s competition kicked off the day with league winner UCD beating the league runner-up Ballymun Patriots 3-1. The women’s final saw fourth place NUIG Alliance beat third place DVC in an impressive 3-0 win. This is NUIG Alliance’s first VAI Association Cup victory.
NUIG Alliance has had a strong second half of a season with an exciting run of big wins. In December, NUIG Alliance beat Aer Lingus 3-0 to move into the second round of play. They then knocked out Ballymun Patriots 3-0 in January and confidently moved through the semi-final in March defeating the then first place team Naas 3-1. They again beat Naas 3-0 last week in an incredible performance.
Last year’s Premier League and Association Cup winners, DVC, also blazed through round one and two beating Newbridge Wildcats 3-0 in December and Tallaght Rockets 3-0 in January. In March they travelled to Galway for the semi-final in which they beat Munster Thunder 3-0. In the last league match of the season DVC lost 1-3 to UCD in a match for first place.
Saturday’s match up was of equal strength from both teams. NUIG Alliance’s Katerina Aimelia Axaopoulou was a dominating force on the wing as predicted and was a real threat to DVC on the service line. Running NUIG Alliance’s offense was match MVP, setter Lucie Ruzickova. Her offensive options under pressure allowed NUIG Alliance to work around DVC’s huge block in the middle. Libero Regina Halpin, Ireland’s National Squad player, was a stable key leader in the passing and defensive fight.
DVC had a very consistent block with Nicole Horsman and a number of impressive kills from Edyta McMullan from the middle. Ivett Simon’s defence in the back court and Indre Simkute attack from the wing were consistent to keep DVC in the game. It seemed that DVC’s offence just could not deliver that something extra to pull ahead of NUIG Alliance’s fantastic defence and disciplined mindset in each of the three sets.
Congratulations to NUIG Alliance women on their first VAI Association Cup title and UCD women on their Premier League title!
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