Island Girls gelling at right time, says Rae
The Bermuda women’s volleyball team are gearing up for their “miniature Olympics” at next week’s NatWest Island Games and are confident that they are gelling at just the right time.
“It’s a really friendly games,” Bermuda setter Allison Settle-Smith said. “It feels like a miniature Olympics, which for a lot of us, we don’t get to experience, so it’s so good to feel special on a small island for a week!
“Last time in Jersey, the whole island was so excited for us to be there, they were honking their horns driving by, so for a bunch of washed-up athletes it’s pretty exciting!”
And head coach Elisabeth Rae explained how the preparation the Island Girls have put in is paying off with the Island Games beginning next Saturday in Gotland, Sweden.
“Volleyball is 100 per cent a team sport and it’s very momentum-based,” Rae said, “If you have one person who isn’t playing well or isn’t in sync with everybody else, it throws the team off. So everybody seems to be on the same page, to use business lingo, and they’re working well as a cohesive unit, which is what you want. Everybody knows what each other’s job is and they’re doing it, so there’s the trust between team-mates.”
Those are sentiments that Settle-Smith agrees with.
“We’ve been training since October,” she said. “It’s difficult because we have some players who are away at school and some who are playing in the junior programme, so really in the last two months, that’s when we have to come together and try and gel as a team, but it’s working well. It’s just all practice and how much time we get together on the court.”
The squad have been taking on men in training sessions recently in an attempt to replicate the level of competition they will be going up against in Gotland.
“We played a scrimmage against a lot of our former junior national boys’ team players [this week],” Rae said. “We’re hard pressed to find sufficient competition for us to play against, so a lot of the time we end up playing men.
“We’re going to play at a high level and they are going to have some big teams, with big hitting and big blocking, so playing the guys is a good simulation for that experience.
“All of it is match experience, playing matches all the time. We start in January, and we train a lot of skills and drills for months, and leading up we just do games, so people are working together, clicking together and firing on all cylinders.”
For Settle-Smith, playing against men is a necessity for the team, leading up to a competition like the Island Games.
“We have to play against the men, because we have to play against a high level so that we can get better,” she said. “We’re the strongest female players in Bermuda, so who is there for us to play against?
“We lost [against the men] today, but it’s going to be better for our game because we’ll be better prepared for the tough female hitters at the Island Games.”
Settle-Smith is originally from Canada and is impressed with the burgeoning volleyball scene on the island - both on the court and on the beach.
“I played university, so normally for me in Canada, once your done at university, you’re done,” she said. “So when I moved to Bermuda, I had the opportunity to keep going, all my friends are jealous now!
“[Bermuda’s] junior programme is really growing. We’re hoping to get even more girls playing next year and every year we’re just getting better and better. We have four or five girls from the junior programme on the national team and that speaks volumes for it right now.
And beach volleyball just improves everyone’s all-around game so we always encourage everyone to get out and play as much beach volleyball as they can because it just makes you a well-rounded player.”