The Madibaz women’s volleyball team will want to carry the momentum of winning the Youth Day tournament into the University Sports South Africa competition, which starts on Sunday.
The annual USSA week, which is contested by the top tertiary institutions in the country, will be hosted by the University of Limpopo in Mankweng, near Polokwane, from July 2 to 7.
Under the guidance of coach Nolan Bentley, the Madibaz recorded an exciting win over a strong Volkswagen outfit in the final of the Youth Day event, which was held in Kariega under the auspices of the Nelson Mandela Bay Volleyball Association.
It was a significant triumph for the girls from Gqeberha after having lost to the same opponents in the round-robin stages of the competition, when matches were contested over just one set.
The final was decided over the best of three sets and Madibaz rose to the occasion to win 2-1.
“It was indeed a very good send-off for us,” Bentley said. “Also beating Rhodes in that tournament meant a lot to the players.”
With their confidence high, the Madibaz will aim to hit the ground running in Mankweng.
Bentley explained that the university had been consistent performers at the USSAs, regularly finishing in the top 10. The plan is now to move further up the rankings and only a place in the top eight will do.
As is often the case with tertiary institutions where there are a constant changing of the guard, the team are relatively inexperienced but passionate and ready to produce their A-game whenever it is called for.
“One of our strengths is our spirit,” Bentley said. “They enjoy playing together and that is the secret of a good team.”
From a coach’s perspective, Bentley believes these are exciting times as he is happy with the progress of the team going into the USSAs.
They have put in the hard yards ahead of the national event and supplemented their usual training with a custom gym programme to complement match play.
The Madibaz are currently fourth in the USSA Eastern Cape League standings after three rounds and, besides their Youth Day triumph, placed third in a tournament hosted by Nelson Mandela University recently.
Bentley has picked out perennial title contenders Vaal University of Technology, University of Western Cape and University of KwaZulu-Natal as the obstacles in their way.
“Our big test will be to maintain our concentration and not lose focus, which can lead to losing games you should have won.”
The team will have to be tenacious and show confidence throughout the week to match the top sides and achieve their goals, he said.