Malta’s senior national volleyball team emerged as the unbeaten winner of an international tournament organised by the CEV (Confédération Européenne de Volleyball), with emphatic 3-0 victories over both Northern Ireland and San Marino. San Marino placed second overall after defeating Northern Ireland 3-2 in a very exciting and close encounter.
On the final day, the young Maltese girls had the upper hand on San Marino although it was not an easy run for the home team.
The determination and the spirit of the team proved crucial in the final points of the second and third set. The tournament, which falls within the CEV’s Small Countries Association (SCA) calendar, was held at the Cottonera Sports Complex over the weekend.
This was the senior team’s first participation in a CEV competition after a very long absence since 2015.
Branko Vlahovic, MVA vice-president, who was performing the role of a coach for this tournament, said that it was very encouraging that, at their first appearance this young team won the tournament against respectable opposition.
“This was the first step in the development of this team and we must continue on the same path. The same objectives we have for junior categories too as demonstrated by our U19 team’s participation in CEV tournaments in Iceland (bronze medal) and Luxembourg (4th place) during this past year.
“We should not allow, as it happened in the past ,that for seven years the Junior teams are given no opportunity at all.“
Commenting on the success of the Maltese team, MVA president Edward Gatt stated that it was also a success that the tournament’s organisation was awarded to Malta.
“The impressive performance of the local girls was helped in no small way by a sizeable and enthusiastic home crowd. We proved that we have talent but we need support to continue,” Gatt said.
A major issue is the resolution of the volleyball venue problems as this season many MVA National Leagues games and national teams’ sessions were postponed at Cottonera Complex due to other events staged there.
Actually, the MVA Senior Women Championship together with junior, youth categories should be over only by the end of June in comparison to standard mid-April period when all National Leagues of other countries are over to make space for preparation of national teams.
For that reason, MVA Beach teams also had to skip a beach volleyball tournament in Scotland since the same players are involved in volleyball and beach volleyball.
“It is time that Malta Volleyball Association gets its venue where national teams in all age categories can train but that venue can also cater for volleyball clubs since the majority of them are training in inadequate conditions. Investment in youths always brings the most benefits. We need a “volleyball home,” Gatt said.
MALTA SQUAD: Sara El Gasi (captain), Sarah Spiteri, Mikaela Galea, Sophie Ann Busutill, Sarah Bonnici, Kayley Riolo, Maria Gatt, Miriana Spiteri, Tamara Kenkovski, Monica Zammit Munro, Mariana Zammit Munro. Coach: Branko Vlahovic. Assistant coach: Analisse Cassar.