Northern Ireland to carry UK hopes in World Champs qualifiers
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men & Women
Belfast, Northern Ireland, May 20, 2013. For the first time since last summer’s successful Olympic Games in London, UK Volleyball steps back onto the world Volleyball courts.
Northern Ireland’s youthful men and women’s volleyballers travel this week to Kortrijk, Belgium, to take part in the European Qualifiers for next year’s 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship.
The men’s squad will include 10 home based players who will be joined by former GBR squad member David Hamilton from his club in Puerto Rico and Robert Nicholson of London’s Malory Eagles. Wilson Greenlee, Peter Stewart, Mark Hazley, Peter Lundy and Mark Fulton of league champions Richhill Raiders team up with Alan Workman and Nick Wright of Cup Winners’ UUJ, Paddy Crooks and Alan McKnight of Irish Intervarsities' champions QUB and Jonny Workman of Ballymoney Blaze. This is only the second time Northern Ireland has played at World Championship level since debut in 2005 due to the UK Strategy for a GBR team in the London Olympics. Player/Coach Nick Wright is the only survivor but is optimistic: “This is the best senior men’s squad we have ever produced in Northern Ireland and we are all relishing the challenge of playing against such quality teams”. In Kortrijk they play hosts Belgium, Romania and Austria.
The women’s squad has their maiden run in World Championships under the coaching of American Sarah Jankowitz, an American citizen currently placed at QUB for her Ph.D where she is a voluntary coach for the women's Volleyball team. There are 4 English based players on the squad, Rhian McCarroll and Rebecca Rankin of Loughborough Dolphins, Cait Donnelly of Brighton and Alice Harkness* of Northumbria, the English Cup winners. Northern Ireland league winners Craigavon Aztecs provide 8 players, Chloe Walkingshaw, Melissa Traynor, Michelle Diffin, Claire Dowey, Aimee Nixon, Amy Wethers, Shannon Lyness and Amy Jane McCall. They face hosts Belgium, Portugal and Switzerland. Coach Jankowitz is realistic: “We know we have a major challenge in front of us, but if we work together as a team throughout, the girls will come away with a great experience we can parlay into our future competitions.” *Alice Harkness is also the goalkeeper of the NI junior football team and will be spending the summer keeping nets in Iceland.
Northern Ireland’s opponents are fully funded by government and sponsors and have regular International elite competition experience every spring and summer. Romania and Portugal have played in the FIVB World League previously.
Scotland is next UK representative onto the World courts, although in separate venues - the men are on Cyprus in early June and the women on Malta at the end of June. Due to the general austerity imposed on GB Volleyball post-London, neither England nor Wales are taking part in these World Championships. The Northern Ireland teams are completely self-funded by families and private donations.