Some of Europe’s finest beach volleyball stars came to a Bournemouth school to battle for their Olympic place in Rio 2016.
For the first time ever, the LeAF Academy staged an international sporting event when it organised and hosted the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup, in partnership with Volleyball England.
To stage the event, the school’s construction students and apprentices built two new outdoor beach volleyball courts to complement its indoor beach volleyball centre – the only one in the UK.
And elite athletes from LeAF Studio helped to marshal the event and get a taste for international competition.
Beach volleyball teams from England, Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland came together in a series of highly competitive games – with the England men’s team winning the cup in front of the local crowd.
The England women’s team, which features local star and Olympian Zara Dampney, finished third.
Executive principal for the LeAF Academy, Dr Annetta Minard, said: “We are delighted that our first ever international sporting event was such a huge success. We received very positive feedback from the competing athletes.
“This was an invaluable experience for our own elite athletes who were able to get a taste of what it is like to be part of such an international event.
“We hope this will be the first of many such sporting occasions at LeAF. Our new indoor sports centre, which is designed to host big sporting events, will be open shortly.”
Kicking off the Continental Cup were the England women who had the unenviable task of facing top seeds Sweden.
Jess Grimson and Grace Lazard faced Sweden’s first pair of Grawender/Lundqvist in game one. Sweden made a rapid start, opening up a five point lead at the first change of ends. The rest of the set continued to go to form, as the Swede’s dominated the front court, winning the set 21-10.
England fared better in the second set taking the lead at 7-6, but the experienced pair from Sweden raised their level to see out the set 21-16.
Zara Dampney and Savanah Leaf took to the court knowing that nothing but a win would do. They duly obliged with a narrow 22-20, 21-18 victory in 38 minutes, sending the tie into a Golden match playoff.
The English pair played off against Grawender/Lundqvist in a match that had the crowd on the edge of their seats throughout. The first two sets were shared, with the English pulling back a small deficit in the second after the Swedes looked to have the match already won.
The momentum stayed with the home nation in the third, with every point vigorously cheered by the crowd. Both teams had match points and both teams let them go begging. Sweden finally managed to make one count, sealing their place as pool winners.
England’s men followed the women on court one. They were up against a Switzerland outfit that all play regularly on the world tour.
Greg Weaver and Phil Smith went down fighting against Chevallier/Strausser 21-13, 21-15 while fellow countrymen Jake Sheaf and Chris Gregory were once again up to the task, beating Kovatsch/Kissling 21-19, 21-17.
In the decider, Sheaf/Gregory recorded one of their best wins in any competition, beating Chevallier/Strausser in straight sets 21-19, 24-22 to triumph as pool winners.
Lisa Wainwright, chief executive for Volleyball England, said: “We would like to thank all the volunteers, officials and all the staff involved at LeAF Academy for their efforts in organising and running the event.”