The UP-Tuks women’s beach volleyball team capped a brilliant season over the weekend when they won the Varsity Beach Volleyball tournament in Durban.
It means that the University of Pretoria has won an unprecedented seven of the Varsity Sports competitions and for the first time three of the four women’s tournaments.
Vanessa Sardinha-da Silva and Jaime-Lee Wentzel who played in the final against the University of Johannesburg (UJ) also made local history in becoming only possibly the second team to win the Varsity Beach Volleyball as well as the USSA beach volleyball-titles in the same year.
UP-Tuks beat UJ 52-20 in the final. With this victory, the team proved that perseverance does pay off. In the past five years, UP-Tuks contested the Varsity-final on two previous occasions but got unstuck against the University of the Western Cape.
Sardinha-da Silva ascribed their success to hard work and a change of mentality.
“We realised that if you think you are going to lose you will lose. So we backed ourselves each time we took to the court.”
She made it clear that although she and Wentzel played the final that it was a complete team performance.
“Shannon de Vries and Khutso Letsoalo played a major part in ensuring that we do reach the final.”
Dina Kladis (coach) said that on Thursday morning just before the team left for Durban she got a gut feeling that everything will go well.
“I could feel the positive energy in the team. I thought in a way that the other teams and players looked at us with awe and respect throughout the tournament. It has been a while since that has happened.”
On winning, she said: “There are no words to describe the utter joy, excitement and deep satisfaction for achieving our goals.”
Kladis is hesitant to single out in a single player, but she feels that Wentzel deserves a special mention.
“Jaime-Lee has always been overlooked as a player, but she is the stabilising factor in our team. She is the reason why we qualified for the final last year, and she is the reason why we have managed to keep it together on the court this time around.
“She has never received any prizes, but she is the best support player anyone can ask for and has my deepest respect.”
Kladis ascribed UP-Tuks success to long-term planning.
“We selected the players with the right characteristics: talented, fit and mental strength.
“As the coach, I realised that I do not know everything there is to know about beach volleyball, so I asked Vitalina Nel (a former Olympian player) and Kirsten Pocock to help the players with the finer intricacies of the game and to help them to be tactically more astute. Their expertise made a big difference.
“As from next year the plan is to start our training earlier and to focus more on conditioning and jump training. We will also be entering more competitions and play against more experienced players.”
By Wilhelm de Swardt