11 May 2024

Women's CEV Nations Cup 2024 preview: England's globetrotters united by Spanish mission

Women's CEV Nations Cup 2024 preview: England's globetrotters united by Spanish mission

All roads lead to Spain for the start of the Women’s CEV BeachVolley Nations Cup 2024 tournament, even if the respective journeys to Madrid for England’s team members have been anything but short.

All roads lead to Spain for the start of the Women’s CEV BeachVolley Nations Cup 2024 tournament, even if the respective journeys to Madrid for England’s team members have been anything but short. 

The competing quartet have travelled from around the world in order to take to the court, due to a combination of their individual and training circumstances, but will be reunited at Parque Deportivo Peurta de Hierro to fly the flag of St George. 

Experienced Brimingham 2022 Commonwealth Games athlete Daisy Mumby leads the way in clocking up the air miles, having travelled from Australia, where she currently resides, to train in Italy before flying into the Spanish capital. 

Playing partner Kirsty Starr – who was born in the UK, grew up in California and is now honing her skills on the South Coast in Bournemouth – has joined up with Daisy in Bibione, on the Eastern tip of Italy, before heading for the competition. 

England’s other pairing of Anaya Evans and Katie Keefe, meanwhile, have been finalising their own preparations at the Grand Canyon University (GCU) in Arizona, where the former coaches and the latter plays. 

They are then heading for the Iberian Peninsular to meet up with their team-mates for a final training session on Sunday ahead of the start of competition itself, which runs from Monday to Wednesday (13th to 15th May). 

All four are excited by the challenge where they have been placed in Pool C of the preliminary phase alongside Bulgaria, Cyprus, Israel, Norway and hosts Spain and will be accompanied by two coaches, Sam Dunbavin and Nico Gleed. 

Daisy and Kirsty first came together as a partnership in March when they entered the Beach Pro Tour Futures Collangatta in Australia, taking the eventual winners Fejes and Milutinovic to three sets in the pool stages before losing to third placed team Suzuka and Reika in the round of 12. 

Both are excited about their potential as a pair, despite the two being based on opposite sides of the globe and their relative lack of court time together. 

“For me, the distance is the biggest hurdle because we showed when we played together we are capable of good results,” said Daisy. “The fact that Kirsty was prepared to fly all the way out to Australia shows her dedication and it worked out well for what was our first tournament. 

“We have had some more time together in Italy to get to know each other’s game a bit better and then we will meet up with the other girls on Sunday as well. 

“I’ve played there (at the Nations Cup venue) a couple of times before, but Kirsty hasn’t, so it’s nice to get to know the venue where you play, particularly as we have been practicing in windy conditions and this is more inland, so likely to be stiller.” 

Kirsty added: “Daisy contacted me to play in the Futures event and I was able to make it happen with the help of some funding help from my university. 

“We played together in that tournament and then I had to come back, so it is good to have been paired again or this event where we are representing England and playing alongside Anaya and Katie too.

“Even though it’s quite a new partnership, I feel we have a good on-court chemistry – and that is often half the battle.” 

Daisy started playing indoor and, while at Sussex University, she got involved at the city’s Yellowave club (now a Volleyball England Beach Volleyball Development Centre). 

She later moved to London to train at Crystal Palace and went on to partner Jess Grimson in competing at a home Commonwealths. 

“I experienced this tournament in Budapest last year and it was great fun being part of a wider team,” said Daisy. 

“We want to win and go through to the next round, of course we do, but it is important to keep our expectations for each game realistic. 

“I think we have a good chance of claiming a podium place at the event, but we have to push to be the best that we can be at all times because it can be to drop your levels if you don’t stay focused.” 

Kirsty played indoor from the age of ‘eight or nine’ and progressed through youth, high school and college volleyball, playing for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) club side. 

Joining a San Francisco community group, she soon developing a love for playing on the sand at Ocean Beach and has subsequently moved back over to England to study for a masters at Bournemouth University. 

“Sometimes playing beach can feel much more of an individual sport, when it’s just you, than when it’s indoor, but in this tournament it’s about the four of you,” she said. 

“That’s why it’s a really great format because we’re wanting our other pair to do well, and are taking a big interest in their matches, rather than just our own.  

“I’m really looking forward to it because I’m beach obsessed right now and this is really my first full season playing it at this level, where I’ll be looking to play in the top UKBT events this summer.” 

While Katie and Anaya’s partnership is completely new – they have never played competitively before – it is one borne out of a ‘unique’ situation. 

With Katie’s regular partner Isabelle Tucker unable to play as she recovers from injury, the two have been able train together regularly as fellow Phoenix residents. 

Katie has been playing for GCU, while Anaya is an assistant coach of the volleyball squad and alumni, meaning they know each other well, even if their relationship has previously been in a different guise. 

“Even though we have only had as short amount of time together as a pair, because we are in the same place, we have been able to make the most of it,” said Katie. 

“We have put a lot of effort into it and it has been fun. Anaya already knows how I play, having coached me all season, and we have made the switch from coach and player to partners pretty well. 

“I have a lot of respect for what she has achieved and I think that has been mutual. I have really enjoyed playing with someone who knows the game so well and likes to innovate.” 

Anaya added: “I’ve really enjoyed the process of taking down that coach barrier, from being coach to being an equal partner and it has happened pretty quickly. 

“We are both good players who want to train hard, have ideas and want to hold each other accountable. Being a little bit older, I have been through the GCU programme and she can ask me about elements of it and her development. 

“I’m always thinking how I can help the person next to me. It’s been an honour to coach Katie and will be to play with her too. 

“We have some family and friends coming out so it’s going to be nice to have that little community when we are out there. We always have strong support online, but it will be great to have people there in person, as well as our coaches and teammates.” 

Katie began her volleyball career playing for Richmond Volleyball Club where her sister played before her and, after some initial reticence, she took to the sport with flying colours. 

It was while coming through the talent pathway of cadets and juniors that she was asked to give beach volleyball a go and has since played with the likes of Vicky Palmer and, for five years, Isabelle Tucker. 

Katie said: “We have all tried to stay in communication as a group, despite us living in different places, and we’ve had group calls. 

“It’s always a great feeling to represent your country and it is not something I ever take lightly. It is great opportunity to have so many games in a short space of time against some talented opponents. 

“Anaya and I have talked about how we can perform and I think the main thing for us is to stay process focused and then our outcomes will follow on from that. 

“If we can play to the best of our ability, then that is how we know we can take on any team across the other side of the net.” 

Anaya first played volleyball at Georgeham Primary school in North Devon under first coach Denise Austin and has played around the world with various partners, in addition to studying and graduating in the US. 

She became the first British woman to secure a beach volleyball scholarship with a US college, led GCU to two national championship appearances as captain prior to taking on her coaching role and has also found time to play on the World Tour alongside Daisy. 

“I always wanted to be in the Olympics from a young age, no matter what the sport, and I’ve always has the drive to see how far I can go and it’s taken me some amazing places and I’ve met some fantastic people,” she said. 

“Every athlete wants to win and that’s why they train so hard for it, but when you know people really well, like I do with Daisy and Katie, the struggles they have been through to get where they are it gives me great satisfaction to see the success they have had in the game and them fulfilling themselves.” 

Matches can be watched live on EuroVolley TV (subscription only), while you can stay in touch via our social media on TwitterFacebookInstagram and TikTok.