Success underpinned by solid foundations at Leeds Gorse
8th April 2021
With the excitement around volleyball’s long-awaited return building, the 2019/20 Men’s and Women’s National Volleyball League (NVL) title winners from each league are taking a trip down memory lane to reminisce on their triumphant season.
Next up are the Men’s Division 1 reigning champions Leeds Gorse. Following their move to a newly built venue in 2016, the club has been able to strengthen their foundations and now has a rich vein of talented athletes coming through. The Men’s NVL success in 2019/20 was the culmination of the club’s hard work in recent years, says Dave Speers, President, Secretary and Men’s First Team Coach of Leeds Gorse.
Tell us a bit about your club, its ambitions and history.
Leeds Gorse Volleyball Club was formed in 1972 by PE students at the City of Leeds & Carnegie teacher training college. In 1975 it amalgamated with Leeds Polytechnic and was coached by George Bulman who later became a director of Volleyball England. The club’s men’s and women’s teams progressed through the national leagues and in 1979 became the city's representative teams under the title Leeds Athletic Institute. Leeds had always been a multi-cultural adult club playing within the further education facilities available within the city but was always limited by hall time and costs. In 2016, the club moved into the newly built Ruth Gorse Academy. Since then, the club has grown rapidly and now runs eight adult teams and two junior teams.
Last year we formally announced the link between our club and Leeds University VC to offer their best men’s and women’s players more training and competition in the NVL. This means that anyone who makes the grade gets access to six hours training and two to three matches a week.
The next area of development is the forming of a Gorse Academies Trust volleyball league progressing to a Leeds junior league.
How does your team’s 2020 title win rank against your club’s other major achievements?
Winning the league in 2019-20 season was the culmination of five years of hard work and dedication from our club coaches. The men’s first team today has just one player remaining from our last season in the top tier in 2015-16. Playing in the Super League is one of the first goals our club has achieved under its new title.
Aside from winning the league, tell us about some of your favourite memories from that season.
The best memories are based around the junior players and young adults who I have had the pleasure to coach. Our men’s first team had seven players from my Leeds University team. That season they won the BUCS Division 1 North title, gaining promotion to the Northern Premier Division. They were also runners up in the Student Cup final. Our U15 girls’ team, in their first season as a team, qualified, undefeated, to the last eight of the Volleyball England Cup. I also became a Grandad in December of 2019.
How would you describe your side’s style of play and greatest strength? Did you have a star player?
Our style of play is very traditional. However, service and blocking are given a high priority within our training schedule. We are an above-average height team so like to press this at every opportunity within a game.
Regarding a star player, we have a number of them. This gave us the edge over our opponents that season as focusing on just one opponent makes game planning much easier. However, our captain Roland Herczeg would be an asset to any team in our country.
Who was your toughest match against and what made them formidable opponents?
Our toughest matches were fought in the Cup. The game against Durham University (2018-19 Cup winners) was a very good display of powerful attacks and speed of play. We lost 3-1 but gained a great deal of confidence in the way we competed with a top team from the Super League.
Which club was your favourite to play against, and why?
The Miners Doncaster were our favourite club to play against in the 2019-20 season. They’re our local rivals and have a number of players who have been part of our team over the past years. They also competed in Division 1 of the NVL. They have a strong Polish influence and like to play a power game. When they get consistency, they are a force to be reckoned with and could be title contenders next season.
If you could pick any player, past or present, to join your team, who would it be and why?
That is a very tough question. As someone who has been involved with this sport since 1970, I have had the pleasure to train with or play against some of our country’s top players. I would say the most exciting player I have ever seen and would have loved to be part of our team was a Finnish international player in 1983 called “Mouri Lepperman”. He was unstoppable as an outside power hitter as he had the highest jump I had ever seen and could hit a ball harder than anyone could control. An exceptional athlete.
What are you most looking forward to about the NVL’s return?
Getting back to working with our players. Taking on the challenge of making Leeds Gorse a club to be proud of playing for. Offering all levels of play to anyone who wants to get involved with our sport in all its disciplines, indoor, sitting and beach volleyball.