YOUNG volleyball stars from the LeAF Studio in Bournemouth have been crowned champions of the inaugural national grand prix event.
The LeAF girls stormed to victory in the finals of the Volleyball England National U18s Grand Prix.
To take their crown they fought valiantly in five sets against current national U18s’ champions Tameside.
The match was a gripping battle between arguably the strongest junior women’s teams in the country.
Deputy director of the LeAF Studio and former Team GB volleyball captain, Ben Pipes, said: “Not only was this the first National Grand Prix title to be held it also marked the squad’s first victory as a team.
“This follows the individual successes of the majority of the girls who shared gold as part of the South’s team in the UK School Games.
“This grand prix triumph is a result of the hard work and commitment the girls have shown over the season while combining full-time academic studies with full-time training.
“The girls are a credit to themselves and a credit to the LeAF programme.”
The LeAF team – Grace Lazard, Yasmin Kaashoek, Emma Hebbes, Jessica Lane, Maria Georgopou-lou, Jessica Dibden, Charlie Chester, Rachel McNeil, Amelia Smith, Paige Fullerton, Hannah Symonds, Megan Davies, Beth Gunter – gained an early a 2-0 lead in the final but had a fight on their hands when Tameside pulled the lead back and took the game to a fifth set.
In the fifth and final set LeAF showed their true strength to take the national title back to Bournemouth.
The match saw great play from all of the girls but notably, outstanding performances from Emma Hebbes (libero), Grace Lazard (outside spiker) and Jessica Lane (setter).
LeAF Studio provides profes-sional sports coaching alongside academic studies for some of the south’s best young elite athletes.
It is also home to the UK’s only indoor beach volleyball centre and a training base for Team GB and England.