My IRC Experience 2023 – Vakare Zalieckaite

Each year we ask a number of our Torexe youngsters to report back on their SW IRC experience, today we focus on Vakare Zalieckaite (SW Number 7) from the U17 Squad.

Back again, but this year was my last. The weekend started around 1pm on Friday the 26th of May when our assistant coach, Floe, picked me up in her fancy new hire car. On our journey to Kettering , we stopped at Tiverton services to pick up Heidi and Katie. Whilst waiting for them, Floe and I had a Burger King break. Here I grabbed matching Burger King crowns for the three of us. The rest of the journey consisted of fun conversations and a lot of singing (mainly from me).

We arrived in Kettering around 6pm that evening, just in time for our large reservation consisting of both the girls u15 and u17 teams. I ordered a meat feast pizza, had many glasses of apple tango, and had a large ice cream for dessert. Finally, we got to the hotel and had a quick team talk where we had our brand-new kit presented to us and signed the team photos that Floe and Dave so kindly made for us.

We woke up early the next morning to have a nice filling breakfast to provide us energy for the busy day ahead of us. Our first match was against Yorkshire, setting us off to a good start with our 2-0 win. We then played against Northwest and East, winning 2-0 and 2-1. This left us at the top of our pool. We finished the day with another team meal in a family friendly pub, where both boys teams had eaten just before us. Here I had a chicken and bacon burger, and a delicious brownie. Leaving the restaurant almost in a food coma, we came back to the hotel for our evening debrief. After that we had a bit of time to relax and hang out with our teammates before we went to sleep.

Luckily, this year my alarm went off, so my room had plenty of time to pack up and eat breakfast. Our first match was at 9am in the semi finals against West Midlands. Whilst we tried our best, we lost this match 1-2. We then played in the 3-4 playoffs against Northwest. Despite having won against them in the pool matches, we finished this one 0-2. Everyone played their best and the whole team, bench and coaches included, were part of the game happening on court. All the teams this year were incredibly talented, we placed 4th out of 9. This is an amazing result.

We finished our day with a final debrief, the last one of the season and with my south west team. We all said our goodbyes, a few of us with teary eyes, and went our separate ways. Whilst I’m sad that I can’t return next year, these two years were an incredible opportunity and have left me with memories I will never forget. I have loved every moment of it, from the monthly training sessions and meeting talented players from all over the southwest, to cheering my team on and playing with them in competitive matches.

I want to say thank you to Dave Gunter (head coach) for having me on his team for these past two years, it was a pleasure to be taught by you. Thank you, Floe, for supporting our team as our assistant coach and teammate from my home team, and for driving us to and from Kettering. I also want to thank Dave Reece for all his commitment behind the scenes. Finally, a massive thank you to my team and those who didn’t make the final selection.

You guys made this experience happen and I’m so grateful to have met you all. Especially our captain, Ena, having played with you last year, it’s amazing to see how much you’ve progressed. Congratulations to you all for being the best team out there, I hope to see you all again soon. Whether that’s on the same side of the net or the other. Good luck with your volleyball futures, and next year’s team, you’ll smash it. I love you all.

Vakare Zalieckaite

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