The 2022-23 season was a very special one for the TalTech/Tradehouse women’s team. Ethel Uibo, a member of the women’s team and a student of applied economics at TalTech, briefly summed up the recent season, which brought tears of both sadness and happiness to the women.
First, the season started with a new head coach and staff. We started preparing for the season as early as in the middle of August with general physical training and ball practice. During the season we had three big competitions: Estonian Cup, Optibet Women’s Baltic League, and Estonian Championship.
In the early part of the season, we practised a lot, and as a result, remained undefeated in the first 10 games. Despite the victories, not all games were easy. There was excitement and tension in all the matches. During these games, we managed to play our way to the Estonian Cup final, and ultimately, to the Baltic League Final Four. In the Cup final in December, we faced Viljandi Metall women’s team who we managed to beat 3:0 in an exciting battle for the Estonian Cup title.
In the middle of the season, the game load was quite big, and soon, our team was plagued by injuries. One after another, our very important players were injured. Right at the beginning of the season, our middle blocker was injured and had to miss almost half of the season. In addition, one of our setters was injured, who ended up missing the whole season, which made it very difficult to play practice games. By the middle of the season, we had gotten used to our new head coach Sirelpuu, who was very supportive and, as one of our physiotherapists said, talked as much as necessary while keeping it as short as possible during time-outs.
After the Cups, we had some rest, but then, the Baltic League games started again. We managed to place second in the main tournament of the Baltic League, which gave us the opportunity to host the Optibet Women’s Baltic League Final 4 tournament on our home court – the TalTech Sports Club. In addition to the advantage of being on our home court, we were cheered on by our lovely and supportive fans. The Final 4 turned out to be very tight – three of the four games went to five sets, which meant that the teams were very evenly matched. Unfortunately, we had to accept a painful 2:3 loss against Kaunas in the semi-finals. The only thing separating us from the final was the foot of a Kaunas player between the floor and the ball. In the match for the third and fourth place, we faced Riga Volleyball School. Both teams were extremely competitive, as the Riga Volleyball School also lost to Jonavos Women’s Team 2:3 in the 2nd semi-final. Thus, the two teams who had lost very narrowly went into the battle for the third place in the Baltic League. This match turned out to be very tense and was finally settled in the fifth set, where we had to accept a 15/12 victory of the Riga Volleyball School.
The two painful defeats led us to chase the Estonian Championship title. However, before the semi-finals of the Estonian Championship, one of our hitters, who had been a great contributor in every game, was injured. In the semi-final series we played against Barrus/Võru. The semi-final series lasted until three matches were won. Compared to the other teams, Võru plays in a slightly different style, so it is always difficult to play against them. However, we still managed to get the three wins we needed in four games and reached the final.
The final series, which is played until three matches have been won, also proved to be emotionally draining for us. Throughout the whole season, we had never lost to the Bigbank/Tartu women’s team, but in the first two matches we had to concede 3:2 to the women from Tartu. After this defeat, we had to face a third game. We had to find the confidence and determination that we could beat Tartu. We were also greatly motivated by the Selver/TalTech team that became the Estonian champions the same week. We had always kept our fingers crossed for them in the final series. In the third, very tense match, we finally managed to beat the Tartu team 3:2, so it was easier to face the fourth game, which we won 3:0. The fifth and decisive battle took place at TalTech. This game also turned out to be a real thriller. First, we lost two sets, but there was not time for a pity party because we had to pull ourselves together for the third set. We managed to recover well, and as a result, we won the third and fourth sets. Finally, we went into the fifth decisive set, where we were trailing 6:9, but we still did not give up hope and fought until the end. When the ball flew out of the hands of the opponents in the last rally, we felt a real triumph and exhilaration because we managed to become Estonian champions on our home turf despite the huge problems and constant feeling like we were falling behind. All the work and effort were worth it in the end!