Rachel backs volleyball to be a big hit at the Olympics

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SHEFFIELD’s Rachel Laybourne says the Great Britain women’s volleyball team are set to cause a few surprises this summer.

Laybourne, who will celebrate her 30th birthday tomorrow, is one of the leading lights of the squad.

And the former Meadowhead and All Saints school student is adamant that tickets to the volleyball will be a very popular purchase when the Games begin in London on July 27.

She said: “I often wonder what kind of sport people think volleyball is.

“When they come to see it everyone always has the same reaction about how dynamic it is. It’s a real confrontational sport, just with no physical contact.

“As a team we play with a sense of fun. We’ve been through a lot together and we’re really close as a squad. I think that comes across when we’re on the court.

“We beat Peru in Sheffield recently, who are world ranked 17.

“It showed that we genuinely deserve to be in London and aren’t just taking up the home nation spot.

“We can compete with anybody.”

The women’s squad were controversially turned down for funding by UK Sport in 2010 whereas the men’s programme received its share of the lottery money to help prepare for the Olympics.

Since then the team have been supported by a host of businesses and institutions in Sheffield, which has allowed them to still be based in the city when on international duty.

Laybourne said: “I’m so proud of Sheffield for the way it has got behind us.

“People have said to me before ‘why Sheffield’, but why not? We get great support here and have brilliant facilities.”