Super 8s Finals
28th April 2014
The Super 8s Finals weekend lived up to expectations as some of the top teams in the country battled it out for their respective titles.
Saturday 26th April
U18 Women's Grand Prix Final
The inaugural Women’s U18 National Grand Prix Final saw two of the top junior teams in England, Tameside and Wessex LeAF, go head to head in what was to be an epic encounter. It was Wessex who were quickest out of the blocks, storming to an 8-3 lead at the first technical time out. And this run continued as some nervous errors from Tameside allowed Wessex to stretch out to a 10 point lead at 16-6. With the deficit too large and increasing pressure from the Wessex hitters, there was no way back for Tameside as they lost the first set 25-14.
Wessex continued their strong form into the second set, but a more relaxed Tameside made sure they were right in it at 8-7. With great attacking play from Wessex and supreme defence from Tameside, the lead was going back and forth, but it was Wessex who had a slight advantage at 16-13 and managed to extend their lead to 21-16 with a great serve from Captain Beth Gunter. There was no coming back from Tameside and Wessex moved to a 2-0 lead winning the set 25-19.
Wessex started the third well and looked to be heading to a 3-0 victory, but Tameside’s resilience shone through. A huge run of 9 straight serves from Molly Van Essen gave Tameside the boost they needed as they had a commanding 14-8 lead. Now under pressure, errors from Wessex helped Tameside win the set 25-17 to take the match to a 4th. And they maintained their momentum into the 4th, getting yet another run of serves but this time on sister Sarah Van Essen’s serve. 7 straight serves gave them the lead at 11-7, and they continued to a 10 point advantage to lead 20-10. At 25-16, it went into a decider.
Tameside made the first blow, but a big hit from Lazard brought Wessex back level. With thescores all square at 5-5, Wessex began to pull away with a run of 3 straight points. And they never looked back as a hit by Lazard gave Wessex the final set 15-10, and match 3-2. So nearly a fairytale comeback for Tameside, but a valiant effort from both teams and a great start to a weekend of competition.
Congratulations to MVP: Amelia Stamp (Wessex LeAF)
Women's Super 8s Final (1st leg)
Next saw the first leg of the women’s Super 8 Final between Team Northumbria and Polonia IMKA London. With Northumbria unbeaten this season they were arguably favourites on paper, especially given their recreuitment of big names in their line up including London 2012 players Maria Bertelli, Lynne Beattie and Elizabeth Reid. However Polonia started in impressive form, and a hit from Lazard (playing her second match of the day) gave them an 8-7 lead at the first technical time out. Some great serving by Lazard, hitting by Healy and some errors from Northumbria helped extend their lead to 13-9.
At 19-12, Polonia had opened up a 7 point lead, but Northumbria were not down and out yet. Fighting all the way, they reeled off 5 straight points to come right back in it at 23-21, and then saved 3 set points to level the set at 24-24. A huge hit from Phillips saved yet another set point, and an ace gave them a set point of their own. Unable to convert their first set point, it took big hits from Beattie and then Reid to give Northumbria the first set 28-26, a huge comeback in a set that looked to belong to Polonia.
Both teams had a positive start to the second set, and it was level pegging to 11-11. However an ace by Beattie, supreme defence by Bertelli and a big hit from Ropiak helped Northumbria gain a 4 point lead at 16-12. And they carried this momentum through to take the 2nd set 25-17 and lead 2 sets to 0. Polonia seemed determined to take inspiration from this morning’s five setter and started strongly in the 3rd and, with just 1 point separating the teams at the first technical time out, it was still all to play for.
Once again though it was Team Northumbria who drove forward, stretching to a 16-11 lead. Some fantastic rallies had the crowd engaged, but a serve in the net by Polonia and a great hit by Shipley brought up match point. Converting on their first time of asking, Northumbria took the set 25-16 to take the first leg of the final 3-0. All the pressure will be on Polonia tomorrow to take Northumbria to a golden set, however Northumbria will surely have other ideas as they will look to close out the match 2-0.
Men's Super 8s Final (1st leg)
Team Northumbria men, like their female counterparts, were unbeaten this season making them clear favourites coming into the final match of the day. However with Sheffield coming in to form at the right time, this Men’s Super 8 Final promised to be a great match up. The match started to form, as Northumbria took an early 8-5 lead, but Sheffield were hot on their heels, levelling at 8-8 and matching them point for point. A huge serve from Dami Bakare helped to earn Sheffield a 20-18 lead, but Northumbria stayed within touching distance in what proved to be an epic first set. After 4 set points, it was Team Northumbria who edged out on top taking the first set 28-26.
In a reversal of the first set, it was Sheffield who had found the 8-5 lead at the start of the second, a lead which they managed to extend at the second technical time out to 6 points. Some superb play by Sheffield, in particular the hitters, helped them take the set 25-18 and level the match. Into the third with everything level and there was nothing to choose between the two teams. Sheffield were narrowly ahead 8-7, but with big hitting from Miller and Bakare combined with some brilliant play from Jenkins and Chaney, Sheffield stretch their lead to 17-13. But Northumbria showed why they’re unbeaten this season as they fought back to level the match 17-17. Going point for point, a wild serve by Sheffield 23-23 gave Team Northumbria the only opportunity they needed to take the set 25-23 and lead the match 2-1.
The 4th started as the 3rd had ended, with the two teams going point for point. A huge serve from Dami Bakare edged Sheffield ahead to 13-11. Keeping their noses in front from here, Sheffield took the set 25-19 and the match to a decider. It was Miller this time who managed to put a great run of serves together for Sheffield, helping them get to an early 4-1 lead. With the score at 8-4 at the change of ends, a big upset was on the cards. Staring down the barrel of defeat at 9-6, Northumbria fought back and drew level at 12-12. But a serve in the net and a great block from Sheffield brought up match point, which they converted on the first time of asking. So it’s Sheffield who put an end to Team Northumbria’s supreme winning streak, as they lead 1-0. Can Team Northumbria force a golden set tomorrow? We can’t wait to find out!
Sunday 27th April
Sitting Grand Prix Final
The Sitting Grand Prix Final started proceedings on Sunday, getting the day underway with what turned out to be a thrilling match from start to finish, as the match swung back and forth in favour of East London Lynx and Battleback.
There was nothing to choose between the teams at the start of the match, as Lynx led 8-7 at the first time out. Quick reactions and clever play at the net saw Lynx pull away, to 22-14. Battleback slowly began to reel in the lead, drawing level at 24-24; an achievement in itself. A lift followed by a spike landing just long handed Lynx the first set, however Battleback were full of confidence after pulling back a lead which initially seemed an impossible task.
Lynx carried their winning momentum from the first set into the second, once again leading at the time out 8-5. While Lynx doubled their score to reach 16, Battleback could only add an extra 3 as they trailed 16-8 at the second time out. Unfortunately a second comeback wasn’t to be, as Lynx continued through the motions to wrap up a comfortable second set 25-14.
Battleback had a huge job on their hands to overturn a 2-0 deficit against the reigning champions. They started the third set well, leading for the first time at the technical time out. The set was noticeably more cagey than the first two, with neither team wanting to give away an advantage. Battleback edged at 19-17 and then 21-19. Lynx drew level at 23-23, winning the next point to bring up a match and Championship point. Battleback held their nerve, using all the experience amongst their team, managing to turn things around and send the match into a fourth set, 26-24.
After the disappointment of missing out on their match point in the previous set, Lynx were out of the blocks quickly, storming to a 5-1 lead. Battleback slowly got back into the game, finally pulling level at 12-12. The initiative was wrestled between the teams. A big serve from Walker opened up a narrow 3 point lead for Battleback at 22-19, before they found themselves with the opportunity to take the match into a fifth. They took it at the first time of asking, winning the fourth set 25-20.
The fifth set went point for point, with Battleback taking a narrow 2 point lead into the change of ends. They managed to build on this, increasing it to 12-8. A further two points brought up a match point which they took at the first time of asking. An incredible come back to cap a fantastic season for the Battleback team.
Women's Super 8s Final (2nd leg)
Team Nothumbria women were full of confidence after yesterday’s 3-0 win, leaving Polonia with it all to do. Unlike the 1st leg, Northumbria started the quicker as they opened a 3 point lead at the first technical time out. Polonia were just about managing to stay in touch through some solid hitting from Lazard however one of the stars from last years final, Whitney Phillips, was also starting to up her game, finding the gaps on court to take Northumbria into a 5 point lead at 17-12. Some more high quality attack wrapped up the first set 25-15.
The second set followed suit, with Northumbria moving swiftly into an 8-4 lead. The Polonia hitters couldn’t find a way to hit the floor, as Northumbria capitalised, surging through to 12-5. Polonia continued to work, scrapping for everything they could and saw some reward as they closed the gap to 6 points at 21-15. It wasn’t enough though, as Northumbria secured the second set 25-18.
Polonia came out all guns blazing in the third set, knowing nothing but a win would do. They managed to get themselves into the lead at 5-3 however Northumbria once again found their way back to the top, leading 8-6 at the first time out. It was all square at 12-12 as Polonia did everything they could to put pressure on the opposition. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t have the desired effect, as a big block from Phillips and Johnson took Northumbria into an 18-14 lead. From there, it looked as though it’d be plain sailing however Polonia rallied and levelled the scores at 19-19. A big swing from Phillips then set off a run of 5 serves as Northumbria retained their title and continued their impressive unbeaten run, stretching back over 3 years.
Congratulations to MVP: Whitney Phillips (Team Northumbria)
Men's Super 8s Final (2nd leg)
Sheffield Hallam got leg 2 of the Men’s Super 8s Final underway. It was clear from the off that the match was going to follow a similar pattern as the 1st leg, with neither team giving away any cheap points. It couldn’t have been any closer at the first technical time out, with Northumbria leading 8-7. Some clever hitting by Dalrymple was catching the Northumbria setters short after they were standing deep to receive a succession of huge hits from Bakare. Sheffield had turned things round by the second time out, leading 16-12. They continued to build their lead, securing their first set point at 24-18. A serve out from Northumbria handed Sheffield the first set, leaving Northumbria a mountain to climb.
As expected, set 2 was neck and neck at the start, with Northumbria once again finding themselves 8-7 up at the first time out, and Sheffield once again regaining the initiative shortly after. Bakare was now into his stride, often seeming to find the gaps with ease, partly down to some great setting from Jenkins. At 19-14 up, the set looked to be Sheffield’s. A few runs from Northumbria brought them back within 3 but a long serve from Berndt gave Sheffield a four point cushion. Joel Miller was also getting involved with the massive hitting, launching a huge cross court into the advertising boards to bring up set point. Northumbria managed to nick a couple of points back but were unable to stand firm any longer, losing the second set.
Northumbria started the third set well, with some accurate setting and hitting once again taking them to a first time out lead. Sheffield came back, as per usual, however on this occasion Northumbria managed to stick with them matching point for point all the way through to 20-20. Peter Bakare, not to be out done, showed his prowess as a hitter, levelling the scores at 23-23. Pelletier then came up with the block of the day, single handing creating a wall in front of Dami Bakare’s spike, giving Northumbria their first set point of the day. Bakare didn’t miss second time round, or third, as Sheffield got their first match point. It was all they needed as they closed out the set and match 26-24.
Congratulations to MVP: Alex Jenkins (Sheffield Hallam)