The Friday Preview
21st April 2017
After the serenity of the Easter break, competitive action resumes across the country this week with several promotion and relegation issues across the 18 divisions still waiting to be settled.
This weekend also sees the Super 8s play-offs reach the semi-final stages with IBB Polonia London’s hopes of completing a double-double very much alive in the men’s competition.
The London side triumphed in both the league and cup last season, overcoming Team Northumbria on both occasions. Having already snaffled this year’s Cup competition, courtesy of a 3-1 win over Sheffield Hallam, four matches now stand between them and the chance of repeating a feat last achieved by London Malory in 2005 (who subsequently went on to make it a triple-double by winning it all again in 2006).
Wessex stand in IBB Polonia London’s way in the semi-finals. The teams will meet on both Saturday and Sunday at Polonia’s Brentford home. Meanwhile, far further north, Team Northumbria will host Sheffield Hallam across the two days.
Wessex and Sheffield garnered seven and eight wins respectively during the regular season and will both be up against it versus the top two seeds who finished well clear in the league, courtesy of Polonia’s 11 wins and Northumbria’s 12.
Sheffield will be out for revenge against Northumbria, having exited the competition at their hands at the semi-final stage last year, enduring a bruising 3-0, 3-0 defeat. Polonia were similarly clinical last year, disposing of London Lynx by the same score. For the winners, a two-legged final at the National Volleyball Centre on May 6-7 beckons (tickets for the finals are available here).
Over in the women’s Super 8 semi-finals, all the action will be in the north of the country. Team Northumbria host London Pulsepoint Orcas in a repeat of this season’s Cup final while Team Durham entertain Polonia SideOut London.
In last season’s semi-finals, Northumbria and Polonia progressed without dropping a set against Tendring and Wessex respectively. The emergence of Team Durham has changed the dynamics of the top division though. Last year’s Division 1 champions have quickly become a major player in the Super 8, losing just two matches – both to the mightily powerful, and undefeated, Team Northumbria.
Just like Polonia in the men’s competition, Northumbria have a cup and league double in their sights, having already pipped the Orcas 3-2 in a thrilling Cup final. They are well versed in such feats though, having won the double for three consecutive seasons up until 2015.
Dropping down to Men’s Division 1, Richmond will secure the promotion play-off spot if they can triumph against bottom side Manchester Marvels on Sunday. Slip up and Tendring will contest the play-off against London Docklands instead.
The relegation picture in Women’s Division 1 was clarified last night after Herts beat Team Essex Trinity 3-1. That priceless win pulls Herts clear of Worthing who are now consigned to the relegation play-off with one game still to play.
In Men’s Division 2 North, Coventry & Warwick Riga have to do what no-one has managed this season and beat Sheffield 2 on Sunday if they are to avoid the relegation play-off.
There’s all to play for in Men’s Division 2 South with three teams still in contention for the promotion play-off spot. New Forest’s chances rest on beating the champions, London Aces, on Saturday. Even then, City of Bristol would come past them with just one win from their two fixtures on Sunday, against Tendring and Team Essex Estonians. If both City of Bristol and New Forest slip up, London Lynx 2 will be the team to benefit.
Women’s Division 2 North is even closer in terms of the race for the promotion play-off spot. Tameside and Team Sunderland are both on 37 points but the Wearsiders have the marginal advantage, courtesy of a +18 set difference (compared to Tameside’s +17) and having won two sets more. Both sides are at home on Saturday; Tameside entertain Newcastle Staffs while Team Sunderland host Darkstar Derbyshire.
Further still down the pyramid, Telford can secure the Women’s Division 3 Central title if they dispose of their local rivals, Black Country, on Saturday. On the same day, Sussex Dolphins can clinch the Women’s Division 3 South-East play-off spot by taking just a set off 3rd placed Richmond.
Finally, spare a thought for University of Nottingham in Women’s Division 3 North. With a 17-1 record this season, it’s not unreasonable for them to think that promotion was a foregone conclusion. However, Leeds could yet overtake them on Sunday if they can beat both 8th placed Ashfield Vipers and 3rd placed York Falcons and lose no more than two sets in the process.