Super 8s round-up
23rd October 2017
All the action from the latest round of matches at the elite level of English volleyball, the Super 8s...
Men’s Super 8s
Malory Eagles began their home campaign with a battling performance against local rivals London Lynx and came out on top with a 3-2 victory. Following the season opening loss away to title favourites Team Northumbria, Malory were eager to get a victory or find themselves near the bottom of the table.
George Peto and Joe Zablocki, legends of the game in England, were among the spectators and later would later say how much they enjoyed a spectacular match.
Lynx came out of the blocks firing with heavy hitting from Jackson Bantle, one of the Lynx’s American contingent, getting the visitors off to an impressive start. They led 8-4 at the first Technical Time Out (TTO) and Malory cut the lead to 16-13 at the next break. Both teams were siding out effectively and making errors from the service line but Lynx kept their nose in front. A double change by Malory, bringing on Trodden and Weninger, breathed life into the team and helped Malory close to 21-24, however Lynx took the set with a block.
Malory took an early lead in set 2 and reached the TTO at 8-6. They extended their lead to 4 at the second TTO on a good service run by Guy Farquharson, which included a service ace. Several unforced errors from Malory saw Lynx close the gap and take the lead at 17-16. The errors continue from Malory and they went on to lose the set to 20. Jackson Bantle was the go-to spiker for Lynx and continued to pose problems for the home side with heavy spikes and solid passing.
Set three followed a similar pattern to set two with neither team leading by more than a point. Malory reached the first TTO in the lead, a lead they would not relinquish. They built on the lead to reach the second TTO leading by four on a good service run from Trodden. Malory were siding out with great fluency and pulled a set back by 25-20.
Malory kept up the momentum and a clinical performance saw The Eagles send the match to a deciding set with a score of 25-17. The highlight of the set was the link up with Ashley Trodden and Middle Hitter Alex Bialokoz.
Lynx took an early lead in set 5 but Malory closed the gap with the side change coming with Lynx leading 8-6. Malory closed the gap and took a lead, which eventually took them to match point at 14-13. Lynx denied them on three occasions before the home side closed out the match at 17-15 to take the win.
Malory coach, Jefferson Williams, said: "We knew Lynx would be tough opponents and this proved to be the case. Errors cost us in set 2 and we knew that we needed to serve tougher if we were to have any chance on block defence. Our side out play was good so we knew we would be in the game. We showed great character and spirt to come back from 0-2 down so credit to the players.”
There were some excellent performances on both sides with London Lynx’s MVP going to Jackson Bantle, while Alex Bialokoz took the MVP honours for Malory Eagles.
In a clash of the titans, this weekend saw undefeated Team Northumbria go up against the current English champions IBB Polonia London.
Northumbria came out on top to maintain their perfect start to the season. The North East powerhouse started strongly and won the first set to 14 points. Polonia improved in the second and began to cut out the errors, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Northumbria who took the second as well, to 19 points.
Polonia’s improvement continued and they registered a set of their own by winning the third to 20 points. The reigning champions were aiming for an impressive comeback and matched Northumbria for points in the early stages of the fourth set. Polonia couldn’t keep it up though and a positive start to the set was lost as they collapsed to lose the set 25-15.
Polonia’s head coach Piotr Graban said his players were not to blame for the defeat.
"I take full responsibility for the loss, because having such a young squad, they needed better preparation,” he said. “I am aware I could have made some small adjustments which would have made a difference, but it was too late. Knowing this and having the ability to implement those changes will help us to regain our winning ways.”
If Team Northumbria were delighted to beat the champions, they couldn’t dwell on it for too long as they faced Team BU Wessex the following day. They showed no signs of fatigue from their exploits as they recorded a straight sets victory.
A well-fought first set was won to 20 points, while Northumbria underlined their class in the second cruising to victory to just 12 points. Wessex came back fighting in the third set but Northumbria held off any fightback to win to 17.
Giants of the game in this country, Team Northumbria are top of the league with four wins out of four and have only conceded one set. Last season, Northumbria topped the regular league season, only suffering two defeats, before suffering semi-final heartbreak in the playoffs to Sheffield Hallam. Their blistering start indicates they have a point to prove and will be aiming for the title this year.
Women’s Super 8s
Birmingham Volleyball Club 1 continued their impressive start to life in the Women’s Super 8s, with their second victory in just their third game. Having struggled in their opening match against Wessex, the Midlanders have bounced back brilliant.
Their win last week against Tendring was followed up this weekend with a 3-1 victory over fellow promoted side Oxford Students. The pair shared the opening two sets but Birmingham found an extra gear to win the next two to 25 and 17.
The result highlighted how differently the promoted sides have fared this year. While Oxford are bottom with just one set win, Birmingham are flying high in third behind the two North East heavyweights.
Team Durham have won all four of their games without dropping a set. On Saturday, they defeated TeamBU Wessex but it was not an easy battle. Wessex lost the first to 19 points but never got deflated and improved throughout the match. The second set was lost to 21, while the third was the tightest set at 25-23. Wessex could take heart from the performance and proved to themselves that at their best, they can match the top sides.
Unfortunately for them, when Wessex faced Team Northumbria the day after, they could only reach that level fleetingly. A lacklustre first set from Wessex saw Northumbria power to victory 25-16.
Wessex rallied in the second and went toe-to-toe with their opposition but were edged out 27-25. Their exertions over the weekend seemed to catch up with Wessex in the third as they were easily beaten 25-13 to finish the game off. Wessex will not have a tougher weekend during the season and demonstrated the level they can reach. If they can take that into the rest of their games, they should hastily climb the table.
Northumbria, meanwhile stay in second. They are just one point behind local rivals Durham, on virtue of having won their season opener 3-2. On November 4, the unstoppable force meets the immovable object: Team Northumbria vs. Team Durham