NVL: women's leagues half-term round-up
21st December 2017
Women’s Super 8s
There’s a familiar look at the top of the women’s game as Team Durham and Team Northumbria lead the way. Durham top the table with 20 points from eight games, while their rivals Northumbria sit second with a two-point deficit but a game in hand.
The pair met in the Super 8s playoff final last year with Durham taking the glory and ending Northumbria’s five-year reign as champions. The North East volleyball powerhouses are the heavy favourites to take the crown again this year. When the sides met in November, Northumbria recorded a resounding straight-sets victory to just 11, 9, and 14 points in each set.
Team Northumbria recorded a perfect regular league season last year winning 14 out of 14 matches, but have not been infallible this season which will give hope to all their challengers. Polonia SideOut London downed them in an epic five-setter last month.
Polonia are one of the dark horses of the division proving they can match the top teams on their day and have lost only one of their five games so far. Their only defeat was to Durham in October who they competed well with for two sets in a three-nil defeat. Polonia lie fourth in the table. Could they be a surprise package and make an assault on the Super 8s playoffs?
Just ahead of them in third are Pulsepoint London Orcas. The team from the capital have 17 points from 9 games and their only defeats have come at the hands of fellow top sides Durham (twice), Northumbria and Polonia. Three of those four defeats were five set matches, showing Orcas are not too far away toppling the best sides in the division.
Tendring VC Ladies sit in fifth position after playing six games, which is where they finished last season. One of last year’s promoted teams Birmingham Volleyball Club 1 are a place behind in sixth. The Midlanders have fared well after stepping up to the top tier. It can take time to adjust to the increase in standard and while they have struggled in some matches, Birmingham have notched two wins from their five games.
Team BU Wessex are in seventh position with four points from their eight games. They will be looking for victories against the teams around them in the league to move into the safety of mid-table and better their sixth-place finish last year.
Oxford Students prop up the table with six straight defeats. Their task of climbing off the bottom will be even more difficult after they were docked three points.
Women’s Division 1
They say winning is a habit and that has certainly been the case for Sheffield Hallam. Having won the title in Division 2 North last year, Hallam have continued their winning streak in Division 1. Eight straight victories has seen them rocket to the top of the league and look favourites to gain promotion to the Super 8s.
Promoted teams have taken the division by storm as Cambridge VC and Anglia Ruskin University, who finished second in Division 2 South last season, are chasing Sheffield Hallam down. They sit second in the table with six wins from seven matches.
Cambridge’s only defeat was inflicted by Malory Eagles. The London team are unbeaten so far but have only played five games and lie fourth. The new year will see an unbeaten record fall early as Sheffield Hallam meet Malory Eagles on January 13. What will happen when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?
Herts VC are third in Division one which is a remarkable turnaround from last season. They only recorded two victories last campaign but already have four this year. They have played nine games and may get caught by the chasing pack but should be proud of their efforts this term.
Heading the chasing pack is another promoted side Beach Academy (North Devon) in fifth. With four wins from seven, they’ve made the step up with ease. Team South Wales, who slipped out of this Super 8s last year, are in a stable sixth position. As well as three victories, they gave table-toppers Sheffield Hallam two very close matches. They took a set off the ladies from the Steel City in their home match and were edged out in five sets in the reverse fixture.
City of Salford VC are a place behind in seventh, having also been relegated from the Super 8s last year. Having not won any matches last year, they will be delighted to have returned to winning ways with two victories in this campaign so far.
Last year’s mid-table sides Bristol VC 1 and New Forest Ladies have dipped in form so far this year and occupy eighth and ninth respectively. They’ll both be looking to kick on in the new year and pull away from the bottom.
Team Essex Trinity lie bottom of the league, having played less games than the teams around them have every chance of catching the sides above them. Their highlight of the season so far was their sole victory over Bristol VC.
Women’s Division 2 North
Having dropped only two sets this term after an astonishing 10 games, University of Nottingham Volleyball Women are the NVL's form side. They top the league with the maximum number of points of 30. What makes this even more remarkable is that they were promoted from the third tier last season.
Tameside are in second position, which is where they finished last campaign. They have six wins from nine, with two of those losses to Nottingham, meaning they have got their two most difficult fixtures out the way. Just behind them are DARKSTAR Derbyshire in third. They have built on a strong campaign last year which saw them finish fourth and have six wins from seven this term. Expect them to battle to overtake Tameside in second.
Newcastle Staffs Ladies sit fourth but have played more games than their nearest challengers. They are Coventry & Warwick Riga who have four wins from six and 14 points. They will be looking to take full advantage to their good start to the season and push for a spot in the top four, or maybe even higher, bettering their fifth-place finish of 2016-17.
Leeds RGA VC have stepped up comfortably after promotion last year and are sixth with three wins from eight games. The biggest surprise in the division is Team Sunderland. After a brilliant third-place finish last year they have slipped down the pecking order this year with as many defeats this campaign as they suffered in the whole of last season. Will the new year bring a return to form? If it does, expect to see the Wearsiders ascend the league.
Manchester Marvels have a symmetrical record with three wins and three defeats and sit eighth in the league. They have also played University of Nottingham and Tameside once already, so have got some tricky fixtures out the way so are well set to rise up the rankings.
Telford Ladies are one place off the bottom in ninth but will be positive after being promoted to this level this year. This term they have two victories are have proven they have the quality to compete with the teams around them. Loughborough Students prop up the table after a very difficult term with 10 straight defeats. They’ve only shown glimpses of what they can do and will be aiming to get their first victory in the new year.
Women’s Division 2 South
Birmingham Volleyball Club 2 have excelled this term having finished third in the league last year, just outside the promotion spots. They top the table this term and have a perfect record of eight wins from eight. Staying at the top of the heap won’t be a formality though.
London Inter Women, who were promoted from the third tier last season, and Oxford Ladies, who were just two points off Birmingham last year, are chasing them in second and third respectively. Both clubs have 20 points with six wins from eight. Birmingham have beat both of them but will have to keep up their high standards to see off any challenges.
Ashcombe Dorking are fourth and have shown a clear improvement this term. They only won seven games last season but have notched five wins already in the current campaign. Reading Aces sit fifth just two points behind. While promoted side Sussex Dolphins have adapted to life in the second tier comfortably, recording four wins and four losses to lie in sixth. Another promoted side, Cardiff Falcons are a place behind with two wins and have picked up some form towards the end of the year. They’ll be hoping to keep up momentum when they return to action on January 14 in a tough fixture against Oxford Ladies.
Bristol VC 2 have only played five games so far and although they are currently ninth, a solid campaign last season suggests they will move up the table in 2018. South Hants have endured a difficult time after stepping up to Division 2 by winning a third-tier title last season. They have lost all their nine matches but will take heart from the fact they have regularly taken sets in matches as they search for their maiden victory.
Women’s Division 3 North
Over halfway through their season, York Falcons sit top after playing ten matches. This is not a surprise as the Falcons were third last year and will be aiming to take the title this campaign. Their only slip up came against Hull Thunder who sit third in the table.
Hull have won six from eight and will be hoping to overtake Wirral Wasps in second who have 24 points, with seven wins from ten matches. Wirral have already played all their games against their two rivals at the top, winning once, so will be hoping to take full advantage of any slips up from their fellow contenders.
New team to the NVL, Sheffield Honeybees have put together an excellent campaign so far. Six games have yielded four wins and result in a fourth-place spot for Christmas. Notably, their two defeats have only come against teams in the top three.
Chester Amazons are fifth at the break, with four wins from seven matches. They finished fourth last year and will aiming to reach those heights again this year with good performances in 2018. Haughton Darlington are on par as they sit sixth in the table, the position they finished last season. It’s tight in the mid-table region and any of those clubs could seriously boost their position with wins against teams around them.
The bottom three teams all have one victory each. Manchester Marvels 2 head that mini-group but have played more matches than the teams around them who are Leeds RGA Panthers in eighth and Team Sunderland 2 in ninth. Leeds beat a higher placed Darlington so will have confidence they can take advantage of their games in hand and get into mid-table. Team Sunderland 2 beat Leeds for their sole victory and also took Wirral Wasps the distance this term. It’s very tight at the bottom of the league and it’s difficult to predict who will end up last come the end of the season!
Women’s Division 3 Central
Just ten points separate top from bottom come the festive period in Division 3 Central. Tamworth Spartans are top of the tree with 17 points from seven matches. The Spartans finished third last year and have continued their form so far this term. They’ll be confident of another top three finish and hopeful it could be a title-winning season.
Ashfield Vipers who have moved into the central region from the north for this season, have found success in their new territory. They lie second after winning half of their eight games. The teams just below do have games in hand so will look to overtake them but the Vipers are having a much better time that last year and will look to build on early momentum. The chasers include Lincoln Cannons and Norwich Spikers in third and fourth respectively.
The Spikers are undefeated but have only played four matches, while the Cannons have four wins from five. Expect at least one of these teams, if not both, to challenge for the championship come the new year.
Black Country VC are in mid-table fifth position, winning half of their six matches. They’ve only lost to teams above them so far this term so should expect to improve on their sixth-placed finish last season. Nottingham Rockets 1 are in sixth this term after playing six games and gaining two wins, both against bottom team RAF Hawks.
Northampton, who are seventh at Christmas, are the division’s surprise package. Their lowly position is due to having only played three matches. They are undefeated and have wins over both the league’s top two. Can Northampton make a charge for the title, or will playing catch up in the fixtures see them fall away?
Peterborough Harriers Ladies are one off the bottom with their one victory coming against the division’s bottom team, the winless RAF Hawks. These two looks set to fight it out to stay off the bottom of the league.
Women’s Division 3 South East
Richmond VB have progressed from last season when they finished third, to be the leaders this Christmas. They’re over halfway through their campaign with nine wins from ten matches and have opened up a six-point gap at the top. Southampton Volleyball Club Women 2 sit in second position with seven wins from eight, only tasting defeat once this term which was to the league leaders.
Sussex Dolphins 2 occupy third position, winning half of their eight games. They finished second in the division last year so will aiming to match their with a strong 2018. They head the teams in the mid-table who can barely be split!
Dulwich Tuskers, Ashcombe Dorking 2, Team Essex Ladies 2 and Portsmouth all have 14 points and occupy the fourth to seventh spots. Dulwich have the advantage as they have played two games less than their rivals so will look to pull away and jump into the top three. The Tuskers finished fourth last year so have experience at securing a top end finish. Ipswich Ladies lie just two points behind but have two games in hand so expect them to get into the busy middle group.
Maidstone hold up the rest in tenth position and are winless this term. The side from Kent finished bottom last year finished bottom last year but did manage to record two wins. Their aim will be to at least match that in 2018.
Women’s Division 3 South West
Most teams in the league have played just six games, with three have completed two more.
Plymouth and Yeovil are first and second for the holiday period with both undefeated after six matches. With 18 points each only Plymouth’s superior points difference separates them at the summit. Will either team drop points before they go head to head? They face off in February and later again in April which could be huge in deciding who will take the divisional crown.
In third it’s Cardiff Celts Ladies who can be immensely proud of the giant strides they have made this term. They have already matched their tally of wins from last season with four victories from eight matches. It’s a similar story for Beach Academy 2 (North Devon) who also have four wins from eight, and have showed a clear improvement on their performances last season. If they can stay in fourth they will be sure to record more victories and finish higher than their seventh place last year.
Fifth and sixth it is local rivals City of Bristol Ladies and Team Bristol. In a reverse of last season which saw Team Bristol finish one place above, its City who are ahead as we enter the holiday season. City have four victories from six and two games in hand on Team Bristol. City will be aiming to kick on and gatecrash the top three.
Plymouth Mayflower VC are in seventh and showing similar form to last season. Their two victories this term both came from the last weekend in December so perhaps after a slow start Mayflower are set to pick their form up in the new year.
The bottom two spots are taken by Southampton Volleyball Club Women 1 and Wessex W2. Wessex are yet to enjoy victory this term but face Southampton on the first weekend in February so will be hoping to leapfrog their Southampton.