NVL: men's league half-term round-up
21st December 2017
Men’s Super 8s
The juggernaut of Team Northumbria continues to roll on. The North East giants have seven straight wins this term and have only dropped two sets. Last year Northumbria only lost twice during the regular league season. Could they manage to go unbeaten this season?
The reigning Super 8s Champions IBB Polonia London have gone through changes in their squad this year and have had some tough matches. They have lost five games out of eight so far but have showed incredible resilience. Victories in their last two games before Christmas has seen them climb into second spot for the holiday season. They’ll be delighted to see an upturn in form and hope that their squad is beginning to gel and can reach the heights of last season.
Sheffield Hallam, who reached the Super 8s playoff final last season, continue to be a quality outfit. They lie third and have won three out of five games. They have only been downed by Northumbria and Polonia so far this term and they’ll be aiming to for a good run the in the playoffs again.
Malory Eagles have looked strong this term as they sit fourth with four wins from sixth. They are level with Hallam on nine points but have played a game more. The Eagles have defeated the bottom three sides in the division and just how good their season turns out to be will depend on how they fare against the sides around them. Team BU Wessex are also on nine points but have played seven matches. Wessex finished third last season but suffered a poor start this term. They have turned it around though, winning three of their last four matches, with the only defeat in that period coming against Northumbria, in a match Wessex took a set off the table toppers.
Richmond Docklands are next in sixth. The new look outfit, an amalgamation between Richmond VB and Docklands, are a blend of youth an experience. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it looks as if the teams is still settling down as the results have been mixed with three wins to start, followed by three losses. They have proven to be a good team though, and should only improve.
Positions two to sixth all look up for grabs with everyone from Polonia to Richmond Docklands capable of swapping places. It will be an intriguing 2018 to see which teams can step up from this pack.
The bottom two spots are taken by Team Essex Blaze and London Lynx 1. Promoted to the Super 8s last year, Essex will look at 2018 completely different after winning their last game against Richmond Docklands. With their first win under their belt they’ll look to kick on and prove they can compete in the top tier.
London Lynx 1 have had a torrid term, losing all four of their games. They have yet to face Team Northumbria and are in serious danger of slipping out of the Super 8s. Their first two games in January, against Richmond Docklands and Team Essex Blaze, will be crucial if they are to get out of trouble.
Men’s Division 1
The race to gain promotion to the Super 8s is an intriguing one. Newcastle Staffs have taken a leap forward from last season, which saw them finish sixth, to be in pole position this Christmas. They have six wins from eight matches and a five-point lead at the top. Yet they are probably still not favourites to take the title.
Team Durham's ascent in the men’s game continues as following promotion to Division 1 last year, they currently lie second. They have a perfect record from their five matches and crucially they have inflicted both of Newcastle Staffs defeats. So with games in hand and their hardest matches on paper out the way, Durham look set for a charge on reaching the Super 8s.
The next four spots are all closely fought. Leeds RGA VC sit third on fifteen points which again shows a decent improvement on last year when they finished seventh. They only need one more win to match last season’s tally of victories. Southampton Volleyball Club Mens 1 are a place behind. They slipped out the Super 8s last year without winning a game, so they will be delighted to have enjoyed successes this term. They have three wins and have traded victories with Leeds, who are above them.
London Aces are on 14 points after eight matches, the same as Southampton, and have also had mixed results against the teams around them. They lost to Sheffield 2 who were promoted to the division. Sheffield are sixth but have a couple of games in hand as they have only played six games, winning half. Their defeats have included fixtures against Newcastle Staffs and Durham, so the men from the steel city will be hopeful of climbing up the table by beating the teams around them.
Cardiff Celts 1 have slipped so far this term, sitting seventh with two wins from six. They will need to improve if they are to match their fourth place finish last season. Having said that, they have been on the wrong end of a couple of five setters so they’re probably not too far away from producing their better form.
Black Country Men 1 prop up the table but have only played four matches. They have picked up sets in all their games and will be believing that an opening win can help them build some momentum.
Men’s Division Two North
With sides promoted from this division last year out the way, Team Sunderland have taken full advantage. The Wearsiders were third last year but will be top of the pile this Christmas. They have notched seven straight victories this term, including a win over their nearest rivals Polska Przychodnia Intervolley.
Polska finished one place behind last year and have also taken the chance to move up the rankings to second heading into the holidays. They have five wins from eight. DARKSTAR Derbyshire are chasing them in third place. DARKSTAR won an epic five-set match against Polska in November so will be confident they can reel them in and secure a top two finish.
University of Nottingham Volleyball Men are in fourth spot but have played the joint-most matches. They will be pleased with their performances, which have yielded three wins, so far after being promoted to the second-tier last season. Manchester Marvels 1 sit one place behind in fifth and it has been the opposite experience for them. They were relegated last season and have made a solid start in Division 2 North. From their six games they have won half, including an impressive win over the higher-placed DARKSTAR. The Marvels will be looking to break into the top four and then even the top three come 2018.
Melton Lions find themselves in familiar mid-table grounds at this stage. They have three wins from five matches and have shown at their peak they can match any side in the league. They took a set off Sunderland and in their only other loss, were beaten over five sets to second place Polska. They’re also five set specialists themselves with all their wins coming over the distance! The question is, can they kick on when the calendars roll over.
Norwich Spikers are third from bottom with two wins from six – not bad for a side promoted to this division. They will be hunted by the bottom two sides though Coventry and Warwick Riga and Nottingham Rockets who both have a victory each. So expect a battle at the bottom!
Men’s Division 2 South
Three of the top four sides in the league, are sides who were in the top four last season. However, it is Tendring VC Men, who finished sixth last year, who have rocketed to top spot for Christmas. They have seven wins from seven and the maximum 21 points.
London Lynx 2 sit second with six wins from seven and are just two points behind. City of Bristol are third on 18 points from eight games, while New Forest are in fourth just a point behind after playing seven games. Tendring defeated City of Bristol in December but have yet play the other top four teams so it will be interesting to see if anyone can topple them.
Cambridge VC and Anglia Ruskin University are the biggest threat to this top four. Following promotion to this division, they have already traded victories with London Lynx 2 and have 17 points, the same as fourth-placed New Forest.
Team Essex Estonians are sixth place, winning half of their eight games this term. They’ll be hoping to keep up this form in the new year as it will see them improve their league position from last year. Bristol VC 1 were promoted to the second tier and have made a solid start this term. They have three wins from seven matches and have both their matches against Tendring out the way, as well as having already faced New Forest and London Lynx 2 once each.
Oxford Students also stepped up from the third tier and have managed two victories already this term. They have beaten both the sides below them Exeter Storm and London Baks, who are winless after eight games, so will be hopeful that the fight to stay off bottom will remain between those two.
Men’s Division 3 North
Stockport Volleyball Club, a new team to the NVL, have shown they like competing on the national stage! They are top of the pile with eight wins out of ten so far this term. They had eight victories until their last two matches before the break in which they lost to both the sides directly below them.
Miners Doncaster Volleyball Club are second and beat Stockport over five sets. The Miners look set to challenge to Stockport for the title with 22 points from eight matches that have seen seven wins. Blyth Valley sit third and have beaten both the top two and lost to them both as well. Maybe the fact they have some of their toughest games out of the way could see Blyth mount a series tilt for the title. They have five wins from eight matches and 18 points.
York VC are in close pursuit in fourth also registering 18 points from eight matches. They defeated Blyth but have also tasted defeat twice at the hands of Stockport and once to Miners Doncaster. York finished fourth last season and will at least want the same again but will be hoping that the top three lose their way so they can take advantage.
Hull Thunder are fifth with four wins from ten matches but will struggle to match their third-place finish of last season. Haughton Darlington sit sixth on sixteen points having won half of their matches. They will be confident of staying out the bottom three and looking to reel in the group of teams above them.
The bottom three consists of Newcastle Staffs 2, followed by Manchester Marvels 2 and in last place, Nottingham Rockets 2. Unfortunately, its familiar territory for the Marvels and Rockets as they were in the bottom three last season.
For Newcastle Staffs in seventh though, it has been tough as they were relegated last season. They have two wins though out of just six matches so will be confident of climbing up the league into mid-table.
Men’s Division 3 Central
Tamworth Spartans are showing similar form to their ladies team by topping the table for Christmas. They have six wins from seven matches and have a two-point cushion as they sit in pole position with games in hand.
Newmarket VC inflicted the Spartans only defeat and lie second in the table on 17 points. They look unlikely to seriously challenge Tamworth though as they have lost 5 of their nine matches. Black Country Men 2 are in third on the same points after the same number of games. They finished third last season and will need to beat the teams around them if they are to match that this year.
In fourth is Stowmarket. They have four wins from seven matches. In a closely fought league, there is much room for manoeuvre as the teams have played different amounts of games and have taken points from each other. Only five points separate second to sixth position and every team in the league has at least two victories.
Lincoln Cannons lie in fifth winning half of their six games. They have wins against Black Country, RAF Harriers and Loughborough Students. RAF Harriers have played eight games and have won two matches. The Harriers finished bottom last year with only one win so will be pleased with two already this term.
Loughborough Students are seventh, while MK City are holding up the pile in eighth. They have both however, only played four matches each, both winning half. MK have beaten higher-placed Newmarket and Stowmarket so have shown they are capable of excellent performances. While Loughborough have defeated the third-placed Black Country also showing they can match teams higher up the table. So expect both to climb the table when they have played more games.
Men’s Division 3 South
This year saw the South East and South West leagues, become one league: the Men's Division 3 South.
Richmond VB are in pole position with 11 wins from 12 games. They finished second in the Division 3 South East league last year and have maintained their excellent form. Their only defeat this term was over five sets against Guildford. Richmond are over halfway through their campaign and have a nine-point cushion at the summit.
Team Bristol are in second with eight wins from nine, having only lost to Richmond. Bristol finished third in the South West division last year, so it is no surprise to see them excelling this term. Cheltenham and Gloucester Volleyball were just a place behind Bristol last season, and find themselves in the same position heading into this Christmas. They sit third on 21 points with six wins from nine matches.
Wiltshire Mavericks and South Hants sit fourth and fifth respectively on 20 points each. That marks progress for the Mavericks who finished seventh in the South West division last year.
Urbond Volleyball Club Portsmouth a new team to the NVL, have made an excellent start this term. Eight matches has yielded four wins and they sit comfortably in sixth position. Neighbours Southampton Volleyball Club 2 are a place behind with two wins, also after eight games.
Guildford Men will sit in eighth position during the festive period but expect them to quickly climb the table in the new year. As well as beating Richmond, they took Team Bristol to five sets and have three wins from just five matches. They should be capable of competing with the best sides in the league.
Dartford Volleyball Club are ninth but have also only played five matches. They recorded wins over South Hants and Cardiff Celts 2 but will have a lot of fixtures to play in the new year.
Cardiff Celts 2 are winless after eight matches but avoid being bottom at Christmas as Surrey Spikers have only played six games. The Spikers do have a victory, against Southampton, and have already had some tough fixtures. So they are expected to find more victories in the new year.