Super 8s round-up: Hallam end Northumbria's unbeaten run
16th January 2018
Men’s Super 8s
Sheffield Hallam produced a stunning display to end Team Northumbria’s unbeaten record. Going into the match, Northumbria sat top of the table with seven straight wins, including a 3-0 victory over Hallam earlier in the season.
In a titanic match that went the distance, the men from the steel city had to dig incredibly deep to come from two sets down to record a famous victory. The opening sets were both extremely tight affairs with Team Northumbria edging them both 26-24.
To lose the first two sets by such a narrow margin, Hallam would have been forgiven for losing hope and surrendering the match. Instead, they demonstrated incredible mental resilience to claw their way back into the game taking the third set 25-21. They maintained the momentum and levelled the match when they took the next set 25-20.
The final set decider was a battle and Hallam did not falter when they got the finish line in sight. Hallam won the set 15-11 to take the match.
Hallam defeated Team Northumbria in the semi-finals of last season’s Super 8s Playoffs. Another win over their rivals will give Sheffield belief they can have a strong finish to the league season and aim for the top prize when the Playoffs Finals come round again in May. Hallam now sit fourth in the league on 11 points, but having only played six matches will go second in the table if they can win their games in hand.
Despite being edged out of this game, Team Northumbria remain top of the league with an eight-point cushion and are still the favourites to be the top seed going into the Super 8s Playoffs.
Richmond Docklands started the year with a bang as they recorded two victories over the weekend. They defeated London Lynx 3-1 on Saturday to condemn the visitors to their fifth straight loss of the season. Docklands stormed out the blocks to take the first set 25-15, but a seesaw second set saw Lynx capitalise on some Richmond errors at 23-20 up, to level the match, taking the second set 30-28.
In the third set, Richmond’s service pressure began to tell and they notched the second set 25-16. Lynx improved in the fourth set but couldn’t halt Docklands march to victory as the hosts took the set 25-21 to seal all three points. The Docklands MVP was Javier Bello.
Richmond were back in action less than 24 hours later, facing off against Team Essex Blaze. Essex came out all guns blazing and raced into a 13-3 lead. The block was particularly potent with Richmond describing the Essex front line as “putting on a blocking display not seen in Super8s volleyball for some time” in their match report. The first set finished 25-17 and Richmond’s confidence was building as they improved in the first set.
Richmond evened up the match, taking the second set 25-16, before continuing to control the game and win the next two sets to run out 3-1 winners. Docklands climb to third in the table, just one point behind second and with a game in hand.
Captain Andrew Pink said: “It was clear when the fixtures came out that this weekend was always going to be a vital one for the team and we’re delighted to have passed those two stern tests successfully. Although some of us are well into the twilight of our careers, we have a plethora of young talent that is burning very brightly indeed.”
Despite losing this encounter, Team Essex Blaze continue to show they can compete at the top level and are gaining vital experience in their first season in the Super 8s. Their weekend was not fruitless as a day earlier they gained a superb win over Malory Eagles.
The Eagles had been in good form this year with four wins from six going into the match, but Essex denied them win number five and took the three points.
The first set was fiercely contested but the Blaze held their nerve to clinch it 32-30. Malory bounced back from the disappointment of losing the opener to grab the second set 25-22. However, Essex responded in kind to take the third by the same score.
It looked like a decider might be required to split the teams but Essex ensured a 3-1 victory winning another tight set 26-24 to take the spoils.
The reigning English champions, following their Super 8s Playoff Finals win last year, IBB Polonia London kept up their revival in fortunes with a straight sets victory over TeamBU Wessex. This was their third win on the bounce and took them to second in the league, a great response after a mixed season so far for the defending champions.
The match was won 25-23, 25-22 and 25-20, and coach Piotr Graban is aiming for even more as they head into the business end of the season.
“We still have not showed our true level,” said Piotr. “We still have much more to give, but I’m sure soon we will be able to play to our real potential. Our hard work on the practice court is starting to show and we are delighted that experienced players are rejoining us once again, as well as new players. This gives us greater stability and many more options on court.”
Team Northumbria sit comfortably top of the league, while London Lynx 1 are stranded at the bottom on two points, but the rest of the league is very closely contested. Just three points separates second to fourth, while fifth to seventh are split by just two points. With several teams having games in hand too, the race for the Super 8s Playoffs is well and truly on.
Check out the league table.
Women’s Super 8s
The top level of women’s volleyball sprung back into action with a mouth-watering clash. The two northern giants of the game went head-to-head as Team Durham faced off against Team Northumbria.
Durham are the current champions after defeating Northumbria in last year’s Super 8’s Playoff Finals, to end Northumbria’s five-year winning streak. However, it is Northumbria who have the upper hand this year.
Northumbria took top spot off their rivals with a straight sets win on Saturday. Durham could not force themselves into the crucial part of each set, losing 25-16, 25-17 and 25-16. It meant Northumbria have done the double over Durham this season, having blown them away earlier on in the season in straight sets. Northumbria will be favourites to top the table and reclaim the title come the season’s finale – the Super 8s Playoff Finals.
The only side to have halted the relentless Team Northumbria this season are Polonia SideOut London and they look set to chase the northern powerhouses all the way. Polonia got the second half of their campaign off in fine style with two victories at the weekend.
On Saturday, they dominated TeamBU Wessex to claim a comfortable straight sets win. Polonia flew out the blocks taking the opening set to just nine points. Wessex, who have a solitary victory so far this season, improved but could not match the quality of the team from London. Polonia continued to set the pace and won the second and third sets with 25-16 score lines.
The following day, Polonia were back on court to take on Birmingham Volleyball Club 1. The Midlanders have stepped up well this season to compete in the top tier, but it was Polonia who showed their experience to take the match.
In the first set, Polonia kept Birmingham at arm’s length to get over the line 25-19. Buoyed by having the first set under their belt, Polonia picked up a head of steam to score more unanswered points to secure the second set 25-12. The ladies from the second city fought harder in the third but couldn’t prevent Polonia taking a straight sets victory, getting over the line 25-17 in the third.
Back-to-back triumphs sees Polonia, who have only lost once this season, climb to fourth in the table, just four points behind second with two games in hand.
Sitting third in the table is Pulsepoint London Orcas. Their matches have produced some of the most exciting volleyball in the whole of the NVL. They have given the top sides in the division great battles and have gone the full number of sets four times before this weekend, which saw them play Tendring VC Ladies.
The last time the sides met Orcas took the match over five sets and this weekend was a similar story. In a match where momentum swung like a pendulum, Tendring notched the first set to 20 points but Orcas countered to take the next to 19. It was again Tendring’s turn to get on top as they reinstated their advantage by winning the third set. Orcas have got the taste for five-setters though and ensured a decider was needed, cruising to victory to 12 points in the fourth set.
With the match on the line, Orcas put together the first back-to-back set victories to close out the game 15-11. The Orcas should continue to be formidable opponents for anyone in the division and perhaps a surprise package when it comes round to the Super 8s Playoffs.
As for Tendring, they showed excellent character to avoid a potential banana skin when they were back on court the following day against Oxford Students. The winless Students are the league’s basement side and Tendring extended their losing streak. Tendring set the pace in the first set, taking victory to 19 points. They ran away with the second set too, winning it to just 11 points and showed no hangover from their exploits the previous day.
The Oxfordians pushed Tendring harder in the fourth but couldn’t quite get close enough to the set winning line to put their opponents under real pressure. Tendring won the third to 21 points to seal their third win of the season and remain securely in mid-table.
The Women’s Super 8s is shaping up with plenty of eagerly anticipated games still to come in the domestic season. It will be interesting to see who can gain momentum going into the Super 8s Playoffs and reach the standard required to topple the division’s pacesetters, Team Northumbria.
Check out the league table.