Women's Shield Final Preview
11th April 2018
There is a magic that makes knockout cup competitions special. Form goes out the window and league status counts for little, as in each round it is all about performing in that one game. Favourites can be toppled by underdogs as everything evens itself out on the volleyball court.
This year’s Women’s Shield Final encapsulates everything that makes knockout tournament’s special. As the highest ranked team in the competition face a non-NVL team: Women’s Division 1 table toppers Sheffield Hallam will battle Polonia IMKA of London’s Premier League for Shield glory.
Favourites vs. Underdogs
It’s a remarkable achievement for a non-NVL team to reach a national final and it highlights the strength of volleyball in London that one of their league clubs has reach Saturday’s showpiece day. IMKA currently lie 4th in the London Women’s Premier League, winning eight out of their 12 matches this season, with two more to play. They lost last time out to second place, London White Bears but have been at their very best in this season’s knockout Shield.
After being knocked out in the second round of the National Cup to Super 8s team Pulsepoint London Orcas, IMKA downed Dulwich Tuskers in the second round of the Shield.
Next up, the team from the capital faced Women’s Division 1 team New Forest Ladies. IMKA shrugged aside any doubt about whether they could compete against opposition from the second tier as they ran out winners in three sets (25-14, 25-15, 25-23).
The quarter finals saw the Londoners face Division Two South opposition in Dartford Ladies. It an abbreviated match, IMKA won in two straight sets (25-19, 25-12). The semi-final quickly followed and saw them battle Team Essex Trinity for a spot in this weekend’s National Cup Finals weekend.
IMKA continued their superb cup run and dominated the semi-final, winning the match 25-11, 25-21, 25-11.
Reaching the final
For opponents Sheffield Hallam, victory in the Shield final could be the pinnacle of a couple of fantastic seasons. The ladies from the steel city were promoted as champions to Division 1 in 2017 and this season have thrived in the higher division. They sit top of the Women’s Division 1 and have only lost two of their matches this season – both to Malory Eagles who are chasing them down for the title.
It wasn’t such an easy start in their knockout cup journey this season though. After a surprise exit in the National Cup against lower ranked York Falcons, which will give IMKA some inspiration they can cause an upset, Hallam had another tricky third round match in the Shield.
Women’s Division 2 North team Tameside look set to end Hallam’s dream of appearing at National Cup Finals weekend. Tameside were two sets up before Sheffield produce a stunning comeback. The match was levelled, as Hallam found their gears to notch two sets to 16 and 15 points before it went to a decider. The final set was an intense battle and Hallam squeezed through 15-13.
After such an epic win, Hallam’s sights seemed firmly set on reaching the final. They made short work of Leeds RGA VC in the quarter finals with the opposition restricted to just 30 points in the whole match.
Hallam didn’t have to travel far for from Yorkshire for the semi-final as they were pitted against DARKSTAR Derbyshire. The opening set was a tight affair with Hallam nicking it 27-25. They maintained their pursuit of a final spot, securing the next two sets and their berth at this weekend’s Women’s Shield Final.
Can IMKA complete the fairytale? Or will Hallam cap an incredible journey which could see them as Shield Champions and promoted to the top division?