All-star team appearance at sitting volleyball grand prix
22nd November 2018
(Main pic: Phil Smith)
There was another great turn out at the second Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix of the season last weekend, including a guest appearance from one star-studded team.
Eleven teams entered last weekend’s Grand Prix event as the sport enjoys a rise in popularity at the moment, with new sitting volleyball clubs having been established in Salford and Buckinghamshire in recent months, as well reports of plans for two more clubs, in Gillingham and Telford.
The line-up for the second Grand Prix of the season included a new team making a one-off appearance with many recognisable faces.
The Surrey Reprobates team consisted of Ashley Trodden, the assistant coach of Great Britain’s men’s sitting volleyball squad at London 2012 Paralympic Games; Justin Phillips and Ben Hall, who were part of the GB sitting volleyball squad for London 2012; Matt Rogers, who was the technical manager at the Paralympic Games and former Sitting Volleyball Development Manager for Volleyball England; Sanne Rogers, former Dutch sitting volleyball international who represented her country at two Paralympic Games, winning a bronze medal in Beijing in 2008; and Kendra Hall, sitting volleyball star who won two silver and one bronze medal as she represented the USA in three Paralympic Games.
Many of the squad used to play for Surrey in the early days of the Grand Prix and when asked what inspired their comeback, Matt pointed to just wanting to enjoy being a team again.
“I guess the honest answer is that we just wanted to play together again,” said Matt. “After London 2012, we all went our separate ways, being spread out across the world, but now all being back based in the UK, we figured we should give it a go.”
In the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix, teams do not have to commit to playing every event and can take part in as many as they like, which encourages teams to come along and try out the sport. Meaning Surrey Reprobates could make a one-off appearance.
“Other than Justin, the rest of us have not played for a good few years,” explained Ashley. “Ben and Kendra retired from international competition after the London Games, while I went back to focusing on coaching Volleyball. Sanne played on till the 2014 World Championships but then retired to start a family with Matt.”
If there was much rustiness, it didn’t show as the team were put straight into the Tier One and they rolled back the years to win all five of their matches!
“We knew that if we could reach anywhere close to our levels of the past we would have a chance but after not doing any training, our main aim was to survive five matches physically,” said Ashley. “We did have a motto of ‘no third sets’, but that was more to do with playing the minimum 10 in a day rather than the maximum 15!”
Having been away from the Grand Prix, Matt and Ashley were pleased to see the event still going strong.
“It is great to see the Grand Prix continuing,” said Matt. “Club competitions are the base of everything and starting that before London 2012 was one of the most important steps in getting the Great Britain teams to the Games. The atmosphere was exactly how we remember, everyone being completely friendly and welcoming… until that first whistle!
“The sport received so much attention and support prior to the Games that there were fears it would all fall away after then,” added Ashley. “To have consistently 10 teams is a great achievement and it was good to see that the level of those at the top was still decent.
“If it is to go any further again, it is important to have national teams operating on a regular basis as an outlet for the top players and to offer more opportunity for national and international coverage. The two must go hand in hand, as neither can fully flourish without the other.”
The weekend was testament to the great atmosphere within the sitting volleyball community and there were some great battles on court too…
Making the sixth team in Tier One, Surrey lived up to their reputation, winning all five of their matches in straight sets. They were pushed hard though as East London Lynx and Help4Heroes A each took a set to the two-points required stage, while there was a brilliant battle between them and current champions of England, Sheffield VC. In a very tight contest, Surrey came out on top 22-20 and 21-19.
The reigning champions were in fine form as they won all their other matches to take second place in Tier One and surge up to third in the overall Grand Prix Series League Table, of which the top four will qualify for the finals stages.
Finishing third in the tier, Help4Heroes A underlined their potential to challenge for the sitting volleyball title this season with an impressive three-set victory over East London Lynx, which saw Help4Heroes drew level with Lynx at the top of the overall Series League Table.
It meant Lynx had to settle for fourth spot in the tier this time round, after they recorded victories over Lincoln SVC and Loughborough Fusion. In the battle to stay off the bottom and stave off relegation, Lincoln downed the Fusion 21-10, 21-17 which means Loughborough will play in Tier Two for the next Grand Prix in December.
The MVP award for Tier One was shared between six players: John Worrall (East London Lynx), Ian Lowe (Loughborough Fusion), Peter Hobson (Lincoln SVC), Kye Sykes (Lincoln SVC), Ned Groj (East London Lynx) and Rana Netra (Help4Heroes A)
Having suffered relegation from Tier One in the previous Grand Prix, South Hants SVC 1 were at their best to win the Tier Two this time out and make an immediate return to the top group.
They cruised past Help4Heroes B and Sitting Bucks, as well as putting aside club allegiances to defeat South Hants SVC 2. Essex Pirates provided the sternest test as the match went the distance with South Hants edging the match 15-13 in the third.
The Pirates were in great form and won their other three matches without dropping a set. They defeated South Hants 2 (25-23, 25-11), Help4Heroes B (25-19, 25-15) and Sitting Bucks (25-19, 25-14). They were pipped to second place, to finish third in the tier though by Help4Heroes B, by virtue of bonus points.
South Hants SVC 2 finished fourth after recording wins over Help4Heroes B (25-18, 27-25) and Sitting Bucks (25-18, 26-24).
The Help4Heroes B and Sitting Bucks match would see one team remain winless but, as it was at the Grand Prix 1, it was a great battle. Help4Heroes B got the victory they needed to take second spot in the Tier, while Sitting Bucks will be pleased to have enjoyed another competitive match in which they took a set. The MVP’s for Tier Two were Amanda Pollard (Essex Pirates) and Ashleigh Aslett (South Hants SVC 1).
For more information, including the schedule and league table, visit the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix section of the website.