A close affair at third Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix
11th December 2019
Seeing out 2019, the last Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix of the calendar year heralded nine teams battling it out for points and – spoiler alert – the scores are no longer tied at the top of the overall table.
The Christmas spirt was also in full force, as the referees, led by Rita Grimes in her Rudolph slippers, donned Christmas jumpers and decorations to add a festive flair to the officiating of the competition.
With Help 4 Heroes A and South Hants SVC 1 tied on 38 points and sitting joint first in the overall standings at the end of the previous Grand Prix, all was to play for at the top of the table. Both teams were aiming to continue their run of form and hoping for some extra Christmas magic to edge towards the semi-finals in April.
Finishing fifth in the overall standings in 2018/19, Lincoln Imps were looking to continue their run of appearances in the top tier of the competition with three outings from three in Tier 1 this season – seeing them start the third round in third place in the overall standings.
East London Lynx were targeting staying up in Tier 1 after being relegated down to Tier 2 following the first Grand Prix of the season. Showing their class last October, Lynx cemented their place back in Tier 1 by winning all their second-round Grand Prix matches in straight sets.
Unfortunately, on this occasion, it wasn’t to be for Lynx. By losing all three of their matches in the third event of the series, one of the powerhouses of sitting volleyball have yet to win a Tier 1 match this season. But there is some consolation to be found as the side forced two of their three matches to go the distance: against Help 4 Heroes A (15-25, 25-19, 10-15) and Lincoln Imps (25-22, 22-25, 13-15).
And it was Lincoln’s victory over Lynx that kept them up in Tier 1 – securing third place and 16 vital league points that also saw them extend their lead over fourth place in the overall standings. The Imps lost out in straight sets to both South Hants (18-25, 15-25) and Help 4 Heroes A (19-25, 19-25).
As South Hants and Help 4 Heroes A both bested Lincoln Imps and East London Lynx, the battle for first place in the third Grand Prix of the series would come down to the result between the top two teams in the overall standings.
In the head to head record between the teams this season, the spoils have been shared with one victory a-piece – a stat which set this match up to be a hard-fought affair.
Help 4 Heroes A took the first set 25-22 but were surprised by South Hants in the second, who came in to their own and ran away with the set 25-7, quickly forcing the decider.
Following such a run of points, it seemed the scales had tipped towards a South Hants win. But Help 4 Heroes A had other ideas. Using the end of the second set as a chance to regroup, the side lived up to their name and brought their ‘a-game’, securing victory 15-13.
The result sees Help 4 Heroes A regain top spot in the overall table on 58 points with South Hants close behind in second with 56 points.
And Help 4 Heroes A have more to celebrate as teammate Netra Rana, who unfortunately wasn’t at this Grand Prix, officially received his MBE at Buckingham Palace last week. Representing Great Britain in sitting volleyball at the 2012 Paralympics in London, Netra has also won multiple medals at the Invictus Games as part of the United Kingdom team and was awarded his MBE for services to sport.
The MVP award was shared between Ryan Gunner from South Hants and Tom Folwell from Lincoln Imps.
A bumper five teams lined up at the National Volleyball Centre, Kettering to face off in Tier 2 of the competition: Help 4 Heroes B, Sitting Bucks, Essex Pirates, Telford Eagles and Loughborough Fusion.
After being promoted in their last outing in Tier 2, Help 4 Heroes B were given a rude awakening on their return, unfortunately losing all four of their matches, landing in fifth place. However, Jason Finlay put in a fine performance to be jointly awarded MVP for Tier 2 of the Grand Prix.
Essex Pirates showed their grit, pulling back from their winless outing in October’s event to chalk up two victories. One against Help 4 Heroes B (25-20, 20-25, 15-12), the other, in an encounter sure to be told across the Seven Seas, versus Sitting Bucks (15-25, 25-12, 16-14). Charlie Hedgecock from the Pirates was the joint winner of the MVP award.
Soaring their way to two straight set victories, Telford Eagles bested Help 4 Heroes B (25-13, 25-14) and Essex Pirates (27-25, 25-10). With the side succumbing to Sitting Bucks and Loughborough Fusion, Telford and Essex Pirates both finished the round on 20 points from two wins, forcing set difference split the placings. Ultimately, Telford came out with third place having plus one set difference compared to Essex Pirates’ minus two set difference, seeing them place fourth in the round.
Embodying the inclusive ethos of the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix, teams are allowed to borrow players from other squads on the day if they are short, to get as many people involved and as many games as possible played. If a team wins their match, then for each borrowed player in Tier 2, three points are deducted from their score. So, the maximum a winning team can score with one borrowed player is seven as opposed to the usual ten.
Sitting Bucks showed their strength with three straight set wins against Help 4 Heroes B (25-10, 25-10), Telford Eagles (25-14, 25-19) and Loughborough Fusion (26-24, 25-17) but found themselves on the wrong side of three sets versus Essex Pirates (25-15, 12-25, 14-16). Borrowing one player in each of their three victories, they finished the round on 21 points.
Absent from the last Grand Prix, Loughborough Fusion ensured they wouldn’t be forgotten, tallying three wins from four: Help 4 Heroes B (25-19, 25-14), Essex Pirates (25-16, 25-19) and Telford Eagles (26-24, 15-25, 15-10). In the battle between the eventual top table teams in Tier 2, Fusion lost out to Sitting Bucks by the narrowest of margins in a hotly contested first set (24-26, 17-25).
With three wins a-piece, point deductions for borrowed players left a clear winner in the table and no need to resort to set difference as required to separate third from fourth. While Sitting Bucks borrowed a player in all three of their victories, Loughborough Fusion borrowed a player for two out of three of theirs. This left Bucks in second and Fusion with the overall win and delighted with promotion to Tier 1 for the first time this season.
The next Grand Prix will be held on Saturday 18th January 2020 at the National Volleyball Centre, Kettering. New sitting volleyball teams are always welcome, and you can find out more information on the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix section of the website.