Men's Shield Final Preview
10th April 2018
In the build-up to this week's showpiece event, the National Cup Finals Weekend, we preview the senior finals. Starting with Men's Shield Final...
This year’s shield final promises to be a thrilling encounter with the finalists separated by just three places in the National Volleyball League pyramid.
Polska Przychodnia Intervolley Manchester, the current Division 2 North leaders will battle it out against London Aces, who are sixth in Division 1 and have experience of playing in the Shield final from last year.
Having reached the quarter final of the shield in the previous year and fallen short in the league, Intervolley Manchester have really kicked on this year and will be confident of causing an upset against their higher ranked opponents. Currently topping the table in Division 2 Nort, Intervolley have proven their nerve when it matters, often winning over the distance in matches, leading to them being dubbed the ‘five-set specialists’.
“Reaching the final is a great achievement for the team and has shown the progress made this season,” says Intervolley head coach, Marcin Lisowski.
“Although we are currently sitting in the second place in the table, it’s mostly because we have not made it easy for ourselves. The majority of our wins from the beginning of the season have come through five sets, but this has helped us grow as a team and shows that we have determination and resilience to pull through and win.”
London Aces know all about the Shield Final, having reached the showpiece of National Cup Finals Day last year, where they lost out to Black Country.
In the league, London Aces have been adapting to life in Division 1. Having been promoted the previous season, they have had some inconsistent results, winning five out of thirteen matches played. So, winning the Shield this time round could add some real gloss to their season.
“Our season has been full of ups and downs, winning games when we played terribly and losing games when we played well, and anything in between, so we’ve learnt a lot throughout the season,” says head coach Lewie Lett.
“Reaching the final feels better than we could have ever imagined. A whole year’s worth of blood, sweat and tears has led to this moment. As one of the goals for this season, it shows our hard work has paid off.”
Route to the finals
Despite London Aces mixed results in the league, Manchester Intervolley are expecting a tough match in Saturday’s final.
“We know that they have got a lot of very experienced players from all over the world,” says Marcin Lisowski, Intervolley head coach. “Last season, Aces lost only two games in a very strong Div2 South.
“Reaching the Shield final for the second year running only proves how strong and experienced London Aces are as a team.”
London Aces were surprisingly knocked out of the National Cup by UK Armed Forces Men and then quickly turned their attention to the Shield. They drew a fellow team from the capital, London Lynx 2 and beat them in straight sets. The next two rounds saw them face Newmarket VC and Tamworth Spartans respectively, beating them both by the same score line 3-1. They were pitted against Tendring VC Men in the semi-final and overcame them in straight sets to progress to the final.
Polska Przychodnia Intervolley Manchester had been knocked out in the second round of the National Cup up by Sheffield Hallam but regrouped well in the Shield. They got a bye in their first round of the competition, but then went on to beat Team Sunderland, their main rivals in Division Two North, and Miners Doncaster Volleyball Club in straight sets. In the Semi-final they faced Stockport Volleyball Club and overcame them in a competitive affair, 3-1.
London Aces reciprocated the respect their opponents had shown to them and are taking nothing for granted: “They haven’t reached the final by luck, so we are expecting a strong opposition but our main focus will be on playing our game,” said head coach Lewie Lett.
“Winning the Shield would be reward for our hard work this season, but most importantly would make the post-game celebrations even more special.”
Polska Przychodnia Intervolley Manchester were equally as excited at the prospect of lifting the trophy and said cup success could play a vital role in their promotion charge.
“To win a trophy would be a fantastic achievement for the team and also the club,” said Lisowski. “It would give us that extra boost to finish the league on a high note and help us in the last push for promotion.