Record number of teams at the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix
28th January 2019
(Main pic: Phil Smith)
The fourth Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix of the 2018/19 season was a landmark moment for the sport. The event, on January 19th, saw 14 teams take part – a record number since the competition began in 2009.
“It is great to see the sport thriving,” said Volleyball England Project Delivery Team Lead John Worrall, who helps runs the event and is the much-decorated captain of East London Lynx. “The Grand Prix was initially set up to grow the sport and help produce players for the London 2012 Paralympics. Nearly 10 years later, the competition is still going strong as more people begin to find out how fun and inclusive sitting volleyball is.”
This season has seen new teams established or re-emerge as Sitting Bucks, Telford SVC, Salford, Loughborough Fusions and South Hants 2 have played regularly. There have also been a handful of teams who have made visiting appearance, including the Team UK squad who were preparing for the Invictus Games and a star-studded team featuring sitting volleyball Olympians lead by former Volleyball England sitting volleyball development manager Matt Rogers.
The latest Grand Prix welcomed international sitting volleyball friends as Lavia Copenhagen from Denmark made a guest appearance.
“We were really excited to come and play at the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix,” said Lykke Christensen, Lavia’s coach. “It is the third year we have participated, and it is always a pleasure to meet all our volleyball friends from England. The atmosphere is really good and we always feel welcome.
“As a volleyball coach for the Danish Invictus team, it was also a pleasure to meet the UK veterans who I have come to know through Invictus Games.
Lavia Copenhagen went straight into Tier One of the competition to match themselves against the best teams England has to offer.
“The standard of play fits in very well with our team,” said Lykke. “We think you do a lot for sitting volleyball in England and have got many new teams in your tournament year by year. Our team has gained many new players in the past year and we are building the team up again. The Grand Prix is a great opportunity for us to play some matches at a level well suited to our team.”
The opportunity to enjoy experiencing sitting volleyball in another country is something Lykke recommends and has seen English teams visit Denmark in recent years.
“We have our own tournament in Copenhagen in November,” explained Lykke. “South Hants, Pink Panthers and Guernsey participated in 2018. East London Lynx have also participated in previous years. We would very much like to keep in contact with our volleyball friends, between Denmark and England. We hope to attract more English teams to participate in our tournament and keep in touch by coming to England every year and participating in the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix.”
Lavia Copenhagen certainly played their part in a brilliant event which has left the whole competition delicately poised for the last Grand Prix of season which will decide who makes it through to the semi-finals.
Six teams, Help 4 Heroes A, East London Lynx, South Hants, Sheffield VC, Loughborough Fusion and Lavia Copenhagen, fought it out at the top level and it was incredibly tight.
Reigning sitting volleyball champions Sheffield VC and their rivals East London Lynx both won four out of five matches. The team from the steel city took top spot by virtue of Lynx only gaining seven points, not the customary 10, for one of their victories because they required a player for fill in for one of their allotted squad members. Sheffield did overcome Lynx in the latest titanic battle between two of the best sides in the country.
South Hants came third with three wins over Help 4 Heroes A, Loughborough and Lavia. It was a great weekend for Hants as it kept them fourth in the overall standings, the final qualification spot for the semi-finals.
Visiting Lavia Copenhagen showed their talent, winning two matches and taking a set off each of the top sides. They finished fourth ahead of Help 4 Heroes A by virtue of the number of sets won, as Help 4 Heroes also gained two wins, beating Loughborough Fusion and a surprising scalp of Sheffield.
Loughborough Fusion battled hard on their promotion to the top flight and while they couldn’t force a set will have gained vital experience.
The MVPs for tier one were Frank Aveh (Help for Heroes A) and Andrea Green (Loughborough Fusion).
With eight teams competing, Tier Two was split into two groups of four. After playing out the group stage of group A and B, the teams which finished in each position in the groups played off for overall positions one to eight in Tier Two.
The favourites Lincoln Imps, who were relegated to Tier Two at the last Grand Prix, lived up to their tag and came out on top. After topping the group, the Imps comfortably beat South Hants 2 in straight sets, leaving Hants to settle for second position.
Sitting Bucks continued to show their development as a new team by taking third. After finishing second in the group, they faced off against Help 4 Heroes B and took a close battle (21-17, 22-20).
The battle for 5th/6th was played out between Essex Pirates and Telford. While Telford had been excellent in the group stage, winning two matches, it was the Pirates who showed their experience to come out on top. After overpowering Telford in the first set, the second was a brilliant battle with the Pirates forcing the win 22-20.
The bottom placed teams fought it out for 7th and 8th and it was Salford who overcame Pink Panthers in straight sets.
The MVPs for Tier Two were Carolyn Dufley (Help 4 Heroes B), Philip Hook (Sitting Bucks) and Daniel Searle (Telford Eagles).
Going into the final Grand Prix
With one Grand Prix of the season remaining, the battle to make the semi-finals is wonderfully poised. The top four teams will make it through and the current overall standings sees East London Lynx top on 72 points, Help 4 Heroes A second on 70, Sheffield in third with 68, South Hants fourth on 54 and Lincoln Imps in 5th on 52.
With the two points separating the points awarded to each position in every Grand Prix, it is still possible for Lincoln Imps to battle their way into the top four. While the top three could all move positions in the overall standings, which will impact on who they will face in the semi-finals. First will play fourth, and second and third face off for the honour of reaching the Sitting Volleyball Grand Prix Final 2019. The deciding Grand Prix will be played out on Sunday 17th February.
For the full standings and results visit the 2018/19 sitting volleyball season section of the website.