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NVL Super 8 : Malory Eagles and Polonia Sideout lead the way
Posted by Douglas Barr-Hamilton on 2017/12/19 15:18:38 (66 reads)

London looking back and forward (Men's and women’s Super8 - National Volleyball League)
Hopes and fears for new year
We are roughly half way to the play-off stage of England's Super8 competition. Some teams have played one more than half their league matches, several one or more less. The best performing London sides look to be Malory Eagles in the men's league and Polonia Sideout in the women's, both possibly flattered by having played slightly fewer games than some others. Let's have a look at their prospects for the next few months and those of London's other top clubs.


IBB Polonia are Super8 champions but they made a disastrous start to the season losing in five sets to Richmond Docklands on the opening day then losing in turn to Sheffield, Northumbria twice, Wessex and Malory Eagles, also in five sets, before winning at Lynx and taking revenge at Malory. Although they have lost more matches than any other team so far, the club will feel they are now on the way to ensuring they feature in the play-off stage and have a chance of retaining their title although Northumbria, unbeaten and having dropped only two sets all season look very strong - but one of those sets went to Polonia. They start the new year with a home game against Wessex on 13th January and then travel to Sheffield a week later. Confidence should be coming back as they face Essex away on 10th February and for the three home matches that follow: against Essex again on 17th, Richmond Docklands on 3rd March and Lynx on 17th.

Malory Eagles have won four of the six matches played, losing to Northumbria away in the opening game of the season and, in their last match before Christmas, in a very close game against IBB Polonia although, somewhat unexpectedly, newly promoted Essex Blaze took them to five sets in early November. However, the team is yet to face Sheffield Hallam; that happens over consecutive weekends: at home on 4th March and away on 10th. They entertain Northumbria at Ernest Bevin on Sunday 11th February, the day after they take face Richmond Docklands. They must expect to feature in the play-offs.

Richmond Docklands, formed in a close-season merger of London Docklands and Richmond Volleyball clubs, started the season with an explosion. On day one they defeated the reigning champions then, in turn, won against Wessex and London Lynx, also in five sets. Things have gone downhill since then, however, with losses to Malory Eagles, Essex Blaze and Sheffield, winning only one set - against Sheffield - although all the games were relatively close. They restart their campaign on 13th January entertaining Lynx and, next day, will be seeking home revenge against Essex. A week later, at home again, they face Wessex. February looks like a month of trial: away to Sheffield on 3rd and to Northumbria next day then Northumbria once again, at home on 10th. The league competition will finish with games against Polonia and Malory, both away, on 3rd and 24th March respectively. They want to do better.

Lynx have played the fewest number of matches of all in the division and they must feel that things have not gone their way. They lost 17:15 in the fifth set against Malory Eagles in their first match. They lost 14:16 in the fifth set of the next one, against Richmond Docklands. They lost 26:24 in the fourth very close set in Wessex and, most recently, 21:25 in another tight game against IBB Polonia. We wish them a more prosperous new year when they will have a congested fixture list with matches that should attract loads of support on 13thJanuary, away to Richmond Docklands and vital home games against Malory Eagles on 10th February, Sheffield on 17th. On 18th March they play Northumbria, a day after facing Polonia away, and, finally, it will be Wessex at home on 24th. Busy, but success is expected.

Orcas are the dark horses of the Women's Super8 race. Already the table seems to have divided the competitors into two halves with Durham, Northumbria and Polonia Sideout each having lost just a single match and Orcas comfortably fourth. Yet they are clearly very closely matched as their opening game against all three went to five set. Belatedly, they suffered 25:17 25:17 25:22 away in Durham so a top three finish looks unlikely but the squad certainly has the ability to challenge in the play-off stages. They begin the second half of the season at home against Tendring on 13th January and, after away and home games against Oxford Students and Birmingham respectively, face the challenge of Northumbria at home on 11th. Three weeks later, they will play Polonia at home in their last match of the league stage.

Polonia Sideout show a strong claim for honours and will be keen to build on their successes in the first half of the season. Their only loss came at home to Durham who beat them 16:25 23:25 21:25 after they had won all their other games including a five set home victory against Northumbria and another five set victory, away to Orcas. They will open the second half of the season at home against Wessex on 13th January. Let's hope it proves a useful warm up because the following weekend they are scheduled to travel to the north-east to play Northumbria on Saturday and Durham next day. Two make or break days. Those games will be followed by away matches in Oxford and Tendring before, on 4th March, they face an Orcas side bent on overturning their earlier loss at home. Then one fixture will remain: against Birmingham, away.

A characteristic of London volleyball over the past three months has been the increasing number and increasing faithfulness of teams' supporters, at national and regional level. The sport encourages all to join one another during the second half of the season and cheer, drum, trumpet our players to success.

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