Friday 30 March
What a remarkable few days we’ve just had. In every sport, it’s always said that there are many different ways to win. In the space of just three days earlier this week, we proved that. In doing so, we also achieved a feat that every club in the region would be proud of, as all four of our regional teams won.
The two 2nd team victories were battles of attrition; five set slug-fests with constant swings of momentum. The two 1st team wins were altogether different; victories where the opposition were simply overpowered and outclassed. Each win was brilliant in its own special way.
Naturally, the round-up has to start with Ladies 2 after they finally brought a halt to a five match losing streak which extended back to late November. In beating Birmingham Met 2, they twice fell behind but dug deep to grind out a result in what was ultimately a marathon 218 point (!) match, played out over 2 hours.
Nothing else needs to be said about this game (except to say how good is it to play in front of a noisy home crowd?!). The picture tells you all you need to know about what it meant to those players.
On Saturday, Men 2 had also prevailed in a five set thriller over at Tern Hill. In their game, they led twice but were pegged back. When push came to shove though, they were just too good in the 5th set. This was an awkward fixture, played in a very cold hall and with a rather low net slung across the roof, preventing the ball going more than approximately 7m into the air.
That didn’t faze the men though – who now progress to a frankly unbelievable 8-4 record. Remember when this lot had a target of just avoiding relegation? Well, they now sit 2nd in the league. Whisper it quietly but if they win their remaining two games, they might even finish 2nd too…
When Men 1 finally took to the court on Sunday, they were in no mood for taking up much more of their precious Sunday evening. Their Cup quarter-final opponents, Birmingham Uni, looked beaten before they started; clearly scarred by two heavy defeats to our men in the league earlier in the season.
This 3-0 win was like watching men against boys. The students simply had no answer to a team stacked with so much firepower, despite a few M1 regulars being absent. Nothing demonstrates that better than the fact that Cristian had seven attacks through the middle during the game – and every one of them was a winner.
Rounding off our perfect few days, Ladies 1 subsequently dispatched Hereford 3-0 on Tuesday. Hereford were looking like the dark horses in this year’s Division 1, level with Warwick Riga with just one defeat all season prior to this. Not any more – as they were comprehensively dismantled by the reigning champs.
This was one of those easy-to-coach days when everything just clicks. All our hitters contributed and our awesome serving line-up quickly found top gear. The value of a squad was apparent too. Hereford had two or three really handy players but not a lot else. We had a squad of 11 players who can all hold their own at this level. As one player started to look a little tired, another fresh one was simply thrown in and the rout continued.
Retaining their league title looks like a stretch now for Ladies 1 but it could still be done, mathematically. Keep playing like this though and they’ll still be a major factor in deciding who does win the league.
Twenty-four hours later, Ladies 2 were back in action as they travelled to play Wombourne 1 in the Shield. Sadly, this is where the winning run came to an end with a 3-0 defeat. However, in taking 19 points from the 5th placed Division 1 side in the opening set, they again showed real spirit and more than a little bit of class.
Looking ahead, it’s clearly a rather quiet week. There is no training on Easter Sunday and then there’s a rare mixed training session on Tuesday (Apr 3) at Wilnecote from 20:00, with Coach Bob in charge. Players from all squads are welcome. There will then be NVL training as normal on Thursday as both squads gear up for some very important fixtures the following weekend.
One final thing; many thanks to those of you who spotted my deliberate mistake in last week’s newsletter. I mistakenly suggested that the end of season Club Awards Dinner was on June 23 when it’s clearly on June 30! Ticket details will be released shortly but make sure that the (correct) date is in your diary. Rooms can also be booked at our venue (The Globe Inn) for those of you who will need to stay the night in Tamworth. It already feels like we could have plenty to celebrate that night.
Friday 23 March
Spare a thought this week for our Super Admin. Normally, by this stage of the season, her work on our fixture list has long since been completed. There might be the odd Cup match to schedule but it’s typically a case of just watching the final few games being played out.
Not so this year. I cannot remember a season disrupted as badly by the weather as this one has been. This should be the busiest time of the season yet we’ve just endured another week with no competitive action.
If all had gone to plan, Men 1 would have been in action twice last week. Instead, the weather put paid to their fixture at Hereford on Sunday. Wolves Uni then made it a double postponement when they cried off the scheduled Tuesday fixture at just over 24 hours’ notice. That’s two more matches for Kara to rearrange. At this rate, we’ll still be playing in June….!
All of which explains why we’ve got the unusual sight this weekend of a local league double-header taking place at Rawlett on Sunday (March 25). Ladies 2 are first up, taking on Birmingham Met 2 in a league match. Warm-up starts at 17:00 with Brigade 3 in charge. Men 1 then play Birmingham Uni in their Cup quarter-final. Warm-up starts at 19:00 – or once the previous match finishes. Brigade 2 provides the officials for this one.
Those two teams aren’t the first into action though. That honour falls to Men 2 who will make the long journey to Tern Hill for a league game at 15:00 on Saturday as they head into the final three league fixtures of what has already been a very fruitful season.
It’s a full house in terms of regional fixtures this week as Ladies 1 are also in action. On Tuesday (March 27), they’ve got a huge match in prospect when high-flying Hereford are the visitors to Wilnecote. Warm-up starts at 20:00, under the beady eye of Brigade 1.
We’ll then squeeze in a fifth and final match when Ladies 2 travel to play Wombourne 1 in a Shield match on Wednesday (March 28). Warm-up is at 19:30.
I’ve mentioned the knock-out competitions once or twice so this seems an opportune time to mention Finals Day. I never like to tempt fate but I want to flag up how this year’s Finals Day is in Dudley on Saturday June 2. Keep that date clear in your diary. Fingers crossed that we’ll have some representation there this year.
While we’re talking dates for your diaries, it may still be three months away but thoughts are already turning to our end of season Awards Dinner on Saturday June 23. As ever, the venue will be the Globe Inn in Tamworth. Ticket prices will be announced shortly and you’ll be able to buy these via Eventbrite.
Do please come along and be part of what is always a fun, enjoyable event. Bring your friends and family as we celebrate another amazing year at Tamworth Spartans VC. Don’t miss out!
Friday 16 March
A very brief update from me this week in what's been a relatively quiet week by our standards with just 2 of our teams in action.
Ladies 1 suffered a frustrating 3-1 defeat away against Warwick Riga on Sunday. Riga were apparently packing some decent hitters and it sounds like the ladies simply came up against a better team on the day.
Men 1 fared better on Tuesday in what could be a title decider with a 3-1 win at home against Redhill. 1-1 after the second set, this one looked like it could go all the way and give everyone a pretty late night. But the guys fought through and made it 7 wins from 7 games. Very impressive stuff.
Looking ahead, the quiet theme continues this week with just Men 1 in action twice. Firstly away at Hereford on Sunday at 1pm then at home on Tuesday 20th vs Wolves Uni. Can the men make it 9 wins from 9 games? Brigade 1 are on reffing duty on Tuesday night.
Ladies training is on as usual on Sunday followed by Mens training which will probably be a mostly M2 affair after a long day in Hereford for M1.
NVL training for both squads on Thursday night as usual.
You may have seen on the Whatsapp thread on Tuesday night that Wilnecote School would have stopped the Men 1 game at 10.30 even if the game hadn't finished. Technically, we only have the hall until 10pm and the staff are well within their rights to kick us out. But for a long time the club has relied on the goodwill of the staff to allow our games to run past 10pm without consequence.
The Club Committee met on Wednesday night and we now have an agreement with the school that we will have the hall until 10.30pm. While this is great, I ask that everyone involved with games does their best to ensure games start on time and progress in a timely fashion.
Players: arrive early ready to walk onto court at 8pm
Scorers: complete the scoresheet so captains can sign just after the coin toss
Refs: conduct the warm up efficiently so that 1st serve is 8.30 sharp. Aim to have 3 minutes between sets.
Coaches: submit rotation slips as early as possible
This should prevent the horrible situation of a game being abandoned...
Good luck to M1 this week, 9 from 9 is the target!
Friday 9 March
As Seb rightly pointed out on the club Whatsapp thread, yesterday was International Women’s Day. It’s therefore an opportune time to celebrate one of our own wonderful ladies.
As you may also have seen on Whatsapp recently, several of the Spartan ladies braved the snow last Saturday to make it into Birmingham to give Hanna a decent send-off before she heads out to The Gambia.
Now, this might not be a permanent departure. Hanna could be back in a few months. Alternatively, her latest adventure – and what an adventure it is – could become a permanent arrangement.
In case you’re not aware, Hanna hadn’t played volleyball until five years ago. She graduated from Kara’s Volley 101 beginners’ course alongside Malcolm. She started playing matches for Ladies 2 and slowly worked her way up to the first team. She was never going to stop there though. This season, she’s established herself as an NVL regular.
From Volley 101 to the NVL in just five seasons. That’s amazing.
More importantly, she’s been a wonderful person to have around the club and an inspiration to those players now trying to emulate her by working their way up through the ranks. That’s why I – very selfishly – hope that this is just a temporary goodbye. Ours is an inclusive club, open to players of all abilities and backgrounds. We’ll welcome all-comers. But give me five or six more club members like Hanna and I’d be a very happy chairman.
Carpe diem Hanna; have a wonderful time!
The afore-mentioned snow meant that four of our planned six matches last week were postponed. The rapid thaw on Sunday meant that we could, perhaps, have played two of those. However, I’m a big believer in making an early decision. We never take chances with players’ safety.
The two games which did beat the weather ended in two very different outcomes. Having made the arduous trip over to Cleobury, Ladies 2 sadly went down to another 3-0 defeat. It’s just not happening for them at the moment. From what I hear, there was the usual pattern of competing well in the early stages before confidence steadily drained away. When a team effectively forgets how to win, what’s supposed to be fun can quickly turn into something else. There’s no easy answer, except to keep believing that a reversal in fortunes must be just around the corner.
Back at home, Ladies 1 hardly broke sweat as Tettenhall were dispatched 3-0 for the loss of just 32 points. Against a very technically proficient – but very young – side, our ladies used this as preparation for a huge match this Sunday (Mar 11).
That’s when they’ll travel to play Warwick Riga, looking for revenge for a 3-1 defeat earlier in the season. With Riga (and Hereford) only having lost one match, compared to our two, any prospect of retaining our championship rests with picking up all three points here. Warm-up at Riga is 18:30.
With insufficient Ladies 2 players available to train, there will be NO ladies’ training session at Rawlett. There will however be a men’s session at 19:30 as Men 1 prepare for an equally important fixture.
On Tuesday (Mar 13), they will host Redhill at Wilnecote. Redhill have won the league for several seasons running now. This year, they are undefeated after four matches while we are undefeated after six. There may still be a lot of matches for both clubs to play but this has all the trappings of a proper heavyweight clash. Whoever lands this first blow is in prime position to go on and win the league. Brigade 3 takes charge on what could be a super-charged night.
If you don’t have anything else to do on Tuesday, get yourself down to Wilnecote. Our men are currently playing with so much firepower that it needs to be seen to be believed. Don’t miss out.
Friday 2 March
Anyone else bored of the snow yet? Yep, me too. I’ve got no problem with snow at Christmas. It can linger into January if it wants. But when it threatens to halt our volleyballing momentum in March, I’m happy to tell the snow where it can stick its cutesy wintry scenes, cozy fireplaces and supermarket panic buying. It can sod right off.
However, as we head into what could be a potentially busy weekend, we do need to acknowledge that the weather could yet wreak havoc with our plans. With four away games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, make sure you keep an eye on Whatsapp and your emails for any last-minute changes or updates. Ultimately, if there’s any risk of people being inconvenienced or, worse still, put in danger because of having to travel in hazardous conditions, we’ll refuse to play.
So, with that in mind, this is what this weekend could look like. On Saturday (Mar 3), the NVL Men have a double-header over in Loughborough. Their hosts, Loughborough Students, are propping up the league table but their second opponents, Stowmarket, are one of their main rivals for a promotion slot. Stowmarket are currently top, one point ahead of us but having played one game more.
However, at the time of writing this, two of the appointed refs had already declined their appointment so these fixtures must now be considered at risk.
On Sunday (Mar 4), Ladies 1 launch into what could be a run of three fixtures in eight days. That run starts with a 13:00 trip across to Wombourne. Later in the afternoon at 16:00, Men 2 were due in Sutton Coldfield for a Shield match against Birmingham Met 2. However, just as I wrote this, we heard that Birmingham Met College is being closed for the weekend so this fixture has already been POSTPONED.
The intention was to have training for Ladies 2 at Rawlett on Sunday from 17:30 - but clearly this is dependent on Rawlett still being open and people wanting to travel.
Assuming the weather eases somewhat, on Tuesday (Mar 6), it’s a ladies’ double-header of sorts. While Ladies 1 host bottom-placed Tettenhall at Wilnecote (with Brigade 2 in the reffing seat), Ladies 2 make the delightful midweek trip to Cleobury to play their second team. Warm-up for both matches starts at 20:00.
Win, lose or draw, you can guarantee that Ladies 2 will again be playing with a smile on their faces. They suffered another 3-0 defeat this week when confronted by a high-flying Birmingham University side. The scoreline flattered the students and, on another day, our ladies would have taken the 1st set. As it was, they lost it to 23 and never quite hit the same heights again in sets 2 and 3 while still giving their opponents more than a run for their money.
One team that had no such problems was the NVL Ladies who shot down the RAF Hawks in their game on Sunday. Once Barbara had banged in ten serves early in the 1st set, en route to a 25-10 win, the Hawks never really landed a blow. In a ridiculously tight division, those three points were enough to send us back to the top. Incredibly, with just two more matches to go, we could yet still finish anywhere from 1st to 5th.
For now though, drink it in: three of our teams (NVL Ladies, Men 1 and Men 2) are top of their divisions. If you’d offered us that back in October, we would have snapped your hands off. It will take more than a bit of bad weather to slow down this juggernaut.
Friday 23 February
I tell you what, us Spartans lead busy lives. Our club played an astonishing 5 matches in 5 days since Simon's last update just 1 week ago. And we won them all!
Men 1 kicked things off on Friday night recording a 3-0 win away at Birmingham Uni. After cruising set 1 to only 11 points, the guys switched off slightly but had enough in the tank to see the students away to 20 and 17 points in sets 2 and 3.
Men 2 were next up on Saturday against another bunch of students, this time from Warwick Uni. I missed the home match against Warwick so didn't really know what to expect and the guys looked pretty decent during the hitting warm up. However they were all over the place in the first set, winning just 12 points. Like Men 1, we then switched off and managed to just nick set 2 25-23. After losing set 3 to 18, we turned it around in the 4th to get our first away win of the season and take our record to 7 wins and 4 losses thus securing our place in Division 2 for next season.
Men 1 were back in action on Sunday away against South Birmingham getting another 3-1 win. I don't have the set scores available (WMVA website doesn't show them either) but it does show a points aggregate of 92-90. It really doesn't get much closer than that and it shows the fine margins between winning and losing. Big shout out to Vale who played all 3 Men's games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That's a lot of volleyball.
Ladies 1 made it 4 Spartan wins from 4 when they beat Birmingham Met on Sunday afternoon. After winning the first 2 sets, they let the 3rd slip (anyone sensing a pattern here) before regaining their composure and seeing the game out 25-16.
After 4 games on the road Men 1 were back at home on Tuesday night against Birmingham Met. I 2nd reffed this game and it's the first time this season I've seen the guys in what can only be described as "full-flight." Check out the slo-mo of Marek on the Whatsapp thread if you don't know what I mean. When at full strength, the hitting power in this team is quite exceptional and at times Met just didn't know how to handle it. Even so, that didn't stop Met nicking a set on the way to a 3-1 Spartans win.
A busy few days indeed I think you'll agree...
Looking ahead to the next 7 days and it only gets a wee bit quieter.
The NVL Ladies travel to RAF Cranwell on Sunday 25th (12 noon warm up) to play RAF Hawks. With the Hawks having played 11, lost 11, and our Ladies currently tied 2nd in NVL Div 3 Central, this should be a fairly routine game.
Also on Sunday 25th, Men 1 take on yet another bunch of students as they play Wolverhampton Uni. Warm up is 2.30pm
The Tuesday night home game this week is Ladies 2 who host the University of Birmingham. Warm up is 8pm as usual. Brigade 1 have the reffing duties.
After a week where we won 5 from 5, let's see if we can extend the winning streak and take another 3 wins.
Friday 16 February
Objective achieved. Level up. Please proceed to the next stage.
On Tuesday, Men 2 achieved their objective for the season. Recording an impressive 3-1 win over Wombourne 2 saw them hit their target of six wins for the season.
As a team whose objective was to avoid relegation, rather than to win any trophies, you could argue that theirs was a low-ball target. Who cares. They hit their target before the middle of February! That’s quite an achievement in anyone’s book.
Intriguingly, all six of their wins have come at home. Fortress Wilnecote, indeed. Only Tern Hill have yet to visit Tamworth. When they do, the team will be looking to complete a perfect seven.
Before then, they head to Warwick Uni this Saturday (Feb 17) at 14:00, looking for their first win on the road and the ‘insurance’ win which should categorically kill off any fears of relegation back to Division 3.
That victory for Men 2 was one of four wins racked up this week, out of seven matches played. On the plus side of the ledger, the NVL Men saw off RAF Harriers on Saturday while the NVL Ladies dispatched Lincoln Cannons on Sunday. Unfortunately, the men also lost to Lincoln Cannons while the ladies lost to Norwich Spikers.
The men’s results leave their division finely poised. With games in hand, our men’s destiny lies firmly in their own hands although Lincoln’s win has put them back in the promotion mix. As for the ladies, everything is geared towards the big showdown with Norwich and Black Country on April 8. Realistically, two wins will be required there to compensate for the surprise early season defeats against Ashfield and Northampton.
Ladies 2’s current winless streak was extended by a 3-0 defeat on Sunday at Rugby before Men 2 picked up their objective-clinching win on Tuesday. Ladies 1 then rounded off the week with a facile 3-0 win over Telford in the Cup quarter-final on Thursday.
There’s no let-up this week as the fixtures come thick and fast. Men 1 launch into an incredible run of four fixtures in ten days when they travel to Birmingham University tonight at 19:30. Men 2 are at Warwick University at 14:00 on Saturday before Men 1 go again on Sunday when they play at South Birmingham at 15:00. Ladies 1 then complete the weekend with a league fixture at Birmingham Met at 18:30. Exhausting, isn’t it?!
There will be training as normal on Sunday but the focus will clearly be on the 2nd teams with the ladies training at 17:30 at Rawlett, followed by the men at 19:30.
Men 1 (who else?) then fill the Tuesday night slot at Wilnecote when they host Birmingham Met at 20:00. Brigade 2 takes charge of the whistles and flags. A few cans of Red Bull for the over-worked men may also be called for by then.
Did I mention that Bob and I are also taking charge of the West Mids junior training on Saturday morning? And that NVL training will be back to its usual routine on Thursday? No, I didn’t think so.
One final point from me – which I’ve hinted at in previous weeks. This is the part of the season when objectives are achieved and trophies are won. It’s also when availability becomes tricky, injuries start to kick in and people generally get rather tetchy with each other.
The simple question we have to pose ourselves is “how much do I want this?” Finding yourself at the end of season awards, enjoying a drink with your team-mates and having a conversation peppered with “if only’s…” is never particularly enjoyable. If you want to achieve something this season, don’t focus on what your club-mates might do for you. Think about what you’re going to do for them.
Friday 9 February
Losing; it’s a remarkable thing really. It’s something that no athlete can avoid. Many of us may experience it more often than winning. Learning how to accept it is arguably as important as learning some of your sport’s technical skills. And it is only by enduring it that you get a glimpse of how together a team really is.
Ladies 2 lost on Tuesday. Not that you’d know it to see them during and after the game. I’ve rarely seen a team of ours quite so together after a hefty defeat; something remarked upon afterwards by new team captain, Lauren.
En route to losing 3-0, they lost the 1st set to 12 and the last set to just five. That hurts. Inbetween though, they could – and maybe should – have won the 2nd set but fell just short at 25-23. I’ve seen us dismantle teams by that sort of aggregate score and they’ve just slunk away to the showers afterwards, not uttering a word. I’d probably do the same myself.
But not our ladies. They simply talked of where they needed to improve, focused on the positives and then took most of the squad down to the pub. That’s how you deal with defeat. Fair play, ladies, fair play.
Sadly, that 3-0 defeat to Warwick Uni was the only match action of the week after Ladies 2’s proposed trip to Birmingham Met on Sunday was cancelled at the last minute.
We see the first evidence of a busy schedule ahead this week, with five games taking place at the weekend alone. The NVL Men finally restart their 2017/18 campaign as they head to Lincoln tomorrow (Feb 10) to take on Lincoln Cannons and the RAF Hawks. One win will be enough to return the men to the top of the table. Two wins would see them further strengthen their stranglehold on the promotion race.
Twenty-four hours later, there’s another double-header as the NVL Ladies play host to Lincoln Cannons and Norwich Spikers at Wilnecote. This is a huge clash, bringing together the division’s current top three teams. Lincoln have only lost twice this season (once to us) while Norwich won this division at a canter two years ago.
Ladies 2 are also straight back into the action as they travel to play Rugby at 18:30. With all our ladies in action, there will be no ladies’ training at Rawlett. Instead, men’s training will start an hour earlier at 18:30.
That session may well be spent preparing Men 2 for their league game on Tuesday (Feb 13) at Wilnecote. Still seeking that elusive sixth win, the men will take on a Wombourne 2 side who have unexpectedly slipped to 3rd place off the back of two consecutive defeats. Brigade 1 take charge of the whistles and flags for this one.
NVL training on Thursday (Feb 15) will be for the men only as Ladies 1 are in local Cup action as they travel to take on Telford at 19:30 in what is effectively a quarter-final match-up.
So, as we head into the business end of the season, it’s now all about the numbers. Six days, seven matches. Six teams, one club. And dozens of happy players, whatever the result.
Friday 2 February
I sense a touch of fatigue creeping in. That's no surprise. We're now into the sixth month of our season. Can anyone even remember what those early training sessions in September felt like? They seem like an eternity ago.
However, we are now entering the most important part of our season. The two NVL squads are back in action next weekend for example, playing double-headers which could go a long way to defining their seasons. Ladies 2 play back-to-back matches this week; Men 2 stand just one win away from achieving their season's target; Ladies 1 are still in the title race while Men 1 have a frankly unbelievable 11 league matches still to play.
There really is all to play for.
Which is why I - and the other coaches - would urge you all to keep on pushing and training hard for a little while longer yet.
You may have sensed in our Whatsapp messages earlier this week that Bob and I were disappointed with the turn-out for Tuesday night's impromptu training session.
Now, I absolutely understand that everyone has a valid reason for not training. There are more important things in life than volleyball, after all! Family engagements and work commitments regularly take precedence while injuries are also now taking their toll.
However, I also know that there are plenty of times during every season when people will say to me "we don't train enough as a team" or "there are too many matches and not enough time to practice". It's pretty hard to reconcile those conversations with seeing a Tuesday night all-club session with just eight attendees.
Anyway, on a more positive note, those who did train on Tuesday were treated to a middle hitting master class from that legendary exponent of the quick attack, Coach Bob.
The reason we were even having that session was because Cleobury cried off their league match against Ladies 1 at 24 hours' notice.
Thankfully, the ladies had got some court time in earlier in the week after Telford were swept aside 3-0 on Sunday morning. I love watching our ladies play like this. Ok, the opposition wasn't that strong but they were simply blown away in a display of controlled hitting and serving aggression.
Sadly, the NVL Men couldn't make it a two-from-two weekend as they lost 3-1 to London Aces in the National Shield quarter-final on Saturday. It says a lot about how far this team has come that most the players I've spoken to were really disappointed they didn't do better. Reality check: getting to the quarters and taking a set off an NVL Div 1 side is no small achievement. Now's the time to take that form into the remaining seven league games of the season and secure promotion to Division 2.
Looking ahead, this week is all about Ladies 2. With just two wins from six so far, it's fair to say this season hasn't quite gone to plan. Yet.
There are two chances to rectify that this week as they travel to 2nd placed Birmingham Met on Sunday (warm-up at 18:30) before hosting Warwick Uni at home on Tuesday, looking to repeat what was a thrilling 3-2 victory over the students back in November. Brigade 3 takes charge of that one at Wilnecote, with the warm-up at 20:00.
Training will still take place as normal at Rawlett on Sunday, although the ladies session will clearly be a Ladies 1-only session.
So, take a deep breath, flex those muscles, summon up some more energy - and let's go again. Your end-of-season rewards await.
Friday 26th January
"....You got to know when to hold 'em; Know when to fold 'em; Know when to walk away; And know when to run...."
Sound advice on life in general there from the mighty Kenny Rogers. As the NVL Men will hopefully find out, having all the aces in your back pocket also helps. In this case, it's the London Aces they hope to have firmly tucked away by the time they return from tomorrow's trip to the capital.
In arguably the biggest match to date in our short time as an NVL outfit, the men take on the Aces in the quarter-final of the National Shield - with a home semi-final at stake. What an occasion that would be. A daunting challenge awaits though. The Aces are a Div 1 side (albeit with just three wins from nine this season) and were last year's Shield runners-up.
Much of the squad had a decent run-out on Tuesday in preparation for tomorrow's showdown. Hereford were the visitors for a regional league game and the Div 1 newcomers were duly dispatched 3-0 as Men 1 took their third consecutive league victory. There was the occasional wobble in the 2nd set but, on the whole, the big guns seemed to be in working order. Aces, beware!
We've also got a double dose of Sunday match action this week. That commences with Ladies 1 heading over to Telford in the league. Warm-up is at 10:45. At the other end of the day, Men 2 travel to Nuneaton for a 19:00 warm-up, looking to consolidate last week's huge win over Cleobury.
Back at base, there will be training for any remaining ladies at Rawlett from 17:30. Understandably, there will be no men's training afterwards.
Our competitive week concludes on Tuesday (Jan 30) when Ladies 1 play again. This time, Cleobury will be the visitors to Wilnecote. Warm-up commences at 20:00 with Brigade 2 in the hot-seat.
That's all for this week folks. I'm sure you'll all join me in wishing Seb and the boys all the best tomorrow. Many people think that aces rarely lose; go and prove them wrong!
Friday 19 January
Three matches this week; two wins and one huge stride forward. There’s no doubting where the stand-out performance of the week came from after Men 2 inflicted only the second defeat of the season on Div 2 leaders Cleobury.
After two defeats this month had threatened to derail the team’s early season optimism, this 3-1 win saw them back to form with a bang. Just as importantly, this took them to five wins for the season. They’re now just one win short of the target which we hope will prove sufficient to keep them in this division for another season. With six more matches still to play, expectations could now be revised upwards.
The NVL Ladies were also racking up the points this week, after they saw off Northampton 3-0 in the opening match of their double-header on Sunday. This meant gaining revenge for a surprise 3-2 defeat earlier in the season. This was the ladies at their powerful best, putting the opposition on the back foot and never letting them settle.
Sadly, that momentum couldn’t be continued into the second match as Black Country prevailed 3-1. With the squad now stretched very thinly and with no options on the bench, our near neighbours were just too good on this occasion. The ladies now sit third in Div 3 Central, just one point off the promotion play-off place, as they head into their final five fixtures.
One quick mention this week about officiating. There was some debate, shall we say, about this after Tuesday’s game. Someone even suggested that occasionally aggressive behaviour towards line judges was just a fact of life in men’s volleyball.
Not in our club.
This isn’t a new problem. It’s also one where there’s little we can do to control how the opposition behaves. We leave that to the officials and trust that they’ll do what is necessary to create a playing and officiating atmosphere that can be enjoyed by all.
We can however make sure we don’t cross that line ourselves. We’ve all been there; angry at a decision which we think has unfairly gone against us. Shout at the ceiling, bite your lip, count to ten; do whatever you need to do. And then remember that these are our club-mates.
Just as when we’re playing, no-one means to make a mistake when they’re officiating. Most of the time however, they haven’t made a mistake at all - but as players, we get carried away in the moment and fail to realise that we may have been wrong, not them.
So, this is just a gentle reminder to everyone that our officials are helping us out and deserve our gratitude and support. Six teams, one club and all that…!
Looking ahead, we have just one fixture next week. Bearing in mind quite how many matches we still have left to play, this just reinforces quite how busy we’re going to be in February and March!
Anyway, the lucky team is Men 1 who will – incredibly – play just their third league fixture of the season when they entertain Hereford on Tuesday (Jan 23) at Wilnecote. It’s the usual 20:00 start – with Brigade 1 in the hot-seat.
This also means a normal week of training for all squads at Rawlett, with men and women on Sunday (Jan 21) and the NVL squads on Thursday (Jan 25).
In one final piece of news, I’m delighted to say that three of our juniors have been selected in the latest 16-player squad for the West Midlands U-15 boys’ team. They are Sam and Josh (who played in the Christmas Club Tuesday competition) and Dawid, Marta’s eldest son.
There’s still one more selection hurdle to get past as the squad will be cut down to a final 12 before the Inter-Regional Competition in May but they’ve now got every chance of making that final cut. Huge congratulations to all three – and to all the coaching staff who work with them at the Junior Academy. Onwards and upwards!
Friday 12 January
It's a common saying in football that you don't win anything in September or October. The same applies to volleyball. However, while trophies and promotions may be secured in April and May, I believe that they're earned in these cold, dark winter months.
All our teams can win a single, one-off, end-of-season match, no matter how much pressure they're under. However, it is their ability to string together three, four or five wins now; to keep training when players would rather be at home; and to find ways of winning when they're fatigued and out of form - that's what really determines whether or not they're winners, come the end of May.
These are the toughest months of the season. That early season enthusiasm has long since gone. The end of the season seems miles away. You still have more than half your matches to play. That niggling injury won't go away. Your other half is getting increasingly annoyed at much time you spend in a sports hall. But this is when we stick together. This is when we win.
January hasn't started badly - with two wins out of four. But we had just seven ladies at training on Sunday and just five men at NVL training last night. Everyone's reasons for skipping training are always legitimate. But these are the times when we need to push ourselves a little bit harder. Simply playing matches won't get us to where we need to be.
Looking ahead, the January schedule doesn't actually look that bad, meaning there's plenty of training time coming up. Make the most of it though as I imagine that we'll hardly have time to draw breath during February and March.
The past week saw a mixed bag of results. Men 2 are still waiting to kick-start their 2018 after they lost 3-1 at Telford on Sunday in a performance that was distinctly flat at times. Over in Lincoln, the NVL Men were faring considerably better, cruising to a 3-1 win over Lincoln Cannons and booking their place in the National Shield quarter-finals. A trip to London Aces (last year's Shield runners-up, currently 5th in NVL 1) awaits, ahead of a possible home semi-final. What a day that would be!
On Tuesday, Ladies 1 improved their local league record to 4-2, courtesy of a 3-1 win over Wombourne. This was a valuable three points for a team which wasn't its fluent self. Losing 12 successive points en route to a first set capitulation is not something we're used to seeing from this lot. Winning the next set to just 13 told you it was just a blip though.
Looking ahead, the NVL Ladies are in double-header action on Sunday (Jan 14). They host Northampton and Black Country at Wilnecote from 10:00. Over at Rawlett, there will be training for all non-NVL ladies from 17:30, with Coach Maxine in charge. Please allow extra time to get there and get the net set up (Kerrie knows how:...!). Men's training follows at 19:30.
On Tuesday (Jan 16), Men 2 are in action for the third time this month when they host league leaders Cleobury at Wilnecote from 20:00. Brigade 2 takes charge of this one as the men look to improve on a valiant 3-2 defeat at Cleobury earlier in the season. The usual NVL training rounds off the week on Thursday.
So come on then folks; who's up for this? The hard work starts now. Spring will be here before you know it. Make sure it arrives with more than just a hint of success in the air.
Friday 5 January
Just a short club update for you as we all ease ourselves back into the volleyballing groove. This might prove tougher than we thought, if last night's Men 2 performance was anything to go by. Let's just say there was a fair bit of rust and post-Christmas lethargy on show as we slipped to a 3-0 defeat to Rugby in the first round of the Cup.
As Captain Malc was quick to point out though, better to lose an early round Cup match than another league match. Plus,the men get a chance to quickly bounce back as they travel to Telford this Sunday (Jan 7) for a Div 2 league match. Warm-up starts at 10:30.
Over in Lincoln, the NVL Men will be in action against Lincoln Cannons in the 3rd round of the National Shield from 14:00. This all comes after Volleyball England decided to award us the victory in the previous round, after the proposed game against London Lionhearts fell foul of the weather.
With those two matches taking place, there will be no men's training at Rawlett on Sunday evening. Training for both ladies' squads will take place in its usual 17:30 slot though - while NVL training will recommence, also at Rawlett, on Thursday (Jan 11).
On Tuesday (Jan 9), Ladies 1 get straight back into league action when they host Wombourne at Wilnecote from 20:00. Brigade 3 takes charge. And talking of the reffing brigades, the match assignments for the second half of the season will be published on the website shortly.
Looking ahead, we have an awful lot of volleyball still to be played. With a few injuries, player departures and availability issues, we'll be making full use of all our squads to fulfill all these fixtures. All I would ask is that you keep an eye on the calendar and the various Whatsapp groups for your forthcoming playing and officiating appointments - none of which should come as a surprise to any of you.
So, are we ready? Are we fit? Shall we run off the Christmas excess? And shall we go and win ourselves a few trophies? Agreed. Let's do this.
Friday 15 December
I don’t think that this – the final club update of 2017 – will take too long to write after the wintry weather played havoc with our schedule this week.
The Men 2 match at Tern Hill on Saturday was the first match to fall foul of the snow that had already begun falling across Shropshire. The NVL Men trip to London Lionhearts on Sunday also fell by the wayside as the snow really set in.
With hindsight, the Men 1 match at home to Wombourne could possibly have taken place on Tuesday but when Wombourne indicated on Monday that they weren’t keen on travelling, we had to respect their request.
Of course, the irony of this is that Saturday night’s Christmas party was utterly unaffected – at the Snowdome – and a good time was had by all.
Looking ahead, we do have one final match this Sunday (Dec 17) when Ladies 2 host Nuneaton in the 1st round of the Cup. Warm-up starts at 17:00 with Brigade 1 in charge of the officiating. Men’s training will follow from 19:30.
And then, on Tuesday (Dec 19), it’s the return of Club Tuesday! All club members (and several of our more promising juniors) are invited to take part in our usual end-of-year mixed tournament. As ever, there will be drinks for the winners in the Prince of Wales afterwards. Could it be our last ever visit to the PoW?!
There will be no NVL training on Dec 21 – and there won’t be any training on Jan 4 either. That’s because the Thursday night session is being given over to a Men 2 match which had to be moved earlier this month due to NVL commitments. Sunday squad sessions will recommence on Jan 7 with Tuesday matches on from Jan 9. There will be no mixed training on Jan 2.
That’s it folks; you’re all up to speed. Do please come on down to Club Tuesday next week; it’s a really great (and rare) opportunity to bring all our squads together.
If however you can’t make it, on behalf of the whole committee, I’d like to wish you a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Thankyou for all your efforts this season so far and I look forward to seeing you in 2018.
Friday 8 December
So, we went from a 100% record last week – with 3 wins from 3 – to 40% this week (2 from 5). The joys of competitive sport, eh?
In a (rare) week when we lost more than we won, let’s therefore start with something altogether more joyous. On behalf of everyone at the club, I’d like to congratulate Cristian and his wife, Aurelia, on the arrival of their baby boy, Philip Andrew, last Thursday. In perhaps the least surprising news ever, I was told that the little fella has huge feet and hands. Give it another 16 years or so and it sounds like we’ve got another middle hitter.
Returning to the here and now, the new dad was unable to prevent his NVL Men team-mates from slipping to a 3-1 defeat to Newmarket in their opening match last Sunday. This was the men’s first league defeat of the season but it served as a suitable wake-up call as Black Country were subsequently dispatched 3-0 in the second game, as the men registered their first shut-out of the season.
Despite that defeat, they still go into Christmas sitting pretty at the top of Div 3 Central with a 6-1 record – and look set for a strong promotion push in the second half of the season.
Not such happy times over on the ladies’ side of the club where the NVL Ladies exited the National Shield with a 3-1 defeat at home to Div 2 side Loughborough Students. When the ladies won the first set to 20, hopes were high for a knockout upset. However, it wasn’t to be with the Students’ more penetrative attacking seeing them over the line.
It didn’t get much better two days later when many of the same players turned out for a local league match and were again on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline. On this occasion, the victors were Warwick Riga in a match that, at times, defied expectation. Ladies 1 surged to a 16-6 in the 1st set and yet somehow lost to 22. Unable to find top gear, they nevertheless won the 2nd but after that, their struggle for any fluency saw the next two sets simply slip away.
Thankfully, over in West Bromwich, Men 1 were seeing off a feisty challenge from Div 3 Sandwell Spikers in the 1st round of the Cup. The lower division side probably thought they could spring a surprise when they took the 2nd set to 25-19 but they were ultimately seen off by 3-1.
Looking ahead, Men 2 travel to the middle of nowhere tomorrow (Dec 9) to take on Tern Hill Fivers at 11:30, snow permitting! The NVL Men round off their 2017 fixtures on Sunday (Dec 10) when they travel down to play London Lionhearts in the National Shield at 16:00. As it currently stands, there is due to be training for both men and women as normal at Rawlett on Sunday evening – although the men’s session may be dependent on whether Men 2 do indeed play tomorrow. Keep your eyes peeled for updates.
Men 1 round off the week’s action on Tuesday (Dec 12) when they entertain Wombourne at Wilnecote in what is typically a feisty encounter. Brigade 2 have the honour of reffing this one. As ever, warm-up begins at 20:00 and, as ever, there will be drinks afterwards at the Prince of Wales but I’m going to throw this out there for the first time: could we be ready for a change of post-match venue? Any thoughts; let me know.
In fact, let me know tomorrow – as I know that over half of you are booked in to attend our Christmas party at the Snowdome. It should be a great night – and I look forward to seeing you there!
Friday 1 December
I’ll make this as quick as I can – but we need to talk about refereeing. We’ve had a few matches recently where we’ve been panicking about having enough officials. In a club of 50 members, that’s crazy!
So, let’s reiterate a few rules. Firstly, if you want to play for Tamworth Spartans, you’ve also got take your turn in refereeing, scoring or line judging.
Secondly, when your brigade organiser contacts you, asking if you can officiate, there really are only TWO possible responses you should give. They are:
“Yes, absolutely, count me in! Not a problem. I’m looking forward to helping out my club-mates and watching some volleyball.”
“No, I’m sorry; I can’t make it this time. Do you need me to get someone to take my place?”
Cut and paste these responses so you can use them at a later date!
Simply saying “no” isn’t good enough, I’m afraid (unless you’re actually playing in the game, of course!). Please do not assume there will always be enough people in your brigade to cover for your absence.
If there are more people than we need, your brigade organiser will ‘release’ the people who’ve already done more than their fair share. But always assume that you’ll be needed – and that you’ll need to find someone to take your place if you genuinely can’t make it.
Please also make sure that your team-mates know this. Thirty percent of our members still don’t read this newsletter so if they don’t hear this from me, they need to hear it from you!
As a wise man once said, “Six teams, one club”. Remember that and we’ll all be ok!
In happier news, we’ve just completed a 100% week – three wins out of three. Despite all our successes to date, I think that’s a first for this season. Having waited all this time for this to happen, our 100% achievement arrived with a minimum of fuss.
Ladies 2 got us up and running in fine form last Sunday, travelling all the way to Hereford to dispatch their juniors 3-0 to register their second win of the season. Ladies 1 followed suit shortly after, swatting away Div 2 side Redhill 3-0 in the first round of the Cup without even breaking sweat.
Men 1 didn’t want to miss out when they played Birmingham Uni on Tuesday. Their 3-0 win was truly remarkable in that they won the first set to just 6 – against a team that finished 2nd in Div 1 last season. Even more remarkable was getting to the second technical 16-0 up. I have never seen that before. I think we had 23 on the board before our libero finally came off for the first time, giving Marek the most delayed entry to a match ever.
Looking ahead, we have one last super-busy Sunday before Christmas as our NVL programme begins to wrap up for 2017. The NVL Men are in action first, taking on Newmarket and Black Country at Wilnecote (warm-ups are scheduled for 10:00 and 14:00). And there’s a little bit of added interest here with our very own Jacob turning out for Black Country. Win both matches and our guys would be heading into Christmas with a 7-0 record and a significant lead over the rest of the pack.
Over at Rawlett at 17:00, the NVL Ladies will be in National Shield action when they take on Div 2 side, Loughborough Students. The Students were promoted from our division last year and looked very powerful so this will be a test. Officials for this match are being provided by Brigade 3 (don’t ask; it’s a long story…). Training for the non-NVL men will follow this match at 19:30.
On Tuesday (Dec 5), Ladies 1 have a huge match at home to Warwick Riga. Warm-up starts at 20:00 with Brigade 3 again in charge of the flags and whistles. Riga were one of the ladies’ closest rivals last season and beat us in the Cup Final. It looks like they’ve improved again this season – so this should be a belter. Don’t miss it!
While the ladies will be in league action, Men 1 will be in Cup action at the same time over in West Bromwich as they play Div 3 side Sandwell Spikers in the 1st round of the competition.
There are now just eight days remaining to the Spartans Christmas Party so if you haven’t yet booked your tickets, please do so via the links in the “Forthcoming Activity” box. Let’s hope we’ll be raising a glass to several more wins by then!
Friday 24 November
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Men 2 embarking on a run of three consecutive home fixtures which could go a long way to defining their season. Two wins was the aim but one would have been ok. Three wins from three would have been hugely impressive - and that's exactly what it turned out to be.
After dispatching Nuneaton 3-0 and grinding out a fraught 3-2 win over Warwick Uni, the men saw off Rugby 3-1 on Tuesday to complete their hat-trick. This was a war of attrition with blocks aplenty. Not one set went beyond 25 points yet two of them lasted over half an hour each. Marathon stuff.
That took Men 2 to the top of Div 2; not bad for a team whose ambition this season is merely to avoid relegation. That made me think it might be worth reiterating the objectives of all our squads (see below) so you can appreciate what we're all aiming for. With three teams already sitting in top place and one more in 2nd, it's fair to say we've started ok!
Men 1 - win their division and reach a Cup final. Only one game played so far (but it was won!)
Ladies 1 - finish in the top 3 and reach a knockout semi-final. Currently 2nd with 3 wins from 4.
Men 2 - avoid relegation by winning at least six matches. Currently top with 4 wins from 6.
Ladies 2 - win half their league matches. Currently on one win from 4.
NVL Men - finish in the top 3. Currently top with 5 wins from 5 and with games in hand.
NVL Ladies - finish in the top 3. Currently top with 5 from 7 but have played more matches than most.
Ladies 2 are currently a touch behind the curve regarding their objective - but they have time to get that sorted. They lost 3-1 at home to Wombourne 2 on Sunday but were just a whisker away from taking their opponents to a fifth set. They now travel to play Hereford Juniors this Sunday (Nov 26) at 15:30, looking for the win that could get them back on track.
The NVL Ladies were also in action last Sunday, registering back-to-back 3-1 wins over Lincoln Cannons and Nottingham Rockets. They've now won four on the bounce and are putting some serious pressure on the teams around them. This was an exhausting effort though, admirably completed with seven players in the first game and just six in the second.
Most of the NVL squad will be in action this weekend - but for Ladies 1 who take on Redhill in the 1st round of the West Mids Cup on Sunday. This game takes place at Rawlett , with warm-up starting at our new, earlier time of 17:00. Brigade 2 are in charge of the officiating for this one. Men's training will follow afterwards, at 19:30.
The third and final match of the week takes place on Tuesday (Nov 28) when Men 1 (remember them?!) play host to Birmingham Uni at 20:00 at Wilnecote. Brigade 1 take charge of this one.
No club newsletter in November would be complete without me mentioning the forthcoming Christmas party. The links you need to follow to buy tickets can again be found in the 'forthcoming activity' box. Don't delay; Christmas will be here before you know it.