Southern Crown

Four National Volleyball League teams headed off, in the first ever Southern Crown volleyball tournament, as preparation for the coming season.  The invitational event was hosted by Exeter Storm Volleyball Club as part of the Exeter & District Volleyball Association’s 25th Anniversary celebrations.

Exeter Storm, hosts & runners-up.
Exeter Storm, hosts & runners-up.

The day began with a match between local rivals Bristol and City of Bristol.  Having recently lost out on promotion to NVL Div 1 to their neighbours, Bristol was out for revenge.   City of Bristol cruised to a 25-14 win in the first set, courtesy of two runs of devastating jump serves from Davide Vaccarino.  The second set was closer, but City of Bristol was always in control and took the set 25-18, to win 2-0.

Next up, Exeter Storm faced Wiltshire Mavericks, who they will be seeing a lot of this season, in NVL Div 3 and the National Cup first round.  Storm won comfortably, 25-18 and 25-15, after seizing an early lead in both sets and then maintaining the lead throughout.

As the day went on, the balcony seating at Riverside Leisure Centre began to fill.  With Exeter Storm being the first men’s NVL team in the area for many years, spectators bore witness to a standard of volleyball uncommon to Devon.

Storm versus Bristol was the first real battle of the day.  After impressive play by both teams, Bristol scraped the first set 25-22, and then took an early lead in the second.  The hosts hit back, powering to a 25-16 win, but failed to carry the momentum into the deciding set.  Playing back-to-back matches took its toll, with Storm’s strong attacks unable compensate for a lacklustre defensive display.

Wiltshire Mavericks pushed City of Bristol hard, to win their first and only set of the competition, before going down 10-15 in the deciding set.  After a gruelling three setter, Mavericks didn’t have enough left in the tank for Bristol, who outplayed them in all quarters.  A 14-25, 10-25 defeat left Mavericks in last place.

Following the results so far, the last match would decide the winner, and proved to be the hardest fought contest of the day.  There was little between Exeter Storm and City of Bristol, with each side working the other’s defence hard.  The hosts scraped the first set, but were pipped to the second.  At one set apiece, the title was hanging in the balance.  Not for the first time, Storm crumbled in the third set, showing clear signs of fatigue.  City of Bristol triumphed 23-25, 25-23, 25-15, to become undefeated winners of The Southern Crown, leaving Exeter Storm in second place.

Despite falling at the final hurdle, Exeter Storm will take plenty of positives from its performances, which bode well for the new season in NVL.  After an exhilarating premiere, The Southern Crown preseason event will be back next year, bigger and better.