Stonehewers lift County Cup

Report by Alex Stanier

Saturday Oct 7th started as the grey morning with constant drizzle. Very hostile conditions for playing Volfsball. Fortunately it cleared quarter of an hour before play in Pitshanger Park for the inaugural Volfsball County Cup hosted by the Stonehewers, Ben, Greg, and Alex, was due to start.
The initial gauntlet had been thrown down by the West Wirral Snakehips, Hannah, Rob and Andy, who were visiting London after a tour of the Far East. Two new teams formed especially for the tournament made up from Brentside High school pupils, the Cardboard Chairs (Roman Simmons, Toby Davies, Ben Spillane) and the No Ideas (Jasper Bradley, Andrew Woodward and Nigel Woodward, Andrew’s dad). Before play started there was a rules summary session led by Alex and Greg. All the competition matches were officiated by a referee with a whistle, a timekeeper, a scorer and a camera operator. The pitch grass was very short and slightly slippery so challenging conditions.
The first match was the greatly experienced Snakehips against the Cardboard Chairs which included Roman who had previously played an afternoon of Volfsball in the summer revealing his strong baseball-trained throwing arm. The Chairs were moving the ball around easily and scored the first point within ten seconds. The highlight of the third was Hannah scoring a thudding single pointer, collecting the rebound and scoring again.  The Chairs were called for travelling as they got to grips with the rules, but the Snakehips’s jetlag meant shooting accuracy was not what it needed to be. Roman sailed a huge pass across to Ben who nailed the first Volfsball of the day. Thus built up a lead that the Snakehips were struggling to fight back against. The Chairs completed the third with another point making six unanswered points for the middle third ultimately proving decisive. In the final third the Snakehips found their rhythm scoring six points but the Chairs scored four more, so the final result was Snakehips (11) v Cardboard Chairs (14) a shock opening result.
Next up was the Stonehewers v No Idea, a tough start for the No Ideas with the Hewers adopting their “grinding down and rebounding with single points” strategy. Despite some rather loose shooting from both teams it ended Stonehewers (13) v No Ideas (3), a point each for all the No Idea debut players.
Next up were the Snakehips against No Idea. In the first third play was cagey until Jasper nailed a first Volfsball for the No Ideas, but, spurred on, Rob responded with another to match it. In the second third, the Snakehips took control of the game scoring four unanswered points. The final third was very close in terms of points but it meant that the final score was Snakehips (15) v No Idea (7).
In the next match the Cardboard Chairs had a spring in their step after defeating the Snakehips as they took on the Stonehewers. The first third was very cagey ending with just a point each. During the one minute break, the Stonehewers suffered one of their semi-regular over-heated team disagreements and then second third started when the game got heated. Ben suddenly nailed a Volfsball and Roman added a further three points, thus the Stonehewers finishing the middle third a massive six points behind the Chairs. Would this be another dramatic scalp for the Chairs to claim? The Stonehewers immediately started the final third brighter but were still 11 – 6 behind with 90 seconds left. Three more single pointers with 60 seconds left and then Alex scored a sudden place kick three pointer to finally level the scores. The final tense 30 seconds passed without a score so the match finished Cardboard Chairs (11) v Stonehewers (11). One of the more dramatic draws in Volfsball history.
The next was the “Old Enemy” at least that is how both teams viewed it. Two Volfsball heavyweights seeking to gain dominance, with the crowd (at least four people not including twenty dog walkers and the parents in the nearby kids playground) tense with expectation. As happens with these matches the tension affected the players. No Volfsballs, plenty of missed shots on both sides but the Stonehewers using their single pointers plus rebounding strategy won the match Snakehips (6) v Stonehewers (10).
The final match of the tournament was significant because if the Chairs won with a significant score they would be tournament champions. The match was definitely a story of three thirds. The first third was dominated by the No Ideas with Andrew scoring the only two points. The second third by Roman scoring three single points for the Chairs. How many times does a single Volfsball win a match? In the final third, Andrew scored the crucial Volfsball plus three points meaning the No Ideas won with a final result as Cardboard Chairs (7) v No Idea (10)
The final competition positions were
Stonehewers:                    two wins, one draw
Cardboard Chairs:            one win, one draw, one loss
Snakehips:                          one win, two losses (points diff -1)
No Ideas:                               one win, two losses (points diff -15)
In all recorded matches, 11 Volfsballs scored, which given the windy and previous drizzly conditions, was very impressive. Rob Marland, last year’s Volfsball MVP, stepped in for absent Commissioner Larwood to present the trophy to the Stonehewers.
After the main competition, Ben and Greg formed two new teams from their own sets of friends. These friendly matches were recorded but not filmed.
First up was the Snakehips who fancied one more match against a Brentside “High School Under 18s” (No new name allocated – Ben Stanier, Frank Powell who arrived late, Toby, Roman) no doubt hoping for a final victory. The first third ended Snakehips leading five points to one, but in the second third the Brentside U18s scored ten unanswered points including a Volfsball by Frank. Ultimately the match ended Brentside U18s (13) v Snakehips (8). No doubt the Snakehips will return stronger (without jetlag?) to fight another tournament another day.
The next match was Barbers Quartet (effectively Brentside High School Under 15s – Greg, Ben, Jasper, Andrew) against the Brentside U18s. Played in a very relaxed spirit with lots of trick shots attempted Ben scored a Volfsball in the first third and Greg in the second third. The match ended Barbers Quartet (11) v Brentside U18s (15).
After the friendlies, a father walked up with his two sons (Stan and Andy) and two more school friends so two more matches were played. The first match was scored but not filmed with Greg, Simon and Stan on one side, and both Bens and Andy. Stan, aged (10?) scored a brilliant volleyed high air kick for 3 points within 20 seconds, and right at the end of the 3rd third Greg called a timeout with 3 seconds on the clock trailing by 3 points. Greg promptly scored an instant Volfsball to turn the tables win the match. The second match was not recorded. The important lesson here is that ten year olds can play just fine on a full sized Volfsball pitch with no adjustments needed.
A great day of Volfsball with at least ten novice players being introduced to the sport.