Deans handed walkover in Shield

Haakon Lie and Nasser Ssemuwemba, right. Picture: Mick Young (143346-05)
Haakon Lie and Nasser Ssemuwemba, right. Picture: Mick Young (143346-05)
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Horndean advanced to the second round of the National Shield competition without serving a ball.

The Deans received a walkover after Suffolk-based opponents Stowmarket failed to raise a team to travel to Highbury College on Saturday.

Player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba said: ‘It is what it is.

‘We would have loved to qualify through our own performance on court but unfortunately that was not meant to be on this occasion.

‘They could not raise a team for the match and decided to concede.

‘We are pleased to have qualified and are now looking forward to the next round.’

Horndean’s progression to the second round will see them battle two other teams for a place in the quarter-finals after Volleyball England inaugurated triangular fixtures for the first time in the Shield.

The governing body decided to introduce the standard National League division three format after getting a record entry of over 100 teams for this year’s National Cup.

The Deans will now travel to Oxford on Saturday, January 10 for their triangular clash that will involve division one side Danes Watford.

Just like Horndean, hosts Oxford Bulls – who play in the Berkshire League – did not have to break a sweat in order to advance after their opponents, division one team London Lynx II, failed to honour the tie.

But Watford had to fend off stiff resistance from division three central team Peterborough Harriers 3-1 to book their place in the second round.

‘Although we’ve had a walkover in the first round, it has kind of levelled itself up with the triangular that now awaits us,’ said Ssemuwemba.

‘Its not going to be easy to qualify for the quarters but our aim is to keep going.

‘Hopefully, this could be the year we win it.’

The Deans have enjoyed a successful run in the Shield – finishing runners-up in the past two seasons.

However, this Sunday they turn their focus back to National League division two south with a tricky trip to Bournemouth’s LeAF Academy to face another top side Wessex M3 (1.30pm).