24th April 2018
Reading Lionesses and Newcastle Vikings womens’ teams have both enjoyed excellent seasons, winning their respective leagues.
Reading ended the season with a 100% record in the Womens’ South West Regional League, while Newcastle won a title decider against Liverpool in the North Regional League.
Reading’s title – which was confirmed following their victory over Poole Phoenix in their previous match - was the third time in succession they have been crowned south-west champions. With silverware confirmed Reading went into their final match of the season against bottom side Bath University looking to secure an ‘invincibles’ tag.
The first half was a tight affair, Reading holding a narrow 13-11 lead at the break, thanks in no small part to Alina Popescu who struck eight first-half goals.
In the second 30 minutes the champions showed their class. Catarina Silva and Zsanett Nagy were clinical in front of goal while the whole team showed great resilience in defence. Emese Racz resembled a quarter-back, throwing long, precise passes to set up Fannie Grondon and Barbara Flis to score. The final score read 28-18 to Reading Lionesses. It may not have been a vintage performance, but the Reading girls did not care as they celebrated going the entire season unbeaten for the first time.
Despite another trophy in the cabinet, the Lionesses are still hunting two more prizes. For the first time they have chosen to enter the play-off against Brighton Starlings on 29 April at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury. The winner of that match will go into the play-off finals to battle for a place in the Women’s Premier Handball League. Following that the Lionesses will play Loughborough University in the National Shield on 5 May at Derby Arena.
Vikings’ women’s team were crowned North Regional League champions with an 18-13 win at title rivals Liverpool.
Centre Maren Liane got Newcastle off to the perfect start with an early goal from the back-court, but Liverpool took advantage of some defensive line infringements to score three consecutive well-taken penalties from Malgorla Janus. The Vikings soon pulled back to level through right-winger Marie Brevet’s powerful shot into the top-corner and Liane’s second from the line position. The two teams continued to trade blows throughout the first half as left-half Ingvild Misund and Liane broke through the home defence and Emily Bjerk fired into the bottom corner from the right wing to keep the Vikings on a par. Vikings’ goalkeeper Andrea King pulled off two penalty saves, while late goals from Maria Gonzalez pivoting on the line and right-half Alina Inta sent Newcastle into the break with a narrow 8-7 lead.
The second half started in a similar vein with Liane netting either side of Misund’s second. Head coach Marlen Slinning Goulty then got in on the act to beat the Liverpool keeper herself, while King saved her third penalty at the other end as the Vikings’ defence held firm to thwart the home side’s attacks.
Newcastle gradually opened up their advantage through further Inta and Liane back-court strikes. Bjerk’s wing shot found its way under the keeper and player-of-the-match Goulty broke through for her second. Inta struck her third and season top-scorer Liane rounded off the scoring with her seventh of the match, before the final whistle sent the Vikings into elation.
The Vikings will now go into battle in the promotion play-offs at Oldham, against, Midlands Regional League champions Loughborough University. The victor will go onto face either Reading or Brighton in the play-off final for a place in the Womens’ Premier Handball League.