VOLLEYBALL: The Eels' 3-1 defeat of Haughton on Sunday clinched promotion to Division Two of the National League and relegated the Darlington side.
This win puts the Eels into the top 22 teams in England and Wales - a remarkable achievement after only three seasons in the National League and only seven years from the low point in the club's 20-year history when they dropped into Merseyside League Division Two with a squad of seven players.
Haughton started the game strongly while the Eels were very slow off the blocks. Too often, the Eels' attackers were blocked out and the team became increasingly tense. Player-coach Anthony Howarth called a timeout at 13-8 down to try to calm things down, but this had little effect and the set slipped away to a 25-16 win for Haughton.
The Eels were clearly frustrated with their poor show in the first set and channelled this to good effect in set two. As Haughton dropped their concentration, the Eels found their form. Haughton called timeouts at 8-3 down and 16-10 down, but they were unable to turn the tide. A fine run of serves from Howarth took the Eels from 12-10 to 23-10 from which point they took the set 25-17.
In the third set, the Eels took an early lead at 5-1 and they were able to maintain this to 17-13, from which point neither team was able to maintain serve and points were traded to 25-21, leaving the Eels one set from victory. By this point the pattern of the game was set with the Eels wing-hitters Jamie Morecroft and Sasha Skydan scoring almost at will from the assured setting of Paul Lindley and Ian Dickinson, scoring important points from metre balls through the middle.
In contrast, the Haughton blocking game tailed off and their main hitters were unable to score as easily as they had done in set one.
In the fourth set, the Eels maintained their level of determination and demoralised the Haughton attack. A 10-5 lead was stretched to 17-7, and although Haughton never gave up, the Eels maintained control to win 25-15.
The Eels Ladies completed a club double by taking the Merseyside League title, beating Bridgewater A 3-0. The Eels were encouraged to concentrate on their own game rather than the score and despite some uncertain spells, they ran out 25-8, 25-11, 25-12 winners.
A determined performance from Ursula Hill was the highlight.
The Eels' sister club Whitby clinched the Merseyside Ladies Division Two with a 3-0 win against second-placed Knutsford.