Newcastle Vikings’ women’s handball team were crowned England Handball Regional League North champions on Sunday with a well fought 13-18 away victory over Liverpool at Greenbank Sports Academy.
The Vikings went into their title-deciding final league game of the season knowing that they were guaranteed a best ever top-two finish after the University of Leeds forfeited last weekend’s rearranged fixture. However, they would have to beat Liverpool for the first time in their four English Handball league seasons to snatch the title from the Merseysider’s grasp.
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. But with goalkeeper Andrea King pulling off two penalty saves, late goals from Maria Gonzalez pivoting on the line and right-half Alina Inta sent Newcastle into the break with a narrow 7-8 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.
With added impetus 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. Congratulations girls!
The brilliant 13-18 triumph saw Newcastle Vikings jump to the top of the table to unexpectedly take their first league title on an unassailable 20 points ahead of Liverpool and the University of Leeds. The Vikings will now go into battle in the promotion play-offs, with the winners of next Sunday’s match in Oldham against Midlands Regional League winners Loughborough University I going on to face either Reading Lionesses or Brighton in the play-off final a fortnight later to challenge for promotion to the English Premier League.
Newcastle Vikings: Andrea King (GK), Marie Brevet (1 goal), Marlen Slinning Goulty (2), Katerina Gibson, Maren Liane (7), Emily Bjerk (2), Ingvild Misund (2), Alina Inta (3), Maria Jose Gonzalez-Alvarez (1).