Image Credit: LUKE SNELL
The second semi-final of college netball Varsity qualifiers did not disappoint.
Captains Hannah Waddilove (Derwent), and Kat Ailles (Alcuin), kept their respective teams calm and focused with well versed warm ups. Both clearly had the respect of their team, as university netball players, and used their experience to instil confidence in the girls before the game began.
Derwent were the first to score but Alcuin quickly chased back to level 1-1, and the score remained equal after almost 5 minutes of play. The quarter continued goal for goal, and it seemed impossible from the early stages to predict how this game was going to end.
Alcuin's defence were strong, forcing Derwent to shoot from the outer edges of the circle, a tough feat in the early stages of a high profile semi-final.
Despite pressure from Alcuin attackers, Derwent's Juliet Cross and Hannah Waddilove read the game well, demonstrating good communication. Alcuin Centre Emma Butcher played a central part in their attacking play, ensuring every pass was safe and instilling a sense of calmness onto the other players with her steady game pace.
The teams proved a perfect match for each other and a dramatic 2 goals for Alcuin in the final 20 seconds of the game kept the score equal and the tension high.
The second quarter continued goal for goal with both teams retaining possession on each centre. One misjudged ball from Derwent gave Alcuin the opportunity for a break they had been waiting for and they capitalised on the turn over to take the lead 11-10 in the second half of the quarter. Derwent proved momentarily rattled by this change of favour as Alcuin were now ahead with the centre pass in their favour.
A determined effort from the Alcuin shooters saw them take the lead by 2 going into the final few minutes. But this was not to last. Derwent showed their grit and were relentless in defence all the way down court, with an athletic interception from WA Izzy Hanton, in the final 30 seconds, turning the tables again to see Derwent move ahead by one goal, 17-16.
Quarter 3 often proves to be the make or break quarter in closely contested games such as this one, and with one goal difference it was all still to play for as the game entered its second half.
After a few unforced errors from Alcuin, Derwent started to pull away and quickly settled at a comfortable 5 goal lead. They capitalised on their increased goal advantage but their game play did not slacken - the girls knew they could not afford to become complacent. A new combination of positions saw Derwent’s Amy Owens as Centre, who proved pivotal in the mid court, using her speed and agility to pick up loose balls around the defensive circle.
Alcuin displayed true sportsmanship and did not let their heads drop as they entered the final quarter chasing Derwent’s 8 goal lead. The defence put increased pressure on the Derwent attackers, with WD Sarah Dance tight on defence around the circle and picking up numerous loose balls from defensive tips inside the circle. GK Natalie Buchan also used her height to pluck the few floating feeds from Derwent attackers into the circle.
Despite a determined effort from Alcuin, Derwent mistakes were too few and far between which resulted in a 38-30 victory for them.
It is safe to say that the morning’s excitement continued into the afternoon when the final dawned at 2pm, as James College came face to face with Derwent in a bid to decide who would progress as top seed in the Varsity games against Durham.
Another nail-biting match saw Derwent continue their success and finish as overall victors by just one goal, 27-26. The final could have ended with either team crowned as winners and the marginality of the score-line definitely reflects the work-rate and faultless determination of both teams.
Good luck to both Derwent and James as they face Durham in the College Varsity on Sunday 1st March.