Image Credit: LUKE SNELL
James kick start the Netball Varsity qualifiers with a win over Goodricke College
The first of the netball semi-finals saw a huge total of 150 spectators, a combination of friends and family, underlining the energetic atmosphere that was present throughout the day of matches. The tension only heightened as the final drew nearer and the crowd anticipated which two teams would battle it out to be crowned top seed ahead of College Varsity versus Durham on 1st March.
Motivating music and a DJ also raised the energy in the Arena, and the excitement and nerves from both players and spectators was tangible.
The first quarter was shaky from both teams, all the girls understandably nervous and eager to perform their best. As the clock ticked down to the final few minutes it became clear that the James girls were the more confident of the two, and they finished with a 7 goal lead after a series of impressive far-range shots from GS Grace Rider.
As the game progressed, James defence proved too strong for the Goodricke attackers to overcome, as they displayed good communication and were able to capitalise on several interceptions within the defensive third, which they carried up through the court to goal.
The third quarter saw James ahead by double, 18-9, which was a result of an impressive combined effort from all team players. The attackers were particularly influential in maintaining pressure on Goodricke all the way down court, as WA Ella Parry chased down any loose balls and fought hard to provide a back-up pass option to the shooters.
A strong defensive effort from WDs Charlotte Holleran and Grace Kneller made it difficult for the Goodricke shooters to use their attackers around the circle, and they were forced to play the ball between themselves or shoot from further out. This allowed the James circle defenders, Hannah Ludlow and Lucy Atkinson to pick up re-bounds, which they did so effectively, stopping Goodricke shooters from closing down the score-line.
James shooters on the other hand only grew in confidence as their goal lead increased, and with less pressure they could afford to relax their play and experiment with some long-range passing. WA Libby Hall’s athleticism in mid-court enabled her to intercept several attempted cross-court diagonal balls from Goodricke, and James made use of a greater variety of passes into the circle, such as bounces or lifted over-head passes, to which their shooters responded accordingly.
Goodricke shooters certainly made a comeback in the final quarter. Communication from both teams heightened and despite playing an extra 20 minutes of match play compared to usual Saturday league games, neither team proved willing to relent until the final whistle sounded. Both teams stepped up the intensity for the final 15 minutes, but Goodricke attempted to make their comeback too late to change the outcome of the game, and James finished with a convincing 34-16 victory.
Both the relief and delight of victory from the girls was clear as their supporters erupted into cheering and applause on the sidelines, and they congratulated each other on a solid performance.
The pressure was off, at least for now, as they could afford some time to recover and refuel while the pressure only mounted for the Alcuin and Derwent girls that were next to take to court.