Image Credit: IMAGE: LUKE SNELL
Despite over a year of disrupted training schedules and limited match play, college teams are refusing to let the long break and recent warm conditions limit their ability to deliver some excellent performances.
The pace of play on display at weekend fixtures has so far highlighted the girls’ discipline and commitment to off court training over the last year, and it’s safe to say that recent Saturday league results exemplify a host of determined team efforts.
Alcuin College Netball Club is one club which has gone from strength to strength in recent years, accumulating awards for both ‘Club of the Year’ 2019/20, and ‘Highly Commended Club of the Term,’ in the same season.
In their first game of term three, Alcuin 1s secured a solid 18-11 win against James 2s. Despite a very recent close loss to James 1s, Alcuin came against the same James team last weekend to take revenge in an impressive 20-14 win. This secured their spot in the cup semi-finals this weekend, which, unsurprisingly, currently ranks top amongst the team’s favourite moment of the season.
A particularly prominent strength this season is their defense, consisting of Natalie Buchan and Lauren Wright in the defensive circle. This pair’s agility helped secure Alcuin’s victory against last year's Varsity victors, James 1s. A string of wins and an experienced defensive line up certainly puts Alcuin in good stead for the semi-finals.
Last year’s Varsity victors, James, have had a mixed season. Their first two games back witnessed strong performances, with the girls winning 27-8 and 38-13 respectively. Such high scoring games are a testament to their attacking strengths. Ella Parry, senior player and former Club Captain, is a core member of the James 1s team with her composure in centre court. Grace Kneller’s athleticism in both centre-court and defense also provides an important pivot point for the attack to bring the ball down court.
Ella recently told Nouse that despite a difficult past year, the club have been hard at work, and are grateful to be back on court: “whilst Covid has made it different, the spirit and determination of the girls never wavered. It has been great to play some different teams during the cup competition and the standard of netball has been as high as ever.”
James’ narrow loss to Alcuin in a tight match last week, does mean they are out of the running in the cup, but Ella expressed her personal excitement for the season ahead for the returning players in the Autumn Term. Acknowledging the club was in “great hands” she went on to tell us she will “miss playing with all of the seniors in JCNC and the highs and lows we have experienced together…” This nod to the sense of community spirit encapsulates a key part of college netball, alongside the competitive nature of match play, which all players acknowledge they have missed over the last 12 months.
Last year’s Varsity qualifiers, Derwent 1s, have also had some fine performances, securing themselves a spot in this weekend’s semi final against Alcuin. The first team have enjoyed impressive wins over Halifax and Langwith 1s, seemingly unfazed by the new on-court combinations. New 1s player Phoebe Fletcher bagged herself player of the match in their 27-21 victory over Halifax. Her seamless transition into the team is reflective of the versatility of the squad – a definite team strength which has proved essential following a bout of mid-season injuries.
A recent defeat to Langwith 1s, 19-26 might seem worrying ahead of this weekend’s semi-final, however Issy Shannon’s player of the match performance highlights another player to watch in the defensive third. This also gave the team an important opportunity to test their adaptability under pressure as opponent strategies and set plays, let alone outcomes, are never predictable.
The 2s have enjoyed a stellar season so far, with this profound win over Goodricke 2s, 32-3, and a rewarding victory in a hotly contested game vs Vanbrugh 1s, 20-15. The comfortable goal difference in both these games would suggest the girls have found a steady pace of play and are well grounded for the final games of the season.
Derwent 1s and 2s have proven themselves not too dissimilarly matched. Although the 1s came out on top with a 35-17 win last week, the challenges of playing inter-club matches should not be dismissed. This match will have formed a crucial part of the 1s training ahead of their semi-final this Saturday.
Niggling injuries could be a slight concern if the girls are not able to get their fittest starting seven on court, however, the fact their season has so far been defined by determined team-efforts indicates no reason why they should not put on another strong performance.
Derwent face Alcuin in this weekend’s penultimate round of the cup. The two sides have not yet come across each other this season, so with new player combinations and a place in the final at stake, the game promises to be one that should not be missed.
With term drawing to an end, all teams are bound to be tiring, not helped by the fatiguing influence of the warm weather. However, the league results so far suggest the end of the season will prove no less exciting than the start.
Semi-final timings are yet to be confirmed for this Saturday, but matches will take place on the court beside the track on Campus West. Moral support from crowds and supporting club players can often prove integral to a team’s success, so if you’re a fan of either side, be sure to get yourself down to the courts to show your support.
Good luck to all clubs with remaining matches this term.