The first game of the season and what a tight game it promised to be. Academy have been one of the most competitive fixtures in the calendar for the Premier Team in recent seasons, drawing on several occasions and winning by 1 at home last year.
The Premier Squad had trained well in pre season and were ready to pit themselves against one of the top teams in the league. New Premier Squad member Kerry Walsh was unavailable due to an ankle injury and so too was Rachel Henry with illness. However, the squad remained strong with the familiar defensive unit of Jackie Gabriel, Stacey Francis, Sam Perry and Gemma Fletcher; Midcourt of Captain Becky Hemming, Steph Essex and Amanda Trounce and the shooting end was boosted by the return of Sam Cook into the Prem Squad after her brief inclusion 2 seasons ago before succumbing to a cruciate injury and Rosie Allison, another talented 16 year old shooter who is currently in the U21 squad.
The first quarter saw Hucclecote too slow to adjust defensively to Academy’s aerial play to their circle attack and were unable to counter this until the last few minutes of the quarter. This combined with some poor individual passing errors resulted in a disappointing start with the score at 6-13.
Steph Essex was introduced at C for the 2nd quarter and Francis moved across to GD whilst Fletcher took up the WD position. This lineup seemed to work well and the deficit was soon reduced to 4.
With the aerial ball still beating the Premier defence at times Francis was moved to the GK position with Gabriel bringing control on the through court attack at GD. Fletcher was increasingly applying pressure to her WA causing more errors from the opposition.
With the score at 25-33 going into the final quarter Coach Garland introduced 16 year old Rosie Allison on at GS for her debut both for the club and at this level and what a debut it was. With Francis now turning over more of the high ball into their circle and everyone showing more discipline with their decision making and passing Hucclecote slowly pulled back the score. Allison showed great control, taking contested ball with fight and slotting away her first five shots to get the side back within 3.
It was just too big a gap to have left until such a late stage in the game. Encouragingly Hucclecote won the last quarter 13-8 but will have to wait until next week’s fixture at home versus last year’s league winners
Final score Lost 38-41