Hucclecote Exceed Expectations and Secure 8th Place in the Country
Hucclecote Netball U.14 Dragons exceeded all expectations at the National Finals in Essex last weekend, stepping up to their toughest challenge of the season along with the other top 17 clubs in the Country.
The Dragons National Finals draw couldn’t have been tougher, and the mornings games on Saturday saw them lose narrowly to Bury by 7 goals who went on to earn a place in the final, and to last year’s semi-finalists Turnford by 10 goals.
During this phase of the tournament, Katya Jennings hit high conversion rates in both games netting 92% and 80% respectively and showed great composure under huge pressure. Strong defending by Captain Harriet Sanderson and Meg Knight and Alix Neilson particularly in the Bury game saw them pick off 6 clean intercepts between them, however Bury’s tight defending denied some of these opportunities to goal.
The re-grouping saw them meet MK Netters from Milton Keynes and this too proved to be nail biting game with scores at 4-4, 7-7 before the Dragons took the narrowest of leads by one goal. This game had all spectators and the bench on the edge of their seats throughout. Lucy Griffin at Centre, andAlix Baird GA ensured fed Jennings with ease where she converted 15/17 attempts (88%) and with the Dragons showing calm controlled netball, they finished on a high as they took the victory by just one goal.
Their final game on Saturday saw them take on Grange Town who they needed to draw or win against to secure a top 6 place. Sadly, it was not to be and tiredness, and pressure saw the attacking end struggle to get the flow through to their shooters, and Grangetown ran out winners narrowly by just 16 goals to 15. This therefore put MK Netters through to the top 6 where they eventually came 4th, with Dragons moving into the 7th – 12th play offs.
Sunday was a new day and once again, the draw was tough with Leeds losing out to the top 6 placings due to a narrow 3 goal loss to Bury. Dragons v Leeds saw one of the best team performances of the weekend, with Amy Cook‘s speed through court helping to produce some awesome netball end to end. The young Dragons could not believe it when they stole the show and won 19 goals to 18. Katya Jennings once again nailed her shots scoring 16-18 (88%) as the partnership with Alex Baird just got better and better.
Game 6 was another nail biter against All Saints from London. Defensively Phoebe Gerrard and Connie Trendle both stepped up and Baird played a clever game on the GA asSaints doubled up on the tall Dragons shooter. At half time, Eva Andrews was introduced to the WA bib and she found some great space and put some fine feeds into Jennings. With the teams equally matched, the result ended in an 18 all draw.
The final playoff game after 6 full games, and 168 minutes of tough netball, saw Dragons fighting off for the 7/8th Place in the Country. Facing Ryland’s from Worcester. Dragons stepped up during the first half performance with Olivia Garrard getting out on Centre Passes with ease. Meg Knight took two clean intercepts and Baird’s feeding was spot on. This enabled them to take an 8-3 lead initially and then 15-9 at half time. A reshuffle to rest tired legs and Ryelands decision to switch their dominant shooter to GA saw Ryelandsclaw back the deficit to 2 goals at ¾ time. With Cook back to Centre, the scoring initially continued end to end, however, with Ryelands GA stepping up her performance, and forcing errors by defending tight through court , Ryelands capitalisedstealing the game in the final minutes winning 25-23 placing Dragons into 8th place in the Country.
This was an amazing achievement for a squad whose initial beginnings back last Setpember saw a new era of players coming together and yet in the end saw them contesting against the 2nd , 4th, 6th and 7th placed teams in the Country all over one weekend.
The Hucclecote Dragons were exemplary in behaviour both on and off the court and Coach Gilly Salter said “they have really stepped up this weekend demonstrating just how close they are to contesting against the best teams in the Country. Hucclecote Netball Club are very proud of their huge achievement. “
Squad: K. Jennings, A. Baird, O. Garrard, E. Andrews, A. Cook, L. Griffin, M. Knight, A. Neilson, H. Sanderson (Captain), P. Gerrard, C. Trendle
Hucclecote Bench: Gilly Salter, Sue Wainwright, Julie Andrews, and Team Manager Janey Garrard