What a brilliant end to a brilliant season ! Coach Gilly Salter could not have asked for more today when her Premiership Team produced an amazing performance beating New Cambell in what proved to be a spectators dream game .
Not quite back to full strength and still missing Sam Cook, and Olivia Beveridge, Hucclecote’s battle to retain their top slot continued . With Lauren Brooks and Flo Edwards also out at National Screening today’s result was critical and a loss would have seen them drop from 1st to 3rd place in the Country.
This Premiership Squad’s journey over the past 4 years has seen them climb the ladder and go from strength to strength with this season bringing in their best ever results.
At the back end, the defensive trio of Perry, Barrett, and Gabriel (Capt) took the starting bibs giving Hucclecote matching height to cancel out New Cambells Shooter Lindsey Armitage and their attacking players. In mid court, Sarah Adams who has been poorly with a virus returned to Centre, and she linked up with usual team mate Becky Vaughan at WA , with Neala Brennan placed in a new position at GA to work with university team mate Allison at GS.
As the first whistle blew Hucclecote’s first plan paid off as the defence stole New Cambells first centre pass and this set the pace for the first few minutes with Hucclecote taking a 2 goal lead and playing some neat netball. ‘Cote’ even had an opportunity to make it 3 nil however missed the opportunity. With New Cambell initially on the back foot, and a little startled they soon bounced back, and it was then Hucclecote who were left on the back burner as New Cambell powered away into a clear lead scoring several goals in succession. In addition they made life difficult for Hucclecote’s attack to penetrate through their solid New Cambell/ ‘Mavericks’ Superleague defence duo of Lindsay Keable and Hazel Schofield and although Hucclecote got back into the game, New Cambell led 12-9 at the end of the first 15 minutes.
A quick shuffle saw Gemma Gray on to GA and Neala Brennan pushed wide to WA in her more usual position. Alongside a quick switch in the last few minutes of the first quarter with Perry and Barrett changing positions Hucclecote began to settle. Defensively, the trio at the back worked hard and although ‘Cote’ took some clear intercepts, it was frustrating to see them throw it away and out of 5 intercepts and other attacking opportunties, Hucclecote made 9 errors during this period and found themselves 5 goals down at half time. By comparison, Rose Morgan Smith was feeding Armitage and Monique Woods succinctly and out of 12 attempts between them they only missed one goal in the quarter leaving the score at 23-18 in their favour.
Michael Iffil who has gone from strength to strength this season came on to centre and the rest of ‘Cote’ remained the same. A stern team talk about taking care of the ball, and not losing possession saw Hucclecote do just that, and with Gray having one of her best performances driving hard through to the circle and linking with Allison the game plan started to go ‘Cote’s way. Iffil’s quick drives through the court and feeding to Alison also paid dividends and with a tally of 5 goals on the trot left New Cambell wondering what had hit them. Neala Brennan began to find Allison with ease and with a huge effort from the back three and Perry turning important steals Hucclecote sneaked 1 goal up going into the final quarter leading 34-33 restricting the tall shooter Armitage to just 5/ 6 attempts in this quarter.
Both umpires Amy Gifford and Jackie Mizon were certainly kept on their toes with the speed of the ball and with the pace as quick as ever and credit must be given to allowing a highly contested game flow with some fair and great decisions being made along the way. With the home crowd cheering Hucclecote on, and the mental advantage of a 1 goal lead, ‘Cote’ knew they had to work relentlessly and put out their gutsiest performance of all. Defensively Gabriel, Barrett and Perry worked liked demons, and the determination of this brilliant squad , with players both on and off the court supporting, saw Hucclecote edge ahead by 2 goals with less than 2 minutes to go. Both shooters missed critical shots in the dying minutes, but Allison’s overall performance saw her net an incredible 34/41 attempts (83%) and this was against 2 of the tightest defenders in the Superleague let alone Premiership. With the attacking trio, and Gray again playing some dynamic stylish play through court Hucclecote scored another 2 goals in quick succession as the clock ticked down. With a home crowd on their feet and cheering Hucclecote on all the way it was pure relief when the hooter sounded and the final whistle closed the game bringing the season to an end. Hucclecote were to say the least ecstatic , and had finished off an amazing season with an amazing squad and an amazing performance.
Although this leaves them currently at the top of the Premiership, Academy from Kent have one more game in hand and if they win this will see Hucclecote’s Premiership Title pipped leaving them as Premiership 2011 Runners-Up.
Whatever the final outcome, this is a phenomenal achievement with a squad that have grown enormously in confidence and self belief over the past two or three seasons . Whilst their journey has been outstanding, it really is only just the beginning and with the current mix of youth, and experience on their side this will without a doubt carry the reputation of the club on for some time to come. Well done Girls !! Thanks to helpers Sue Wainwright, Jo Lambert, Barb Warburton, and scorers Ros and Sarah Lambden.
Player of the Match : The whole squad !!
Squad: R. Allison (83%), G, Gray (66%), N. Brennan (66%), M. Dowell, B. Vaughan, S. Adams,
J. Gabriel (Capt), M. Iffil, R. Barrett, S. Perry
Team Bench: Gilly Salter (Coach), Sue Wainwright (Assistant) , Barb Warburton (Team Manager), Jo Lambert (Physo)