Hucclecote U16s fell at the final hurdle in their bid to win the U16 National Club finals held at the Walsall Campus of Wolverhampton University, winning and losing a game in their group of three.
In their opening game against Oaksway (representing the North East) each team traded goals in a tight first quarter, with Hucclecote taking a 8-7 lead. However, in the second period the team hit their stride, as the defensive pair of Beth Perry (GK) and Sam Cook (GD) virtually shut out their opponents, while the mid-court trio of Helen Werrell (WD), Mary Crapper (C) and Fran Preddy (WA), with support from Lily Simmonds (GA), fed Rhianna Hallbrook (GS) to score at will. Rhianna's shooting was faultless, netting 12 consecutive attempts for a 20-9 lead at the half-way stage. Lily finally got in on the scoring act in the third quarter, as Hucclecote extended their lead to 31-14, with both Lily and Rhianna returning 100%. The final quarter saw no let up, with the whole team pushing to maximise their advantage. Hucclecote finally ran out 43-17 winners with the shooters missing just 3 shots in the entire game. A really fantastic team effort.
Understandably hopes were high for their second match against the home team Parkside (representing the West Midlands), who boasted several England players within their squad. Unfortunately these hopes were soon dashed as the team got off to a poor start from which they never really recovered. Parkside were very strong in all departments, and although some frustrating umpiring calls didn't help Hucclecote in any way, the opposition ran out worthy winners. The final score of 35-9 didn't feel as if it reflected the girls' efforts as they fought to the end. With Hannah Jones and Tanya White coming into the team to hold their own in a tighter finish to the match, this showed what an excellent squad the club has at this age group.
It has to be said that the draw did Hucclecote no favours. Parkside looked by far the strongest team on court of the eight other teams making up the competition and the favourites to take the coveted National U.16 Title next weekend. Hucclecote felt that a more favourable draw would have seen them reach the final playoff, but it wasn't to be. Parkside along with Oldham and Cheshunt go through to the second weekend to decide the overall National Club champions.
Finally, a big thank you to Liz Banyard and Arnie Brown for coaching the girls and to all the parents who have supported the team over the entire campaign. The girls were a credit to Hucclecote Netball Club and have formed a close bond both on and off the court over the season.
Squad: R. Hallbrook, L. Simmonds (Capt) F. Preedy, E. Gardner, H. Werrell, M. Crapper, T. White, H. Jones, S. Cook, B. Perry