Friday, 12 August 2016

REAL TALK: Junior Sunshine Girls show fighting spirit as they get into gold-medal shape

PLAY MAKERS: Both Jamaica and England are preparing for next year's keenly anticipated World Youth Cup in Botswana, Africa.

Those junior Sunshine Girls have real fight in them. On Tuesday night, the players demonstrated this vividly as they rallied to defeat the visiting English U-19s (here for a five-test series), 43-35, at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston.

It was a match-up as entertaining as it was intensely contested, as both teams engaged in a fierce battle to the final whistle. In the end, the Jamaican girls pulled off the win to the satisfaction of the small but loudly cheering home crowd. England had won the opening game, on Monday, 47-43.

As the road to the 2017 World Youth Cup in Botswana heats up, the performance is clear indication that our girls are putting in the work to come away from the tournament with favourable results.

But Jamaica’s track record at the Under-21 level internationally has been largely mixed over the years, and we are currently fourth in the rankings. Can we reclaim a spot in the top three? It remains to be seen but what’s certain is that this 2016 crop of girls is a work-in-progress deserving of our unwavering support.

Trailing 8-7 at the end of the first quarter, the team pulled a few tricks out of the hat to increase scoring opportunities for talented shooters Assana Williams and Simone Gordon, and brought the score to 17-17 at half-time. More accurate shooting and consistent hard work in midcourt paid off for the Jamaicans who enjoyed leads of 26-20, 28-21, 30-23 – and 32-24 at the end of the third stanza. 

England fought back valiantly, trying to take the lead (reducing the deficit to 39-34 at one point), but the Jamaican defenders rose to the challenge, forcing multiple turnovers from the visitors. And despite a few intermittent hiccups, the team held on to secure the well-deserved 43-35 win.

Conrad Parkes, who has had remarkable success with the UWI Mona Pelicans squad, is the man tasked with getting the team ready for the Botswana tournament. According to Parkes, they still have a lot of ground to cover. “We will have to work on our spatial movements and off-the-ball movements and maintaining possession of the ball. In the game on Monday we never held possession as well as we did today,” he told TALLAWAH in a post-match interview. “We made the adjustments and the tables turned in our favour.” 

But you win some and you lose some. On Thursday, the English girls made it clear that they’re not surrendering so easily, eking out a 42-39 win to take the third test and the series lead 2-1. But this is precisely the kind of spirited challenge that Jamaica’s young Sunshine Girls need to keep them on their toes, as they work on the weak areas and get in firm gold-medal shape for Botswana.

> The five-test netball series continues this Friday and Saturday at the National Indoor Sports Centre.

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