Netball: Final Blues match of the season ends in disappointment

Olivia Lee - TCS Sport 12 March 2011

Exeter 33 Cambridge 27

Playing against Exeter on Wednesday with a diminished team but a fierce attitude, the Cambridge Netball Blues fought hard, but were sadly unable to round the season off with a victory.

Exeter got off to a flying start, taking the first centre and consequently the first goal. The game was frantic from early on as both sides scrapped for the ball and within the first few minutes, a strong desire to win became evident on both teams. Jess McGeorge soon equalised, but Exeter’s play was more measured and as such the majority of possession remained with their attack. Some interceptions from Sophia Anderson at WD and Chloe Maine at GK kept the shooters at bay, and a great shot from Lizzy Wheater allowed Cambridge to pull ahead. Alas, the lead was short-lived.

There was a moment of concern after Jess McGeorge took a tumble and requested a time-out, but she was quickly back on her feet and, with the Exeter defence blocking their access to the goal, Cambridge were forced to try and work the ball around the D. The energy was high from both sides, overflowing at times into quite ferocious play; McGeorge was thrown to the floor in one battle for the ball. The pressure seemed get to both teams, but momentum stayed with Exeter and they finished the first quarter with an 11-7 lead.

The atmosphere remained slightly panicked in the second quarter, with a few little avoidable mistakes, but the girls soon got into their stride. Goals were fewer but interceptions were ubiquitous, with the direction of play reversing every few seconds. At times, the pace of the game appeared too much, with many passes having to be pulled back hurriedly from the sidelines. The level of play from Cambridge steadily improved, but Exeter picked up their standard to match and Cambridge found it hard to break through. In the last few minutes of the quarter there was some much steadier play and a string of goals from both teams, bringing the half-time score to 19-16, with Exeter remaining ahead.

The third quarter involved the same slightly frenzied play from both sides and despite Exeter taking the first goal once again, Cambridge refused to make it easy for them. The defence kept tight on their players, forcing them to be constantly on the move and not allowing the dust to settle. Another time-out was required, this time for an Exeter player. A sense of resolve crept through, and there were multiple incidents where injury was a very real possibility.

The Cambridge girls adopted a more controlled approach, working the ball backwards and sideways, and were able to push forward and narrow the goal difference. Keeping tight on their players, Cambridge forced Exeter to send some balls off the sideline, but some impressive interceptions were made by Exeter too. The third quarter ended with a score of 23-21, Exeter still retaining their lead, but with a little more pressure on their shoulders.

The last quarter was the most fiercely competitive, beginning with Exeter intercepting Cambridge’s centre but failing to convert it into a goal. Sophia Anderson continued to support in the centre third, providing a steady option for every pass made. Cambridge managed to bring the score to 25-24, before a penalty from McGeorge made it 25-25. Suddenly there was everything to play for, and the tension mounted. However, Exeter soon regained their lead and this time, they refused to let it go.

There was nothing between the teams in terms of possession or level of play, but some outstanding shooting from Exeter meant that they managed to widen the gap. The game was buzzing with energy, so much so that the players were charging into the goalposts as well as into each other. When the score came to 29-26 it seemed impossible to salvage the game, but the Cambridge girls did not flag. In the closing minutes the Exeter shooters played effortlessly, with the pressure gone, and although the Cambridge shooters also stepped up their game, by that time it just wasn’t enough to save the match.

The final score was a disappointing 33-27 to Exeter. The energy and determination of the Cambridge girls cannot be faulted, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to fend off an equally resolute opponent.

Olivia Lee – TCS Sport