Sport

That Holmwood fighting spirit should be a lesson to all

BY OSHANE TOBIAS Observer writer

Sunday, December 08, 2013    

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IF ever you need a lesson in sheer determination, just become a fan of Holmwood Technical High School. (And this is by no means an exaggeration.) Their athletes embody what it means to be resilient.

It's not just in track and field, either. Their netballers have also mastered the art of that little phrase, 'the never-say-die-attitude', we sports enthusiasts tend to use so loosely at times. You only needed to be on the grounds of the Manchester High School on Thursday evening to witness the virtues of real fighting spirit unfolding in front your eyes.

Yes, they did lose the match, 45-47, and with it their ISSA/Digicel All-island Senior League netball title. But at the end of the game, the girls from Christiana were receiving as much praise as the victors from The Queen's School. Such was their contribution to a thrilling contest; it even prompted a fellow journalist to publicly air his admiration for the Manchester-based school. And it must be noted, he was rooting for The Queen's.

"This was the best netball game I've ever watched!" he declared. "I love this school! They are real champions. They just don't know when to give up."

He wasn't alone in sharing his delight. Even one of the scorers, forgetting that she ought to be neutral, leapt from her chair in untamed celebration when the clock was stopped — scores levelled 34-all at the end of regulation time.

Her reaction was totally understandable, though. Five times they were pushed to the edge of the cliff; five times Holmwood Technical cheated death.

It all started in the second quarter when they lost their three-point first-quarter lead — which quickly turned into a five-point deficit — but responded with real gusto to enter the half-time break just two goals down.

They did it again in the third and fourth quarters. And also in the two five-minute halves of extra-time. However, at the sixth time of asking, they succumbed, but only after a two-goal lead was used as the tie-breaker to decide the game in 'sudden death'.

The match had to end at some point.

It wasn't the first time we were witnessing this Holmwood fighting spirit (yet it felt so refreshing many of us selfishly wished this gripping contest would have continued well into nightfall). It's a spirit that travelled with them all season. You could see it in the all-rural final against Denbigh High last Monday at Clarendon Park. You could see it in the semi-final against Manchester High, and Titchfield High in the second round.

It was even present in the games which they won by huge margins, 79-18, 77-10, and 59-7, as while other teams are allowed to cruise when playing inferior opponents, the Holmwood players are required to up the tempo. "Play against the clock," they are told — not to embarrass the opposition, but to prepare themselves for games like that classic all-island play-off against The Queen's School.

"Whenever you are playing against a weak opponent you can't afford to slack up. You have to try to maintain a certain standard," their coach, Carline Graham-Powell, explained earlier in the season. "If you become complacent against the weaker teams you will have issues later on in the competition when you meet the stronger teams."

And almost in a perfect ending, an emotional Graham-Powell, who's not used to delivering concession speeches in post-match analyses, could find no fault with her team's performance — despite missing out on an eighth all-island crown.

She simply lauded their opponents.

"Ten years ago," she said, "we employed God as our technical director and it has really paid off. Today, I give Him all the glory and I would advise any school who wants to be as consistent as the Holmwood Technical netball team to do the same thing. This was really a victory for Queen's. Hat's off to them."

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