Sports

Excelsior favoured for sixth ISSA schoolgirl football final

Monday, April 23, 2018

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The final of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/Locker Room Sports Schoolgirl Football competition will take place today and will feature defending champions Excelsior High and first-time finalists Denham Town High.

The game is set to start at 3:00 pm at the Spanish Town Prison Oval following the third-place game between beaten semi-finalists Lennon High and St Jago High, which begins at 1:00 pm.

The defending champions have won the title a total of five times and will start the game as heavy favourites to make it six. They were able to overcome fierce rivals Lennon High in the semi-final, clipping them 1-0 to avenge a 4-0 hammering they had received in the quarter-final round.

Standing in the way of the Xavier Gilbert-coached team is a plucky Denham Town team who performed what could be considered a giant-killing act when they got by St Jago High on penalties in their semi-final encounter last Thursday.

A tactically astute performance from the Omar Edwards-coached team helped them overcome the odds and advance to their first final after finishing third for the last three seasons, and now Denham Town High dream of going all the way.

It will take another giant -killing act for the West Kingston-based team to lift their first title, and the medium press game they exhibited against St Jago may have to be on display once again if they are to contain an Excelsior team that is blessed with speed and skill in attack.

Davia Richards has been plundering the goals in the knockout rounds for Excelsior and it was her glancing header from a corner kick that ushered the Mountain View Avenue-based team into the final. She will prove a handful for the Denham Town defence, and more than one player may have to be deployed to contain the national representative.

It will take another massive team effort from Denham Town High to create history and lift the title, but their head coach is confident that his squad has the ammunition to get it done.

“It's going to be a successful final for us. For years we have been knocking on the door; this is our third year at the school (as a coaching staff). We have been doing some pretty good work with the girls and to see it slowly paying off, it is a big plus for us and the community within itself,” Edwards said, exuding confidence ahead of the biggest game in school's history.

Edwards has not taken all the credit for the success of the team to date, instead praising the efforts of his assistant coach who has played a significant role in the best season in the school's history.

“It is our intention to go all the way. We know that it will not be an easy task. but I believe that we are preparing the girls quite well. My assistant coach Kimathi Makonnen has been doing a fabulous job so far and it is kudos to him as well because he has been doing most of the work on the ground.”

The strife-torn community in which the school is based could do well with some good news, and Edwards is hoping that his girls will be able to deliver just that.

“We believe that a victory will give the community some confidence and some joy. The war has been going on in the community for quite some time and it has certainly derailed training to some extent, but the girls still decided to show up and to see them in the final it is really a motivational factor.”

Tiffany Gayle, who was calm and composed in scoring the winner for Denham Town in the semi-final, is ready to go all the way.

“We have come third too many times, we need it this year,” she said.

The experienced Xavier Gilbert has seen it all and has no intentions of taking the underdogs for granted.

“We haven't met Denham Town this season, but you cannot take any final lightly. They must have been doing something right, hence they are in the final and they beat a good St Jago team, so we are not taking any team lightly.”

Gilbert, who has been at the helm for all five of the previous title wins, is confident that his girls are ready to get the job done and make it title number six.

“We know what we have to do and I think that once we come out and do what we have to do we will get the job done on Monday. I think we have the better team, but that is why you play the final. It is not played off field. You just have to come out on the field and deal with business, and the girls are up for it and I hope that they will come out and take care of business.”

Tatiyana Pitter is one of the most experienced players on the Excelsior roster and, unlike her cautious coach, she thinks that victory is virtually assured for her team.

“Lennon is the only team that could beat us in the final, so the final will be an easy breeze,” she said with a smile.

“We know our game and we watched them (Denham Town) play, so if we play our game strategy and execute what coach says, it will be easy to beat them,” Pitter concluded.

The final represents the quintessential David versus Goliath scenario, but in this case, Goliath is certainly the favourite to come out on top.

— Dwayne Richards

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