Netball

Spurs brace for mighty Orchids challenge

Saturday, January 12, 2019

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Manchester Spurs are aiming to thwart a mighty challenge from St Ann Orchids in their Berger Elite League netball clash at Leila Robinson Courts today, beginning at 5:00 pm.

The match in Netball Jamaica's semi-professional competition is the first of a triple bill, which has defending champions Kingston Hummingbirds lining up against Clarendon Gaters at 6:30 pm, and a 7:45 pm closer involving St Catherine Racers and St James Sharpes.

“We can't underestimate any team right now. We're not going to take them lightly because they're fighting for a position to make the semi-finals, so I expect them to come out gunning from first whistle,” observed Connie Francis, head coach of Manchester Spurs.

“Since we've already qualified we really don't want our team to take them lightly because they're more than capable of beating us,” added Francis, whose team shared a win in their two preliminary ties.

Manchester Spurs lead the standings with 21 points from eight matches and already have a semi-final place. St Ann Orchids are third on 10 points from seven matches and in a three-way tussle with Clarendon Gaters (nine points) and St Catherine Racers (seven points) for the remaining two semi-final spots.

“We need to ensure that we put out our best performance from here on, to be consistent with our output on court as from here on every game is going to be like a grand final to us,” said Kevan “Shawn” Murdock, assistant coach of St Ann Orchids.

Today's clash is the first of back-to-back engagements between the Orchids and Spurs, who will clash again next Monday. The Orchids will complete a difficult run-up to the play-offs against Kingston Hummingbirds, who lie second on 18 points and are already through to the semis.

The Orchids were hampered without the services of their national powerhouse in Vangelee Williams, the Sunshine Girls vice-captain, and shooters Thristina Harwood and Rebekah Robinson. Harwood and Williams played last Tuesday and made their presence felt in a 58-49 win over St James Sharpes, where talented shooter Simone Gordon and live wire national midcourt player Adean Thomas also made valid contributions.

“We are pleased that we had our 10 registered players for our last game — that's the first in a long time — and we were able to secure a win. We can't celebrate as yet; we need to tick that win off and get our focus back on what we're doing in preparation for our clash with the current leaders, the Spurs, and ultimately the play-offs,” said Murdock.

“Spurs are a good attacking team, possibly the best in the competition at this time, so in our matchup against them we need to ensure that we start well and try not to chase them,” Murdock added. “We are one of two teams to have beaten the Spurs in the past two seasons so in the back of our minds we have that, we will have that in our pockets that we have beaten them before and so we stand as good a chance as any other team to beat them on any given day, so we're looking forward to that clash with them.”

Francis, on the other hand, wants her team to produce a complete game. They are solid in attack with Gezelle Allison and Anna-Kay Griffiths their main shooters, Khadijah Williams and Carlalee Tingling at midcourt, and Shannika Johnson and captain Tracy Robinson a strong combination inside the defensive circle.

“I want our shooters to change up their style of play. I want us to make ourselves more available when the feeders are looking to make the pass to them,” Francis analysed.

She continued: “I would love to see our defenders play tougher because at times I think they're too soft. We rely too much on our defence to make stops,and we as a team need to play defence.

“For the midcourt, we've a really solid midcourt; we just need to mark tighter because when we put our full court game together there's no team that can stop us from getting the ball through the court and feeding our shooters,” said Francis.


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