Netball

St Ann Orchids look set to bloom yet again

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

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Defending Berger Elite League champions St Ann Orchids produced a stunning fourth-quarter display to blow away the challenge of St Catherine Racers and marched into the semi-finals of the premier netball competition in fine style.

The champions ran out 52-43 winners after trailing for three quarters of their final preliminary-round game at National Arena on Sunday night.

The St Ann Orchids will go up against Facey's old team, the Kingston Hummingbirds, in one semi-final while Manchester Spurs and St Catherine Racers will do battle in the other. The first game begins at 6:00 pm inside National Arena today.

When quizzed as to what helped motivate the team to go for the win despite having already booked a place in the semi-finals, Sunshine Girl Vangelee Williams said that the team was following the instructions of their assistant coach.

“Our assistant coach Shawn Murdock set a target that in order to win the title we had to win five games. We knew we didn't have to win the game (Sunday night) to advance to the semi-finals, but we wanted to go into the final four with a win and keep things positive.”

Williams admitted that while they were fairly balanced in offence and defence, they had a rough time in the defensive circle up until the final quarter.

“What sparked the change was the little team talk we had just before taking the court (at the end of the third quarter). I was clear on what was needed on my part and their part and they followed instructions and executed well. Stacian (Facey) and I finally connected well in that inner circle to stop them from scoring,” Williams revealed.

The team talk and the connection led to the highest-scoring quarter for the Orchids as well as the best defensive quarter, as they held the Racers to just six goals in the final 15 minutes while dropping in an amazing 18 goals of their own.

The defensive solidity displayed by Williams and her teammate Facey in the final quarter has been years in the making.

“Stacian and I started playing together at the under-21 level for Jamaica. The relationship between us on the court is one that's psychic. When we are on, we are on!,” she declared.

“Oftentimes there are no words from her, just sounds (which isn't always clear) and I will react and cause a turnover and vice versa.”

Amazingly, Facey gave a quite similar response to Williams.

“We are best friends from U-21, we know each other inside and out so it's easy to play with her. We don't really have to talk in the circle to know what each other is doing or want — it's like having a twin sister. We connect easily.”

History beckons for the Orchids and Williams is quite keen on making sure they are the first team to win the title twice.

“I missed out on playing in the league last year because I was away playing in England in the Vitality League for Team Bath. This would be my first title and I am hungry for it,” she stated.

The leading scorer in the game on Sunday was young Simone Gordon, who had her experienced teammates gushing at her awesome offensive display. Gordon scored 40 out 43 attempts.

“Simone is really coming into her own and I love what she offers to the team, the height in the circle and the consistency in her shots. I think she is one of the keys to victory,” said Williams.

For Facey, the turnaround in the game was about ball protection and better overall team play.

“We started to protect the ball more and everyone became involved in defence and attack.”

Facey also had high praises for Gordon.

“She was superb, her shooting was excellent. She showed strength and confidence in our attack.”

Unlike Williams, Facey already has one Elite League title under her belt which she won with the Hummingbirds in the first year of the competition. She was also voted MVP of the tournament back then, in 2014.

But the 24-year-old defender is not satisfied and she, like Williams and the rest of her teammates, intends to go all the way this year.

“It is important to me, to my teammates, to the St Ann Orchids name, our fans and our coaches to keep our title,” she insisted.

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