WITH the disappointment of missing out on a spot in the gold medal match at the Netball World Cup tournament weighing heavily, Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls will be hoping to end their 16-year medal drought at the championships when they take on New Zealand in the bronze medal match today.
Match time is 9:00 am Jamaica time. Australia and England will meet in the final starting at 11:00 am.
The Jamaicans, who were one of the favourites for the gold medal, were beaten 57-54 by Australia in the semi-finals of the competition on Saturday.
The Connie Francis-coached Sunshine Girls, who last won a medal at the championships in 2007, will be looking to end this drought when they meet the New Zealanders, who they defeated on Thursday in the group stages of the competition.
Shawn Murdock, assistant coach of the Sunshine Girls, has gotten over the defeat to the Australians and is now ready to go after the bronze medal.
“It was a really tough loss for us against Australia and we have spoken to the ladies. But, we are really focusing on doing the best that we can because there is still a medal available and we want to get that medal,” said Murdock.
“We haven’t medalled in a while so that the fact that we are in this position now, any medal would be a success and so we are gunning for that,” he added.
Murdock pointed out that they are confident yet cautious going into the contest.
“The ladies are still very hungry for it [medal] but it is going to be hard to bounce back, but I am just hoping that the ladies are ready,” he said. “This medal is within our grasp and we are trying to get it but we know that it is not going to be easy for us because they [New Zealand] will be coming out very hard for it as well,” Murdock added.
The first period of the match on Saturday was very intense as both teams traded baskets at both ends of the court, which saw the period ending with scores locked at 14-14.
Captain Jhaniele Fowler, playing in her 100th game for the Sunshine Girls, scored 13 of her team’s 14 goals in the period.
The Jamaicans started the second period a bit shakily, and at one point trailed the Australians 25-22 with five minutes remaining in the stanza.
However, they rallied strongly through their Vice-Captain Shamera Sterling who made a brilliant defensive stop to prevent the Australians from scoring, and in the process helped the Sunshine Girls to rally and tie up the game at 29-29 at half-time.
The Sunshine Girls played poorly in the opening minutes of the third quarter as their attacking unit was shut down by the Australian defensive team. In fact, the Jamaicans committed six turnovers compared to the Aussies’ three, and at one point trailed their opponents 31-35.
But, like they did in the second stanza, the Sunshine Girls rallied to close the gap, though they trailed the Australians 42-40 at the end of the third period. However, the Sunshine Girls began the final period confidently thereafter as they quickly jumped out to a 47-44 lead midway the quarter.
However, a number of crucial mistakes from their centre court led to the Jamaicans’ downfall as the Australians took advantage and pulled away for a comfortable victory in the final two minutes of the game. Overall the Jamaicans committed 13 turnovers in the match compared to their opponents 12.
Fowler top-scored for the Sunshine Girls with 46 goals from 47 attempts, while Shanice Beckford added eight goals from 10 tries. Steph Wood led the way for the Australians with 29 goals from 23 attempts while her teammate Cara Koenen chipped in with 28 goals from 30 tries.