Aiken-Pinnock-led Racers look to go all the way in Elite League
Roxanna Mclean (left) of St Ann Orchids tries to get the ball from Amanda Pinkney (centre) of Humming Birds, while teammate Susan Douglas looks on in their match at the 2023 Netball Jamaica Seprod Elite League held on Friday March 10,2023 at the National Indoor Centre in Kingston (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

WITH her experience and leadership prowess at the game, former Sunshine Girl and coach of St Catherine Racers Nicole Aiken-Pinnock is confident that she can lead her team to the championship title in the 2023 Netball Jamaica (NJ)/Seprod Elite League.

The Racers began their quest for the ultimate goal with a 42-34 win against the Manchester Spurs at the National Indoor Sports Centre (NISC) last week in an exciting game. The Racers will look to continue their road to glory when they go up against the St Ann Orchids in today's clash, the first of two games at the NISC.

The game is expected to tip off at 6:00 pm, with the second game between the Kingston Hummingbirds and Manchester Spur going off at 7:30 pm.

"The performance against the Spurs was good, but we still have a lot of work to do. We had a training session on Wednesday [March 15], and we have worked on some specific stuff because we know that St Ann Orchids has quality players, and so we definitely have to go back and have a game plan going in to compete against them, and that is definitely something we are looking forward to," Aiken-Pinnock told the Jamaica Observer.

"My ladies are very talented, and I think they are hungry. I think they want to do well, and they are showing me that they are going to do whatever it takes to actually walk away at the top of this competition. I am expecting to work with them and try to impart as much knowledge as I can to them so that, at the end of the day, they can represent themselves well and let the club actually win," the former Sunshine Girl captain added.

Aiken-Pinnock said that her team has five players (Tavonnee Bailey, Shadine Bartley, Theresa Beckford, Simone Gordon, and Abbeygale Linton) that are currently a part of the Netball World Cup training squad, and those players could ignite the sparks between the two teams.

"One of the good things that I love about what's happening here is that I have two shooters from the World Cup training squad, but I also have three defenders, and these are young and upcoming defenders; they are very talented, and they are very capable of moving mountains.

"They just need the right direction; they just need the right instructions; and so I am just working with them as best as I can and letting them know that they are capable of doing whatever they can do. Once they are on the court, just having that belief in what we are doing and having that belief in themselves and trusting in the process of what it is that they can actually accomplish by being at their best."

The remaining members of the squads are Zaudi Green, Shannika Johnson, Mellissa Mills, Rasheeds Robinson, and Amanda Thampson.

"One of the things that we are big on in our space is accountability. We have to ensure that we are accountable for the things that we are doing; if we are in that position, what can we do so that the team at the end of the day will be successful.

"So it is good working with them, and again, it's just a small way of impacting and giving back to the development of netball, and so I am looking forward to the task."

"It won't be easy, but we are all up for the challenge," Aiken-Pinnock ended.

St Ann Orchids defeated the Kingston Hummingbirds 67-59 in their opening match last week. The brilliant goal shooter Sabrina Spence scored a game-high 52 goals from 65 attempts and again is going to be relied on to repeat.

Kurt Dale, coach of the Orchids, said that it was important for his team to kick off the tournament with a win in the hope of carrying the momentum to the finish line.

"It was mega, mega important to start the competition with a win, as this will give the team confidence going forward. We have been working on some stuff, and I mean, playing into a structure is not the usual thing for young girls in Jamaica unless you are at the national level.

"So we are trying to create a culture where we play into structures, and it's taking them a while to adapt, but this [opening win against Hummingbirds] will give them some confidence that what we are actually doing is working. I was really pleased as in the clutch moments, the players really stood up, the national players stood up, and that was what we expected from them," Dale said.

The St Ann Orchids squad reads Sabrina Spence, Shaaliah Bishop, Susan Douglas, Trishana Hanson, Odeacha Johnson, Kelsey Jonas, Chamoi Manahan, Roxonna McLean, Rebekah Robinson, and Quanni Walker.

Ruddy Allen

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