Odeacha Johnson basks in Sunshine Girls call-up
Player-of-match goal attack Odeacha Johnson (left) of Saint Ann Orchid prepares to shoot ahead of defenders A Linton (second right) and Shannika Johnson (second left) of Saint Catherine Racers during the 2023 Seprod/NJ Elite League at the NISC on Friday. At right is Johnson's scoring partner goal shooter Sabrina Spence. (Photo: Colling Reid)

Still basking in the excitement of being called up to the senior Jamaican netball set-up for the first time, Odeacha Johnson says she is using the 2023 Seprod/Netball Jamaica (NJ) Elite League as the perfect opportunity to showcase her talent, with the hope of catching the selectors' eyes for a possible place on the World Cup squad.

Johnson is among 30 players currently in training as the Sunshine Girls prepare for the 16th staging of the Netball World Cup which will be in Cape Town, South Africa, later this year. Only 15 players will be selected to represent Jamaica at the global showpiece from July 28 to August 6.

Johnson's player-of-the-match performance inspired the St Ann Orchids' 47-40 win over St Catherine Races in the Elite League at the National Indoor Sports Centre (NISC) on Friday.

"It is a good feeling to get the call-up to the senior Sunshine Girls World Cup training squad. It is a good feeling and experience to be training with the seniors. I mean, we train very hard but overall it is a good experience for me and I am up for it," the 19-year-old Johnson told the Jamaica Observer.

"The training so far, I would say, is rough but I am going there, and I am pushing hard and working hard for my place on the team. Representing my country at the highest level would be the ultimate dream come true for me.

"It would be great as I will get the experience and exposure to develop myself. It would be a fantastic experience to represent the country at the World Cup. And, as I previously stated, whatever the results are, I will accept them; but I will still go out there and push and work hard," Johnson added.

Johnson, who plays goal attack, netted a cool and decent 14 goals from 21 attempts that saw the Orchids gain points in crucial moments of the game. For the second game in a row, goal shooter Sabina Spence stepped up to the plate and scored a game-high 27 goals from 36 attempts, Rebekah Robinson scored five goals from 11 attempts, while Kelsie Jonas got one goal from two attempts.

For the Racers, Simone Gordon scored 26 goals from 34 attempts, Zaudi Green got 10 goals from 14 attempts, and Shadine Bartley netted four goals from six attempts.

"To be honest, it is a good feeling to come out here and perform because last week I didn't play and so the time that I got today [Friday], I just made use of the opportunity and played. This is a good sign. Well, I am just working hard and pushing hard.

"Regarding World Cup selection, whatever the results are, I will accept them. But I am going to work hard, as success only comes with hard work," said Johnson.

It was a tame start to the match for the Orchids as the Kurt Dale- and Dalton Hinds-led team trailed the Racers 10-16 at the end of the second quarter. It took time for the Orchids to get into a groove but when they did, it was flawless as they closed the gap on the Racers at 21-22 at the half.

The introduction of the young Johnson to the court upped the tempo of the game, with goals being scored at a rapid pace. The swift Johnson forced the Racers to make some poor decisions around the back, which led the Orchids to take the third quarter 36-31. From there, it was smooth sailing as the Orchids won easily in the end.

"Two out of two. We are quite happy at this stage but really not pleased with today's [Friday] performance, but I think to start the season with two wins from as many games, we are proud on that. We have just been together for maybe two weeks, and to really start this strong with a pretty young team, we can't complain at this point. Way too many turnovers for my liking but this is a new team and they are still gelling together, and credit to St Catherine Racers as they are a classy, defensive team," Dale told the Observer.

In the second game at the same venue, Manchester Spurs defeated Kingston Hummingbirds 59-53 in a very entertaining contest.

The league continues today with the St Catherine Racers facing the Kingston Hummingbirds in game one at 5:30 pm and the St Ann Orchids facing the Manchester Spurs in game two. Both matches will be played at the National Arena.

Ruddy Allen

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