Sunshine Girls Captain JhanieleFowler (second right) rises aboveCalypso Girl Shaquanda Greene-Noelduring game two of their three-matchSunshine Series at the National IndoorSports Centre recently.
Sunshine Girls upbeat ahead of Vitality Reunited Series with England

With the Vitality Reunited Series now only a few weeks away, Sunshine Girls Head Coach Connie Francis is aiming to put the final pieces in place to ensure her team is competitive in all three games against the English Roses.

The fourth-ranked Sunshine Girls, who recently swept 10th-ranked Trinidad and Tobago Calypso Girls in a three-match series are now scheduled to depart the island on November 20, instead of November 12.

This pushback has allowed for Francis and her team to brush up on their cohesiveness and fitness in particular, as they fine tune preparations for what is expected to be three mouth-watering clashes against their number three-ranked hosts.

“We gauged players in terms of where they need to be and what they need to brush up on. We took some time off after the games against Trinidad and Tobago to refocus and recover both mentally and physically, which is very important to us,” Francis told the Jamaica Observer.

“We also looked back at some of the tapes and did some one-on-one with the girls to try and get some more fluency in their movements because at times I felt that we were lacking in that area and so we want to sharpen up there” she added.

The games scheduled for November 28 at the Copper Box Arena in London, and December 4 and 5 at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, will be the Sunshine Girls' first visit to England since the Vitality Nations Cup last January.

Then, they bettered the Roses and South Africa to place second behind New Zealand in a four-team tournament.

On that note, Francis pointed that the 71-22, 64-32 and 73-22 scorelines against the Calypso Girls on return to competitive action were a mere fraction of what her team can achieve when fully prepared.

“I can tell you I am much happier now going into England than I was when we went to the Nations Cup because then we didn't have enough time to gel as a team,” Francis revealed.

“Now we had our local players who were training on Zoom, joining players who were active in England and Australia and they did well. So I am rating our chances highly to win at least two of the three games,” the veteran coach noted.Reflecting on the game-by-game performances in the Sunshine Series, named in honour of former Netball President Margaret Beckford, Francis said it was important for players to not only shake the rust but also to understand what they want to achieve in the upcoming series. “I thought it was a very good effort, the girls basically had not played as a team for a very long time, so it was important for us to get into our stride in all areas of the court heading to England. The girls gradually raised the bar in each game and for that I am very proud of them,” Francis declared.“I tried multiple combinations and took players out of their comfort zones. Our defence and half-court game, as well as our attack looked a bit shaky at times and also our fitness. So we really need to step up in that area,” she added.

The Sunshine Girls also fought tooth and nail against the national men's team in a gritty come-from-behind 51-44 win.

“When we played against the male they were very physical and athletic, so it was about matching their athleticism as well as to outsmart them. “I think we took a longer time to get going but when we did, we got the better of them. Again, we need to brush up on our fitness especially at the backend of the game,” Francis ended.

FRANCIS... I can tell you Iam much happier now goinginto England than I was whenwe went to the Nations Cupbecause then we didn't haveenough time to gel as a team(Observer file)
BY SHERDON COWAN Observer staff reporter cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

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