The University of Manchester’s netball teams are off to a flying start
After a week of preseason training for returners, three gruelling days of trials for the club’s new members and hours of other training sessions since then, it was finally time to put all the hard work into practice for UMWNC. With four teams out of six winning their respective matches, the first BUCS Wednesday of the season was a successful start and a good sign of what’s to come.
First up, the fifth team faced UCLAN threes at the Armitage and a strong start saw them forge an early lead, which they never relinquished. Thanks to some impeccable defending, Manchester only conceded 16 goals and thanks to good transitional play between attack and defence by the centre court and accurate shooting, UCLAN never had a look-in. Player of the match went to Vanessa Watkins for her fantastic movement around the court and her impressive shooting, whilst captain Rebecca James, reflecting after the match, was proud of how well her team played despite it being their first match together.
Next to experience home advantage was the third team, who after a tight first quarter, entered the break 12-11 up against Keele’s first team. No changes were made heading into the second 15 minutes, giving the team a chance to find their feet and this proved to be the right call as the girls extended their lead. Five goals up, captain Kelly Maxwell chose to bring on some fresh legs, making three changes, and whilst it took a while to adapt to some of the substitutions, by the end of the third quarter Manchester had regained their composure and started to eliminate their earlier errors. Another three changes were made in the last quarter, including the introduction of shooter Ellie Gibbs whose superb shooting earned her player of the match. The girls’ patience working the ball into the circle paid off and Manchester ended the match victorious, scoring 49 goals to Keele’s 39.
Last to play at home was the first team, facing off against Leeds Beckett, previous winners of the league and trophy. Knowing it would be a tough game and after a loss last week, Manchester came out firing and led by 4 goals after the first quarter, thanks to the sterling defence of Claudia Payne, Honor de Winton, and Carys Elwiss-Hough. Momentum swung throughout the match with either team regularly scoring a run of four or five goals and although the gap had narrowed slightly at half time, it was Manchester who remained ahead throughout the match. At one point in the last quarter, with the score locked at 37 all, it looked as though it was going to be battle until the final whistle, but the first team pulled ahead at the crucial moment and Beth Payne and Ellie Smith kept their cool in the shooting circle to secure a 49-42 win. Katie Lee and Amy Hughes worked tirelessly in the centre court, especially impressive considering that no substitutions were made, and the latter’s accurate feeding and multiple defensive turnovers earned her the player of the match accolade.
Meanwhile, the fourth team made a trip to Liverpool to play Edge Hill’s second team, a game which proved to be a tough first match to try out new combinations. After a good first quarter, Manchester couldn’t maintain their shooting accuracy, allowing their opponents to increase their lead and whilst the final score ended 40-21 in Edge Hill’s favour, captain Charlotte Mooney is upbeat about her team’s potential and is looking forward to seeing how they progress throughout the season. A special mention goes to player of the match, Nikki Hayes.
Also playing away from home was Manchester’s second team who made the tough trip to play the recently relegated Liverpool John Moores first team. After a slightly frantic first quarter, the girls in purple found themselves 10-19 down, however, they then began to settle into the game and managed to keep their opponents within touching distance, thanks to some accurate shooting and controlled play from centre Megan Woodworth, who also made multiple turnovers. A brilliant third quarter saw Manchester decrease the gap and build momentum heading into the final fifteen minutes but John Moores came out strongly once again, and their incredibly consistent GA allowed them to maintain their lead. Despite Manchester losing 56-47 captain Izzy Smith said it was a fantastic first game, reflected by the close scoreline, and it has provided the girls with both lots to work on, and positives to take forward to their next game. Players’ player went to Olivia Leach for her excellent shooting and controlled attacking play.
Last, and by no means least the sixth team, making the step up from Campus League to BUCS, travelled to Salford to play the latter’s second team. After a tense first half, and losing a player to injury, Manchester found themselves trailing 16-24, and therefore, with some catching up to do. Showing great persistence, they did exactly this and an excellent third quarter saw them narrow the gap to just one goal heading into the final fifteen minutes. Captain Rosie Allen was proud of her team’s desire to win and their team spirit, which combined with better on-court communication and encouragement, saw Manchester stay goal-for-goal with Salford until the last minute. With the pressure getting to their opponents, Allen’s team capitalised, allowing player of the match, Becca Titterington to shoot and score with 5 seconds remaining, helping her team to a 37-36 win. Thanks to their one-goal victory, the sixth team secured the team of the week accolade from the club captain.
All in all, it has been a great first week for the club and it will be exciting to watch all the teams improve and continue to win matches throughout the season.