Unbeaten at the Armitage for the fourth time this season, there were also some impressive wins away from home in what was another successful week for the University of Manchester Netball team.
With three victories from their first three matches of the season, the sixth team were once again in imperious form against UCLAN’s fourth team. Manchester were the dominant side from the first whistle, maintaining their momentum for the duration of the match and once again, the defence worked well as a unit, capitalising on rebounds and pressurising their opposition’s centre court to cause multiple three-second penalties. It was a fantastic performance from everyone on court but a special mention goes to player of the match and centre courter, Natalie Brown, who contributed significantly to her team’s 82-11 victory.
Also unbeaten so far this season, the fifth team resumed where they had left off with a ‘team-of-the-week’ worthy performance in last week’s match. Continuing their great form, a strong first quarter allowed them to forge an early lead to head into the break already up by thirteen goals. Excellent defending, combined with strong centre passes meant there were plenty of opportunities to shoot, which Jade Jackson and player of the match, Vanessa Watkins, scored easily. Despite being so far ahead with only fifteen minutes remaining, Manchester maintained their concentration and did not allow complacency to creep in, resulting in a thrashing of their opponents and a final score of 62 goals to just 9.
This week’s standout performance came from the third team who faced off against Liverpool’s third team. Despite having a home advantage on their side, Manchester made hard work of the match and found themselves behind for the majority of the sixty minutes. Down by six goals in the last quarter and with only one substitute, the girls in purple dug deep to secure a hard-fought draw; the final score ended a nail-biting 44-44. It was an excellent demonstration of Manchester’s fighting spirit, epitomised excellently by player of the match, Hannah Coward.
Travelling to Liverpool to take on Edge Hill, the second team took a while to settle into their match, as they struggled to take control of play. It was a tough game for all the players on court, especially the centre-courters and defenders, who had to deal with their opposition’s quick attacking style of play. Plenty of contact from both sides meant play was contested throughout court but Manchester continued to work well and pull together. Despite losing 39-52, Manchester’s superior fitness levels became apparent, allowing them to finish strongly and win the final quarter by six goals. It was a promising end to the match which bodes well for next week. Co-captain Kate Gardiner earned this week’s player of the match accolade.
Despite a tough start to the season, the fourth team continued their return to their winning ways as they faced off against local rivals, MMU. After an even first quarter, it was Manchester who made the decisive move to pull away, repeatedly turning over their opposition’s centre passes. The girls in purple’s man-on-man defensive work caused MMU to make simple errors and this, coupled with excellent feeding into the attackers, meant the gap in the score-line increased. The shooters, including player of the match Ella Gorton, provided great movement in the circle and high accuracy with their shots to record a comfortable 60-34 victory.
Last to play, the first team traveled to Birmingham, a team notoriously unpleasant to face away from home. It was very much a game of two halves, with Manchester struggling to stamp their authority on the match throughout most of the first thirty minutes. With a slim lead of only two goals leading into the half-time break, the girls in purple came back out firing to score an immense eighteen goals, recording their best quarter score of the match, and headed into the final fifteen minutes with victory almost guaranteed. Manchester would not be denied in what was a much improved performance on last week’s and the final score ended 53-40 in their favour. The player of the match accolade went jointly to WA Katie Lee and GS Beth Payne who combined excellently in attack.