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In recent netball college years, one thing has become a certainty – Fylde A’s always win. For 4 straight years and nearly 50 league games unbeaten, Fylde’s netballers have dominated and destroyed the seven colleges that have stood in their path to victory – until Week 6 of Lent term, that is. Fylde’s autonomous grip on proceedings slipped slightly, losing in a close 26-25 tie at the hands of Lonsdale’s ladies. On the surface a trivial one-point loss doesn’t raise mountains, but delve deeper and the longevity of Fylde’s reign at the summit of the A league and Lonsdale’s victory does create shockwaves reverberating through the inter-college netball leagues.
Despite success here, due to Lonsdale’s loss to Pendle a week earlier, the title still looks destined for another year shrouded in orange. But the implications of the victory shall air a certain confidence among the remaining colleges that Fylde can, in fact, be beaten. The game itself was incredibly tight, as the score line suggested, with the lead toying between each side – even when the final whistle blew no one knew who had clinched the decisive three points. Following the referee’s announcement of a Lonsdale victory, the court erupted with roars of jubilation from Lonsdale.
The games toss up started with the same intensity which featured throughout, ending with the ball disappearing into the building site to the side of the courts. The first quarter saw Fylde take a lead 5-3, a lead which they would rarely see again as Lonsdale breached the Fylde juggernaut keeping ahead 12-11 at half time. Heading into the third quarter they were still ahead 21-19, with fifteen minutes to go. Lonsdale through their ever-present centre – and captain – Sophie Millington possessed the passing ability to release goal attacker Gabi Wilson and shooter Shannon Connaghan, which duly created a pivotal four point buffer between Lonsdale and the champions. However Fylde weren’t ready to give up just yet, pushing Lonnie to the last minute, making up the difference to a solitary point, which was unfortunately not enough. Lonsdale’s first win over Fylde in years was complete: 25-26.
The tie proved to be a great advert for college netball, two of the league’s titans scrapping it out to produce a thoroughly entertaining encounter. Fylde’s humbling defeat was down played by Captain Katie Mitton who told SCAN “it wasn’t really too unexpected to be honest” echoing the league’s challenging high standard this year. Speaking of her own team Mitton expressed “we gave a really good fight despite a relatively new team and some recent injuries, having said that Lonsdale were deserving winners”. However Fylde’s attention now shall turn to the last game of the year against Cartmel on Tuesday of Week 7, win and the title is theirs, along with a noteworthy slot in this year’s Roses.
With the season shortly coming to a close the netball A league has shown excitement, grit and great competitiveness. While Fylde may yet again be crowned champions the shift in momentum may slowly be turning, giving perhaps greater room for another outside challenge next year.