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The university netball matches took place on the Sunday, and I quickly realised they were a far more serious affair than college had been the day before. The umpire would not let me inside the court to chat to the teams, other than for a brief five minutes before play commenced.
York’s captain Holly Dixon told me: “we’re extremely prepared. We’re here for three wins and nothing less.”
Claire Turner, Lancaster’s thirds captain, said: ‘it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re ready — we’ve had a great season.”
From the outset, Lancaster rapidly stormed into the lead at 7-2. It was impressive to see how efficiently the team was finding space for smooth and rapid passes. Afterwards, WD Chelsea Eddy informed me that during training: “we did a lot of set plays, working on controlling the ball down the centre court and driving into space, which York struggle to do.”
Lancaster’s defence duo proved impenetrable; GK Lydia John and GD Laura Langton were perfectly in sync, having played together for three years now. York struggled to break through. By the end of the first quarter, the score was 11-5 to Lancaster.
York visibly began to panic, missing several easy shots. Lancaster’s strong start appeared to have rattled them.
The second quarter concluded at 18-6 to Lancaster. The team demonstrated flawless cohesion, which they attributed to their fantastic group bond. Also, having such cool and calm shooters, Claire Turner and Laura Pryer, was invaluable when it came to driving for victory without succumbing to pressure.
The score was 26-12 by the end of the third quarter, and the crowd was ecstatic. The remainder of Lancaster’s netball club accounted for 90% of the noise – a fantastic show of support.
The final score was 31-18 – a phenomenal win for Lancaster. Eddy accounted for their incredible success: “the fact that we’re all good friends makes us a particularly good team when we could have potentially been just alright.”
The seconds match began somewhat dramatically, as Lancaster’s WD Alice Round suffered a nasty fall a few minutes in. She was soon on her feet again, but unfortunately had to sit the game out.
Lancaster appeared a little shaken as York managed to tuck away four goals. Their shooter, Samantha Hall, turned out to be an absolute machine, and York soared into the lead. The first quarter ended 13-7 to York.
York had a ruthless defensive team: GK Melanie Okuneye and GD Jess Boakye. Lancaster’s shooters, Heather Watson and Sally Shacklady, usually a ‘dream team’, were finding it suspiciously hard to break through the defence. Some questioned whether the umpiring was fair, as York’s defence carried out some obstruction and contact offences that were not pulled up. Lancaster claimed: “they were more like boxers than netballers!”
The second quarter ended 21-16, with Lancaster putting up an impressive fight against a difficult team. In the third quarter, York’s GA Grace Clarke suffered an injury, and also left the court, showing a fraught nature to this game.
The teams scored equally during the third quarter, leaving the overall score 30-24 to York. Such a high goal count demonstrated exceptional play on both sides. Unfortunately, York maintained their lead and won the game 40-33. York’s Captain Emily Shipwright commented: “we’re ecstatic! We have worked so hard for this result.”
The final netball match of the weekend, the university firsts, was about to take place. Before the match, Lancaster’s captain Natalie Sutcliffe was confident that her squad were well prepared. They were keen to get going.
Within the first few minutes, Lancaster surged two points ahead. However, York were strong competition, and matched Lancaster’s impressive pace. The first quarter concluded at 9-7 to Lancaster. At this point the match could have gone either way.
The teams remained equally matched throughout the second quarter; the standard was incredibly high. The second quarter finished on a nail-biting 17 all.
Lancaster’s GK Sam Longson proved an exceptionally strong defensive force. I later learned that she is first year, and shot straight to the first team. She made some crucial interceptions towards the end of the match.
At the start of the final quarter, it was 27-26 to Lancaster. They maintained the edge by a hair’s breadth throughout. It struck me how unbelievably calm both teams were. They could not afford to panic now, and incredibly, both teams did not falter in their intense focus. The crowd, however, was going absolutely nuts. With mere seconds to go, it looked like it was going to be a draw at 32 all, but then out of nowhere, Lancaster miraculously slammed in another two goals.
Chelsea Eddy explained this phenomenal result: “the firsts were equally matched, but our girls thrive off winning, and they couldn’t have gone away with a loss, so it was their attitude, teamwork and ridiculous fitness that pushed them ahead.”
Such a fantastic away competition for Lancaster netball, securing 5 points overall towards the Roses total. It was also an emotional one for the third years, who have certainly ended their Lancaster netball careers with a bang.