Match Report
Oundle School 1st VII vs  Regional Finals
On: Saturday, 25 Jan 2020
Venue: Away

On Saturday 25th January eight Oundle girls headed to Repton School to compete in the Regional Finals, despite wanting fervently to head to their home sofa as it was a precious exeat weekend. Nevertheless, we put out incredible performances throughout the day, with much determination, in true resilient Oundle style over six matches of seven minutes each way. Our first obstacle in the way of us and national finals were West Bridgford School, having won their county we knew that they were very much opposition to respect, but we had not succeeded the Saturday of exeat for nothing; a strong start from the attacking end assured that we took the first half 7-4, only to push on with a united defensive effort to win 14-7. Quick debrief and spy of the other teams before we headed in to round two against Repton. On their home turf with such a sporty reputation, we had to come out all guns blazing, and wow did we do that! As expected, the first seven minutes brought us a goal-for-goal game ending 5-4, however, after considerable training under pressure in the weeks before, this did not phase us. We capitalized on all of their unforced and forced errors to win 15-7. This was a particular moment of pride for me as we played with tenacity and style to absolutely blow a strong opposition out of the water. Special mention must be made here to Janna Holtby for her endless gazelle like leaps and Mia Stanton’s speed through court gaining us many invaluable interceptions. Coming off the back of this win we were fearless, and so we deserved to be, everyone was putting out their best performances. We stole our next win from Kesteven and Grantham School for Girls 12-7 with 100% shooting accuracy from Ziyana Ayonote. This solid gold streak meant that regardless of our next match we were top of our group and through to the semi-finals. However that did not mean that we were going settle for less against our next match: Uppingham. We played a controlled first half to put us three ahead of our traditional rivals thanks to an awesome effort from Izzy Wilson and Amy Hoffman, they created true defensive magic! However the second half piled on the pressure as Uppingham caught back up with us. After lots of controversial discussion about whether it was a draw or a loss with the umpires, we drew the short straw, 12-13. Yet, due to our previous hard work that didn’t matter, we had put ourselves in the position where we did not need to rely on questionable scoring, we were into the semi-finals! We took the loss as a positive to inspire the hunger within us to win and unsettle any feelings of invincibility.

We regrouped with team huddles and a thorough warm up. Fourteen minutes of netball were about to decide whether we would go through to nationals as it is the top to school from each region which qualify. The parents’ boots were becoming ever muddier and their stomachs ever fuller of coffee and cake. We were to play Oakham, a tough but surmountable opposition. Everyone was raring to go, after all it really was go hard or go home. Unfortunately, we seceded our first centre-pass, but this didn’t matter as Rose Atkins’ magnificent man-on defence won us the ball giving us the chance to redeem ourselves. After a few sloppy passes due to Oakham defensive pressure, we finished the first half 4-8. The belief in our team was palpable, we wanted this so much and knew how much we deserved it and could do it after our morning performances. The second half timer began, and marvellous movement from Alice Goddard opened up the space as we ate away the gap between us and Oakham. Nevertheless the gap proved too big and Oakham too good for us to snatch victory from their hands. The buzzer went, tears of both emotions were shed from the two sides. Our emotions were all so heightened because we had so much belief and pride in how we had come together as a squad in the recent weeks to be able to perform so incredibly across the tournament.

There was one final match, it would have been so easy to have turn our backs and give up as nobody strives for the bronze medal match after being so close to the gold. However this was not in anyone’s nature, we all lifted each other up in such supportive and valiant fashion, we were going to finish the day how we wanted and still leave our mark on the competition. We played Northampton School for Girls, who we had recently lost to in the county rounds. Stellar performances and determination from all eight members caught us a win of 13-11.

If I could sum the day up in one word, despite it not being all we hoped for with a physical medal, it would be pride. We have improved so much and, after original thought of wanting to be in our own beds over exeat, the tournament did not detract from the weekend at all, in fact it really added to it! High spirits and happiness all around, despite a few tears but how can you not expect that after fully committing yourself to your cause, it was such a brilliant effort and we are taking nothing but positives forward with us for the rest of the 1st Netball team season.