Although Hucclecote lost narrowly by 3 goals losing out 41-38, their determination to make it work and to succeed is something that shone through. From quarter 2 through until the end of the game the crowd were certainly kept on the edge of thei r seats.
Hucclecote’s run of injuries and illness has plagued them since Christmas and this weekend was no different. Benched players included a range of their most experienced athletes including Jack Gabriel, Becky Vaughan, Sam Perry, Sam Cook and Neala Brennan, all of whom would normally contest a starting 7 position. With the offer from Jo Lambert, Sports Massage expert to be available on the day, Hucclecote gratefully accepted her expertise to help sort out some of the minor injuries before play began.
However, this aside, the strength and depth within the club has been instrumental in maintaining their top position in Premiership and today all credit must be given to the newcomers being tested out in untried positions. At times, particularly in the 3rd quarter Hucclecote did have the opportunity to steal the lead.
The starting 7 combination saw Allison, Gray, Iffil, Adams, Brooks, Barrett and Beveridge. With a new line-up this took time to settle, and it was Academy who started the strongest with Vicklyn Joseph in dominant form netting 13 of her 15 shots. By comparison , Hucclecote’s attack looked nervous and unsure on the feeds to their shooters with Allison and Gray only having 8 attempts between them leaving them trailing 14-7.
Coach Gilly Salter reversed the mid-court for the 2nd quarter hoping to open up attacking opportunities, placing Adams to WA, 16 year old Brooks to C, and Iffil to WD. In addition a switch took place with Rosie Barrett (captain on court) who was struggling with shin splints, with team-mate and normal GA/GS Beveridge moving out to GD . This combination got off to a stunning start, with Iffil’s speed seeing her turnover ball making a big impact as she took 3 intercepts in this quarter alone. With Allison at the other end now being well fed by Adams displaying some great vision in, confidence began to lift with Hucclecote netting 100% of their shots with Gray and Allison scoring 10 out of 10 between them. ‘Cote’ went on to win the quarter by 2 goals leaving the score at 22- 17 down closing it to within 5 goals.
The third quarter Academy made changes and this impacted on their game, and enabled Hucclecote to close the gap. With 13 attempts at goal this quarter compared to their 9, it was no surprise to see Huccclecote being egged on by a fantastic home crowd and bench to get within one goal. However, each time Hucclecote had the opportunity to equalise inexperience of staying composed at this level crept in and saw Hucclecote lose possession, or Academy force them into errors .
Defensively, Iffil, Beveridge and Barrett made a huge impression during this quarter, and with Adams once again taking care of the ball, into the shooting circle and making no errors, Hucclecote’s delight saw them just 2 goals down 27-29 at the end of this 15 minutes. Gray was also on fine form having one of her best games of the season.
The final quarter had the crowd once again on their toes, as Hucclecote worked tirelessly to gain possession. With Iffil having an outstanding performance at WD along with Sarah Adams steadiness and precision feeding at WA this earned them both joint player of the match. Academy kept their foot on the pedal and at one stage they began to pull away again taking it to 5 goals. Hucclecote however dug deep and clawed it back slightly before eventually losing the game by just 3 goals 41=38.
Hucclecote must take credit for a tremendous effort even though they lost by such a close margin. To play against such elite athletes, the majority of whom play Superleague, bodes well for Hucclecote’s future.
Thanks to regional players Claire Richards and Kayleigh Garbutt-Roberts for attending at short notice to be on the bench and to the other benched players for their fantastic support.
Squad:- R Allison (96% 25/26), G. Gray (76% 13/17), S. Adams, M . Iffil, L. Brooks, R. Barret (Capt), L. Beveridge, F. Edwards, C. Richards, K. Garbutt-Roberts,
Joint Players of the Match: Sarah Adams and Michaella Iffil
Bench: G Salter, S Wainwright, J. Gabriel, B. Vaughan, S. Cook, S. Perry, N. Brennan
Thanks to: Barbara Warbuton Team Manager, and Jo Lambert for providing her expertise in Sports Massage