Newcastle’s first team took on Northumbria’s seconds in the sports hall on Wednesday in what was a tough, and physically demanding match.
Both sides were out to prove themselves, with Newcastle vying for promotion following their relegation last year, and the newly-promoted Northumbria side itching to make their mark.
Newcastle Coach Sarah Metcalfe seemed confident in her new squad, which had benefitted from a ‘large influx of good players’ and were now a ‘much stronger team than last year’.
The varsity began with a Northumbria centre, which Newcastle managed to successfully turnover due to their tough marking, on coach Deborah Percy’s instructions for an ‘all on’ defence, to give them the first goal of the match.
Both sides were excitable as the game began, with the high speed of play meaning that loopy, high, passes were common, and interceptions were rife. Newcastle’s WD Jaydene Robinson stayed calm under the pressure, and helped to steady the team, with considerable interceptions.
Northumbria struggled to find their groove in the opening minutes, allowing Newcastle to pull ahead to 7-1. This seemed an unfair reflection of their play, as they moved the ball down court well, but just couldn’t seem to get the ball into the circle and convert.
"Robinson stayed calm under the pressure, and helped to steady the team, with considerable interceptions"
Instead, Northumbria relied on risky high balls into their statuesque GS Abbie Le Brocq, which Newcastle keeper, Kiera Mchattie, did well to defend.
As the second quarter began, Newcastle led 16-7, with Northumbria making key changes to their centre court attackers. Newcastle continued to apply pressure to centres, with Northumbria relying on their defence to get the ball out at the last moment.
Despite this, Northumbria finally began to make their mark, with successful high balls into Le Brocq that she effortlessly converted.
Strong circle defending from Northumbria made life difficult for Newcastle in the circle, with captain Hollie Joyce and Heloise Wormleighton at GA and GS having to work hard to find space for the feed in.
This, combined with Newcastle’s failure to get ball side began to really cost them, as Northumbria made easy interceptions, and brought the score to 23-19 at half time.
Following half time, Newcastle had a shake-up of the team sheet, and began to take control. Hattie Grant and Emily Hollingworth worked well together to feed into GS Heloise Wormleighton, who was clinical in her shots, and widened Newcastle’s lead.
Defence heightened their pressure, forcing Northumbria to make risky passes into the circle, which Newcastle capitalised on. Centre court was marked tightly, which made even moving the ball down the court difficult for Northumbria, and they struggled to respond, making the final score 55-39.
“Grant and Hollingworth worked well together to feed into Wormleighton, who was clinical in her shots”
Coach Percy praised her team for a ‘good, strong first game’, despite their nerves. If this continues, perhaps promotion could beckon?