Having won Division 1 of the East Midlands Regional League in March, Charnwood Sapphires Netball Club this weekend secured promotion to next season’s National Premier League 3 – the third highest tier of English Netball and the baseline league for nationwide competition.
Charnwood’s promotion-journey began when they joined 20 other netball clubs from across England at the National Premier League Playoffs, held at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport.
It was a great achievement to reach the playoffs for the very first time and Charnwood knew they were taking a big step up. In their first game on court on Saturday morning they found out just how big a step it was when they, in their own words, ‘got battered’, during the opening quarter. One of the favourites, Billericay (Essex), gave the girls a shuddering wake up call. However, Charnwood responded brilliantly and despite being well-beaten, they remained positive and determined to bounce back for their second game.
The final game of the season was an exciting match between the league leaders, Leapoole, and Grasshopper, who were determined to finish on a high. Grasshopper started the game in contention, but due to some unconverted shots and the team’s difficulties in containing a long-levered, tall Leapoole GS, Grasshopper found themselves behind 8-17 after the first quarter.
Some excellent communication between the squad at quarter time saw a much better second period, with Grasshopper's defensive and midcourt play vastly improved. The quarter score was much tighter – 12-15 in Leapoole's favour.
At half time, Coach Anne Melling changed the defence and Sarah Barber - the eventual MOTM - came onto court. It was soon obvious that her presence with Sofi Mills as GD was making it hard for the Leapoole attack to feed the circle. At the other end of the court, some excellent shooting by Donna Osborn and Chloe McMachin made the game more competitive, resulting in Grasshopper winning the quarter 12-10.
Grasshopper’s fightback continued in the fourth quarter and the team came within five goals of taking the match, winning the quarter 13-7, but losing the match 45-49 overall.
Overall, a thrilling, competitive match was witnessed which could have gone either way: Leapoole won the first half 20-32, with Grasshopper taking the second, 25-17. It was a superb display of teamwork, good defence, determination and a competitive spirit by Grasshopper to finish the season. Thanks to Grasshopper's umpire Steph Hiom and the table officials Andy Scigliano and Molly and Tom Smith, for their superb commitment throughout the whole season.
Sunday (21st February 2016) saw the long-awaited match between Leapoole and Grasshopper.
Grasshopper were fast out of the traps in the first quarter and took an early five goal lead. However, Leapoole's sluggish start began to dissipate, as they capitalised on a couple of Grasshopper errors in attack, and turned the ball over. The first quarter was very closely contested, with Grasshopper leading it until just before the end, when Leapoole shot steadily to go one goal in front - the score 14-15 in Leapoole’s favour.
The second quarter followed, with Leapoole capitalising with some good attacking play, which Grasshopper were unable to contain and by the end of the second quarter, Grasshopper trailed 22-30.
At half time, Coach Anne Melling made no changes and Grasshopper went out with renewed energy for the third quarter. Unfortunately, they were still unable to contain the Leapoole attackers, whose shooters were consistently accurate. Grasshopper’s opposition pulled further away as the quarter went on by the end of the period, were leading 33-48.
The final quarter saw Amy Brennan come off as C and Hannah Wale take her place; Donna Osborn moved from GA to WA, with Katie Long coming in as GA; Laura Scigliano came off as GD, with Megs Palmer taking her place and Sarah Barbour coming on as GK - to match the height of the Leapoole GS. Whilst Grasshopper did manage to stem the flow of Leapoole goals somewhat, they were still unable to match the opposition’s scoring totals of the previous three quarters. In the end Leapoole ran out eventual winners by 39-63.
Hopefully, Grasshopper will have the chance to turn next weekend's meeting with Leapoole into a win - as the two teams meet again for their re-arranged match that was postponed earlier in the season.
Grasshopper had a must win game today (7th February) against Nottingham Knights. Grasshopper’s first centre was unfortunately turned over – so not the start they wanted - and by the end of the first quarter, in spite of some solid defending by GD Laura Scigliano and GK Megs Palmer, they were losing 7-10.
The second quarter saw Coach Anne Melling take off Hannah Wale and bring on Laura Stokes at WA. However, despite the change, Nottingham Knights continued their consistent conversion of shots, whilst the Grasshopper shooters converted fewer goals. By half time, Grasshoppers were trailing 14-21.
At half time, Coach Anne Melling made further changes at the attacking end, taking off GS, Chloe McMakin, moving Donna Osborn to GS, and bringing on Katie Long as GA. This change did make a difference and the third quarter score was 10-11, with Nottingham Knights having scored just one more goal.
The same team line-up was retained for the final quarter and Grasshoppers made a determined effort to catch up. Unfortunately, all they could do was maintain the closeness of the score for that quarter, losing it once more by 10 goals to 11.
The final score was Grasshopper 34-43 Nottingham Knights. Congratulations to Player of the Match Megs Palmer, playing GK.
This truly was a game of two halves.
Falcons won the first centre pass and then managed to turn over the next few Grasshopper’s centre passes through some solid defensive work as Grasshoppers tried to force the ball into the circle to their tall GS. However, Grasshoppers pulled back well and at the end of the first quarter the score was only 12-15 to Falcons.
The second quarter saw Falcons pull further ahead, with Grasshoppers needing to adjust their tactics to get the ball into their shooters in the circle. By half time the score was 20-26.
At the break Coach Anne Melling brought on Becs Smith at WA but left everyone else in situ. When the game restarted, Grasshoppers began to pull back and had a real purple patch in the third quarter. The Grasshoppers defence began to pressurise the Falcons shooters even more and matched Falcons goal for goal. Grasshoppers won the third quarter 10-9.
In the final quarter, it was nip and tuck, and very close. Grasshoppers' defence piled on the pressure in Falcon’s attackers' circle, cutting down their scoring rate really well. Once again, Grasshopper won this quarter (8 goals to 6) but it wasn't enough to win the game – Grasshoppers losing out by 4 goals. Despite the loss the score was enough to give Grasshoppers a very valuable point.
Grasshopper won the toss, but couldn't capitalise on their first centre pass, as JMs overturned it and scored. From then on, the game continued from end to end, resulting in a score of 9-10 to JMs at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw JMs push even further ahead with some very quick play. Grasshopper found it particularly difficult to play against JMs’ strong GD, who made some excellent interceptions, and went on to lose the quarter 3-9.
At half time, Coach Anne Melling made some further changes, bringing on Katie Long into the shooting circle alongside Donna Osborn. Another tightly fought quarter ensued, with player of the match, GK Laura Scigliano, controlling the Grasshopper defensive circle, and combining well with Sofi Mills at GD. However, once again, Grasshopper lost that quarter by one goal (8-9).
In the final quarter, and with some further positional tweaks, Grasshoppers continued to work hard, but more sterling defensive work by JMs made things difficult. That said, Grasshopper’s defensive end was a force to be reckoned with too and the final quarter was drawn – some compensation for Grasshoppers for the overall score of 27-35 in JMs’ favour.
Grasshopper’s latest game against Brigg 1 was well contested. Both teams began the Regional League Division 2 match well and at full throttle. The first quarter was end-to-end and finished even-steven, 11-11.
Brigg 1 made a change at the break, which had an immediate impact. The team brought on a GS who gave Grasshopper’s defence a headache as she was involved in everything and hardly missed. However, some more good defending by GK Laura Scigliano, GD Sam Montgomery and WD Sarah Melling as well as some solid shooting by Players' Player of the Match GS Chloe Macmackin, kept the score close. At half time, Brigg 1 led 28-23.
The third quarter was once more Grasshopper's best quarter of a game as they piled on the pressure. Coach Anne Melling swapped on Becs Smith at WA for Hannah Wale and she proceeded to defend well in attack which helped Grasshopper take the lead by the end of the third quarter: 36-38.
However, the final quarter was a real tussle with some very solid Brigg defence putting great pressure on Grasshopper’s shooters. Unfortunately for Grasshopper, Brigg 1 ran out 53-50 winners, but the Leicestershire team did very well to earn another bonus point for achieving a close score.
Falcons Yellow began the game with the first centre pass and capitalised immediately, but this wasn’t to be the trend throughout the whole quarter. Some good, solid defence was on show by both teams, as well as some errors too. The contest was more even than the score depicted but Falcons Yellow led Grasshopper 10-5 at the end of it.
The second quarter was also a closely fought contest, as Grasshopper began to cause Falcons difficulties through some good turnovers in defence by Laura Scigliano (GK), Sam Montgomery (GD) and Sarah Melling (WD and last week’s Player of the Match). The introduction of Hannah Wale into attack also helped Grasshopper’s score line but by half time Falcons still led 23-15.
The third quarter saw Grasshopper really turn up the heat and clip Falcons’ wings. The whole team combined superbly as a unit and some inspired shooting in the circle by Donna Osborn (GA) and Andy Flewitt (GS) saw Grasshopper win the third period by 10 goals to 5.
Grasshopper continued their pressure into the fourth quarter, and drew level at one point. The team looked ready to overtake and topple Falcons from their perch but unfortunately several unforced errors meant that the quarter was drawn 7-7, with Falcons securing the overall win 35-32.
All in all, it was a very strong performance by all of the Grasshopper players and congratulations to Sam Montgomery on receiving the Player of the Match award on her first appearance for the team.
Grasshoppers had the advantage of the first centre pass in their latest East Midlands Netball Regional League Division 2 game but threw this away, allowing Nottingham Knights to take a quick lead. Despite attempts to catch up, it proved difficult and Knights led 13-8 by the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was more closely contested, but Knights’ shooters were deadly – converting almost everything that came their way and by the end of the second quarter, they led 22-14.
After the break, Coach Anne Melling made changes in the defensive end but even this could not disrupt the rhythm of Knights’ Goal Shooter, Fiona Hales - a former Grasshopper player. Although it was another closely contested quarter, Knights won it 15-11, making the overall score 37-25.
During the final quarter, Grasshoppers once more put up a spirited battle against a slick, strong Knights team, but failed to close the gap, losing the quarter 14-8 and the match overall, 51-33.
Grasshoppers lost the toss but some solid team defending allowed the team to turn over a couple of uni centre passes, and this, coupled with solid shooting from GS Chloe MacMachin and GA Donna Osborn saw Grasshoppers leading 12-8 at the end of the first quarter.
However, Uni fought back in the second quarter, with some good steals by their solid defenders and they won this quarter 12-9, but Grasshoppers were still leading - very narrowly - at half time 21-20.
Grasshopper Coach, Anne Melling made changes in the shooting circle in the third quarter, but this did not alter Grasshopper's fortunes as uni proved too dominant; Grasshoppers lost this quarter 4-12.
Coach Melling altered the Grasshopper shooting circle once more in the fourth quarter and this did pay off - as did some sterling defensive work by Sophie Mills and Laura Scigliano (Player of the Match today). Grasshoppers pulled the score back in this quarter, winning it 12-9, but it wasn't enough to win the game, which ended 37-41 to uni.