Hartpury’s netballers battled hard in tough circumstances to finish eighth of 18 teams at the England National Schools finals.
There will be little time to reflect on their performance as they look to use the lessons learned to triumph in their BCS quarter-final on Wednesday, March 19th, when they host Bilborough College from Nottingham.
If they come through that test, they could face a crunch semi-final clash with Greenhead College – the team that claimed England National Schools glory on Saturday with a golden goal victory over Leeds in the final. Hartpury defeated Greenhead in the British Colleges National Championships last year.
Having won the county and regional round of the competition, Hartpury were depleted by injuries going into the England Schools competition at Whitby High School, Merseyside. They then lost one of their star players, Wales’ Megan Powell, only four minutes into their first game.
Conceding three goals while Megan Powell was down injured, Hartpury went on to lose 10-9 to Barking Abbey in the opener. Thea Thompson did an admirable job of stepping up to the plate, playing in a number of different positions and starring with 18 interceptions throughout the tournament.
They won the next game 10-7 against Cardinal Newman, playing particularly well in the first half but with a few errors creeping in after the break. Hurstpierpoint College were then despatched 12-5, with Hartpury working really hard to create opportunities and pull off some great interceptions.
Next up were Kings Worcester, and although it was all square at 5-5 at half-time, Hartpury had a poor second half and lost 14-6 to the eventual section winners. Worcester lost out to Greenhead in the semi-finals.
In the fifth game, Hartpury put in a classy display in attack and defence to beat Northampton High School 12-3. There was heartbreak in the next against Grammar School of Leeds as goal shooter Paige Reed had a chance to take the win on the whistle with the scores tied at 7-7 but her shot hit the rim.
The squad was mixed up for the clash with Newcastle Central High and the result was a 10-10 draw after a slightly disjointed performance. Hartpury finished strongly with an 8-7 win over Boswells School but it was not enough to progress to the semi-finals.
Hartpury netball manager, Sarah Pretty, said: “The girls will have learned a lot from this competition. We didn’t really know what to expect as we don’t tend to play schools often, so most of the teams were unknown quantities to us.
“Playing outdoors was also a challenge and the fact it was quite windy did affect our shooting accuracy, but I was particularly impressed with Erin Howell. She did a fantastic job of keeping team morale up when things weren’t going so well.
“In difficult circumstances, we were still able to be competitive and the girls worked hard. They all came along to the extra training sessions that we held outside to prepare for the competition.
“There was a very small margin between success and failure, and had it not been for a few errors, we would have got through to the semis. The important thing now is to get our preparations right for the Bilborough quarter-final on Wednesday.”
Hartpury squad: Issy Dunford, Erin Howell, Thea Thompson (vice-captain), Kellie Hull, Paige Reed, Rebecca Gwilliam, Taryn Lawrence, Meg Powell, Helen Barr, Elly Milner, Hannah Pegrum.