Hartpury College’s netballers continued their unbeaten run all the way to the England Netball National Schools final as they confirmed their place as one of the country’s top teams.
Having topped the group stage undefeated, the team – representing the South West as Regional Championship winners – battled to an extra-time victory in the semi-final before narrowly losing out on the crown to Yorkshire and Humberside’s Greenhead College in the final.
Sarah Pretty’s team, who entered the tournament at Whitby High School with an untarnished record this season, started with a comprehensive 20-1 victory over Preston’s Cardinal Newman College.
The developing side, who comprise mostly first year players, progressed through their group with seven wins and one draw to set up a semi-final clash with Tunbridge Wells Grammar.
The girls were pushed all the way to extra-time by their opponents after coming from four goals down at half-time to level at 12-12 before eventually coming through as winners 14-13. New defensive partnership, Jodie Blampied and Jane Newton, stole a crucial last-minute interception to set up Hartpury’s winner.
Coach, Sarah Pretty, said “I am so proud of everything the girls have achieved this season. They have worked hard individually and as a team and have come a long way since the beginning of the campaign.
“We came into the competition looking to improve on last year’s top 10 finish and to make it all the way to the final and to only lose out narrowly with such a young side is a great testament to the girls. We came in with an unbeaten record and continued that right into the last game.
“The group stages was a step in the dark for us really as we didn’t know much about any of our opponents and we have come away with a number of really pleasing performances and ended up as one of the country’s top teams.”
Heading into the competition unbeaten as the Schools and Regional champions, Hartpury maintained this stunning form by outscoring everyone in the group stages, with Paige Reed sinking 87 of the team’s 116-goal total.
The team will now turn their focus to the National Colleges Finals on March 28th where they will be looking for revenge against Greenhead as they look to better last year’s runners-up spot, having won it in 2013.
With the AoC Elite Superleague (West Midlands) title already wrapped up, the team are now looking to shine in the AoC play-offs in the coming weeks.