Grangetown Netball Club recorded their first victory of the new Premier League campaign with a superb 51-35 success over Telstars at Middlesbrough Sports Village. Both clubs had lost their opening two fixtures, but the home side produced forty-five minutes of sparkling netball before comfortably holding on to their advantage in the fourth quarter.
The early exchanges were fairly even, with Telstars edging into a one goal lead, before Grangetown took control of the first quarter courtesy of a run of seven unanswered goals, all scored by Jo Pettitt, who was making her first appearance of the season, having represented her native Scotland in the World Championships since her last game in Grangetown colours.
Fellow shooter Faye Summerhill offered excellent support and set up two more goals for her international partner with trademark disguised passes. The quarter ended with Grangetown gaining possession after an off-the-ball infringement and Jo Pettitt netting a long-range shot just as the hooter sounded to extend Grangetown’s lead to 13-6.
The defensive pairing of Katie Walton and Jenny Mrozik had worked incredibly hard to maintain pressure on their Kent-based opponents and forced a number of interceptions and turnovers.
Telstars noticeably upped the pace at the start of the second period; with their defenders doing a good job of denying Grangetown space and passing opportunities. But after Faye Summerhill converted a lovely looping pass from the influential Marie Ewing, Grangetown again scored seven consecutive goals to gain what was effectively a decisive twelve-goal lead.
Both Faye Summerhill and Jenny Mrozik sustained knee injuries during the quarter, but having used their injury time-out, Grangetown had to play with just six players while their Goal Defence was treated off court. Lovely interplay between the home shooters gave Jo Pettitt an easy chance which both preserved the twelve-goal margin, and also allowed Jenny Mrozik to return to the fray.
The half-time score was 27-14; it had been a great quarter from the whole Grangetown squad, with the speed, accuracy and invention of the passing up the court being a joy to watch. Vicky Rees and Marie Ewing were both having fine games, and Jill Reah was controlling proceedings from the centre of the court, supporting the defence as well as setting up a number of scoring opportunities.
Grangetown kept their starting seven into the third quarter, but Telstars introduced Amoy Clarke at Goal Shooter and she had an immediate impact on the game with three quick goals.
Her threat was obvious, and the hosts reacted by releasing the Goal Attack and giving both defenders the job of marking Clarke. The effect was immediate as the pressure forced a turnover from a misplaced pass, and two subsequent interceptions by Katie Walton typified Grangetown’s commitment.
In what was an increasingly physical quarter, Katie Walton picked up an ankle injury, which forced head coach Gel Williams to reshuffle her defensive pack. Jenny Mrozik moved to Goal Keeper and Vicky Rees to Goal Defence, allowing Lesley Mouat to come onto court at Wing Defence.
The Grangetown shooters were still enjoying a productive afternoon, with both Marie Ewing and Jill Reah at the heart of much of Grangetown’s best attacking work. The highlight of the quarter was a run from Jo Pettitt that attracted both Telstars’ defenders in the circle, and Marie Ewing lobbed a perfect pass to the unmarked Faye Summerhill for yet another Grangetown goal.
Grangetown ended the third period twenty goals to the good (42-22). As well as having an almost unassailable lead, the hosts also had the luxury of being able to replace Jill Reah with Ria Small, one of two players in the squad to have enjoyed Super League experience with Team Northumbria last season.
Telstars dominated the opening minutes of the final quarter, scoring five unanswered goals before Jo Pettitt netted a fine long-range shot to calm any home nerves. The game had become quite feisty, particularly at the heart of the Grangetown defence, where Jenny Mrozik and Amoy Clarke were involved in an ongoing tussle during the closing minutes. The Telstars' shooter continued to find the net when the chances came, but Jenny Mrozik never gave any ground to her opponent, and in amongst her great work was a spectacular flying interception that brought the Grangetown bench to its feet.
Telstars won the final quarter, but fittingly, the game ended with goals from both Jo Pettitt and Faye Summerhill, the former from a delightful fake pass and looping ball from Marie Ewing.
Although well beaten on the day, the visitors certainly played their part in what was a very enjoyable game, and someone who really caught the eye was Telstars’ Amy Omakobia, who played the second half at Goal Defence and Goal Attack. Aged just sixteen, she is clearly a fine athlete and netballer in the making.
For Grangetown, this was an outstanding squad effort, making it very difficult to single out an individual player of the match, but the nod goes to Jill Reah for what was a tremendous all-round performance; and this is how Jill reflected on the game: “Today’s match was, without doubt, a crucial game for us. After two early defeats, another loss today would have meant us having our poorest start to a Prem season yet. We had to win. But with Telstars also looking to secure their first victory, it was never going to be easy.
“The first few minutes of play saw the usual nerves, with turnovers coming from both teams; and it seemed like the match would be close. But by halfway into the first quarter, it really felt like we'd got a hold of the game. The ball moved easily through court, intercepts kept on coming, and the shooters converted. This is pretty unusual at Prem level, with most matches looking like they could go either way until the last few minutes; but it felt like all of the hard work we've been doing with our coach Linzi Filiata at training has started to pay off.
“The defence effectively implemented new strategies to force their centre pass back, and the attack held their nerve in the goal-third, re-setting when we needed to: I'm hoping Linzi would have said we were playing "good" netball... and like she says, the score took care of itself. It was a much needed morale boost for the squad today, and a very valuable five points."
Final Score: Grangetown 51 - Telstars 35
Quarter Scores 13-6, 14-8, 15-8, 9-13
Grangetown Scorers: Jo Pettitt 29, Faye Summerhill 22
Player of the Match: Jill Reah
Club Player of the Match: Marie Ewing
GK: Katie Walton
GD: Jenny Mrozik
WD: Vicky Rees (capt)
C: Jill Reah
WA: Marie Ewing
GA: Jo Pettitt
GS: Faye Summerhill
GK: Jenny Mrozik
GD: Vicky Rees
WD: Lesley Mouat
C: Ria Small