Rising Stars nurture their youth

Bringing along young people is
crucial to the survival of a sport.

Netball is making steps in that
department and one of its biggest advocates of youth development is Rising
Stars netball club.

In its brief five year history the
team has been renowned for recruiting young men and women into the sport.

Last year’s mixed league showed
that with the presence of so many male rookies and the national women’s league
saw the club make the move to field two teams.

All of those steps have led to a
fair amount of buzz around the club and some exciting play on the court. Many
enthusiasts expect more of the same this year.

In fact expectations are reasonably
high for the side after last year’s showing. The 2009 Cayman Islands Netball
Association open league saw Rising Stars finish in the middle of the second
division with three wins and in sixth place in division one with no wins.

From there the club saw both of its
teams make it to the later stages of the Knockout (playoff) competition with
the B side advancing to the finals.

This year’s national league started
last week and thus far the club has looked good. In its first game the A team
(sponsored by World Gym) lost to the Butler Properties All Stars 40-25.

However in that match many of the
positives and key players were evident. For starters the offense shows promise
with the introduction of Geraldeen Smith at Goal Attack.

The captain of last year’s Storm
Quik Cash B side, Smith could go a long way towards Rising Stars scoring more
than the 108 goals (second-fewest in their division) they slotted home last season.

Other offensive players who could
make a difference are Wing Attack Josefa Martinez and super-sub Marcia Moiten
(who can play either GA or Goal Shooter).

The subs could also play a role in
that area and with ball possession in general. Smart play from the likes of
Tricia Skyers-Palacio, Evelyn Ritch and Pheona Phemmer would minimize mistakes
and keep the team in tight games.

A crucial part of success in
netball is passing, especially from mid-court. This season that could be a
strong point for the side.

If Centre Casy Swaby and Wing
Defense Patrice Boothe keep the passes going forward then Rising Stars could
put added pressure on opposing defenses.

There’s a saying in sports that
defense wins championship. Last season the team looked anything but a contender
as it allowed 212 points (second-most in the A division).

With the athleticism of Goal
Defense Rosemarie Wilson and Goal Keeper Wendy Fisher, there’s a good chance
that number will drop greatly in 2010.

Remember the squad also gets
another aspect in their favour with Storm Quik Cash A not playing this season.
With only four teams to face it’s possible for the team to finish as high as

 The B team (sponsored by Money Gram) has yet
to go into action this year but the sky is the limit for the youngsters (most
of the squad featured ladies in the U25 age group).

Last season their youth did not
hurt as the side scored 86 goals (fourth-most in the division) and allowed 74
goals (third-fewest in the division).

With names like Letanya Thompson,
Felecia Connor and Lexie Solomon in the fold (all of whom are avid basketball
players) the side has enough talent to thwart any team.

In addition the team does not have
to face the John Gray Mixed and Storm Quik Cash B sides, both were top
finishers in division two last season.

That leaves Rising Stars Money Gram
as a good bet to be a powerhouse in the division.

According to Rising Stars team
manager Tricia Skyers Palacio all of those aspects are dwarfed by the club’s
goal to get more youngsters into the sport this season.

“We consider each Rising Star
member to be a key player,” Skyers-Palacio said. “Everyone contributes differently
on the court and we pride ourselves on building everyone’s skill set so that we
are a strong competitor throughout the season.

“Last season saw the growth of the
club and the fulfilment of one of our mandates by adding a ‘B’ squad which had
mainly younger players. We were proud of them as they placed tied for second
in Division Two.

“However, due to the split, the ‘A’
team suffered as we had many injuries and at times lacked comfortable numbers
for games.

“Our plan for the season is to
continue to recruit players that are willing to learn the game and develop as a
team player with the club.  We will continue to participate in different
leagues throughout the year while keeping our players healthy and positive. 

“Our goal is to maintain
discipline and respect among each other and other teams as well as come
together in an effort to build the awareness of netball as a valuable sport in
the Cayman Islands.”