Cayman is close to naming its best Under-21 netball talent.
The Cayman Islands Netball Association, under the guidance of technical director Gillian Lee, recently made its second cut for the national U21 team.
Lee, who doubles as national coach, states the girls have shown drastic improvements.
“Players are now reading the game, working as a unit and fundamentals are becoming second nature,” Lee said. “The fitness of the girls has improved out of sight, well done to the players and the work they are putting in both at practice and at home by themselves. The girls know they now need to take that next step and improve it even more.
“It is really great to see the girls striving to be their best. Once the final team is selected, we will be organising a number of showcase matches for all to come and watch, so stay tuned.”
Topping the list is Rosemarie Wilson, 17, one of Cayman’s top juniors. The rest of the roster sees Shanai Allen, Alexis Carias, Kimberly David, Terri-Ann Hunter, Renee Lindo, Noviann McLean, Brittany Mobley, Hannah Peralta, Karla Rankin, Hailee Robinson, Olivia Samuels, Charlotte Shepheard, Aisha Stanuel-Taitte, Lexie Walton, Roxanne Walton, Sheynae Watson, Aaliyah Webb and Martika Williams.
All are preparing for the World Youth Netball Championships in Glasgow, Scotland this August.
Initial tryouts took place last September at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex netball courts, attracting over 25 girls. Another cut is expected to occur in May before the final roster is set. Some of the ladies, like Wilson and Allen, went in with prior national team experience having played for the U16 squad.
For some onlookers like Eddie Solomon, the team has a long way to go with its preparation.
“I’m helping with the U21 tryouts and we need to play more matches to be better,” Solomon said. “We have to get on it because July is around the corner. Other national teams are already ready and we got to catch up.”
The world championships, happening 22-31 August, takes place every four years with the last event on the Cook Islands in 2009. Australia are the reigning champions, ahead of New Zealand and Jamaica. England and Bermuda will be among the 20 countries participating this year.
Lee, who is from Australia, states the local girls will be ready for their Scottish opposition.
“Training intensity has now lifted as final selections will take place around Easter. Players are understanding what it will take to play against the best. We’re now organising match play against the best teams in Cayman and this will step us in the right direction towards being able to play internationally.
“We have many senior past national players here in Cayman who know what it takes to play internationally. These players are being a great help in guiding our U21s. Hopefully they are not only improving their netball skills, but their life skills also. The girls have to be very organised with their study, netball and family to balance everything each day.
“They’ve learned about self-motivation to do their home training and to compete at their best during every practice. The girls’ attitudes have really turned around, they are positive during every training session, no matter how hard we push them, they work together to help their team-mates.”
News of the U21 team’s progress comes as netball makes a greater push on youth development. This year sees a new Turtle Netters programme, starting in February, aimed at developing U14 talent.
There is also a fresh emphasis on the primary and high school leagues. The primary competition wraps up next month as schools like Cayman Academy, East End Primary School and Prospect Primary battle for bragging rights. A number of budding athletes, like Joshua O’Garro, are being exposed to the sport.
The high school ranks finish up by 30 January and feature the likes of John Gray High, Triple C and Clifton Hunter High.