After four lopsided losses early on in Scotland, the Cayman Islands were staring at an international embarrassment.
Instead of wilting, the national Under-21 netball team stepped up and rattled off three straight victories to close out their showing at the 2013 World Youth Netball Championships. Cayman finished 17th out of 20 teams by beating Malta, 49-48, in their final match at Glasgow’s £113 million Emirates Arena.
Gillian Lee serves as national coach and Cayman’s technical director for netball. After the Malta match, the Australian said the girls can be proud.
“It’s just how much do you want it,” Lee said. “Unforced errors killed us but the defense tightened up in the last five minutes. We kept earning the ball, which was awesome. Rosemarie Wilson, Kimberly David and Aaliyah Webb came on at halftime and put in an excellent performance. At one stage in the game, we were six goals down but the girls fought back time and time again.
“In the way that the draw was, that’s probably the best we could have gone because we actually never got to play the four teams that ended up ahead of us. I reckon 15th to 17th is where we’re (really) sitting at the moment.
“So now, the girls will go straight back home and have a bit of a rest, it’s been a long 12 months, and then go straight into their senior leagues. Hopefully, they’ll want to keep pursuing their netball.”
Last Friday’s finale was a tight affair. Malta and Cayman were tied at 16-16 in the early stages, with the local girls leading 26-25 at halftime. In the third quarter, Malta went up 38-36 and jostled for the lead most of the final period. With less than two minutes left in the contest, Cayman halted their opponents and scored three unanswered goals to take the lead for good with 30 seconds left.
The victory over Malta followed on the heels of wins over Ireland, 62-26, and Israel, 71-26, during the round robin consolation playoffs last week. The victories were the first in Cayman’s history as the local girls made their debut in the competition.
Cayman lost its first four games during group play to finish last in Pool C. The losses were demoralizing: 73-21 to host country Scotland, 98-2 to Jamaica, 94-10 to Wales and 74-24 to Samoa.
In addition to Lee, the girls were supported by assistant coaches Nicola Williams and Lyneth Monteith, team managers Andrea Singh and Adena Miller and delegates Lucille Seymour and Norma Ferryman. Some of those ladies, like Monteith and Ferryman, are educators who returned to Cayman early to prepare for the new school year.
Aside from Wilson, David and Webb, Cayman was represented by nine girls: Alexis Carias, Terry-Ann Hunter, Noviann McLean, Brittany Mobley (vice-captain), Olivia Samuels, Charlotte Shepheard, Roxanne Walton, Sheynae Watson and Martika Williams (captain).
Martika Williams, 20, said last Friday’s victory was the most satisfying result.
“It was very hard and difficult but it was the best win,” Williams said. “We played very hard at the end, defended really good and got the last couple shots, which decided it, and we came out victorious.
“We’ve come very far, we fought to the end and we reached the end finishing 17th. That is probably not the best position but we’ll take what we get and it is what it is. It was fun, I personally learned a lot so I would say it was joyful.”