Match Report
Epsom College 1st VII vs  Nationals
On: Sunday, 10 Nov 2019
Venue: Away

National Schools Competition

WON 11-8 vs Caterham
WON 9-3 vs Tormead
Drew 8-8 vs Guildford
WON 14-6 vs KCS Wimbledon
WON 11-7 vs Royal Russell
Lost 2-5 vs Putney
WON 13-9 vs Surbiton

Play Offs
Lost 7-12 vs Alleyn's

A great day of netball for the 1st team, which saw them qualify for the play offs - the first time an Epsom team has achieved that in nearly 10 years. From the moment of arriving the girls’ heads were in the right place. They were relaxed but feeling confident, and with no expectations apart from to enjoy the day and play their best netball. They did not disappoint.
The first match was against a strong Caterham, who had totally dominated their draw in the Surrey Schools. The girls turned over the ball at the first opportunity and then looked after it well to convert to goal and take an early lead. Two more turnovers followed, and despite every effort from Caterham, Epsom kept to their game plan and played lovely flowing netball through the court, making virtually no errors and shooting well to maintain their lead.
The second match was against Tormead, and the girls continued their momentum, taking an early lead. In the second half they pulled still further ahead, not allowing Tormead to score a single goal.
What was anticipated to be the toughest match then followed. Guildford High took an early two goal lead, but Epsom regained their composure and adapted their play to stop Guildford’s run and limit the damage. With changes at half time the girls fought hard through the court to force errors and when Guildford did manage to get it to their attacking third Epsom had created an air of doubt in the Guildford attack’s minds so they were not confident to release the ball. Turnovers were secured and converted to pull the game back and get the well deserved draw.
Next came KCS WImbledon: Epsom were 4 goals up at half time but not fully in their stride. The second half saw them take total control of the match and pull further ahead to secure a comfortable win.
Going into their 5th match of the day and looking at the results so far, the girls knew that Royal Russell were a team they had to beat. Faced with more physical play, Epsom did well to hold their own. At half time it was 4-4. After a team talk and some renewed ideas on how to play against them, the girls came out strongly with a run of 4 unanswered goals, a lead they confidently maintained to the final whistle.
A momentary blip then followed. The usual accurate and composed shooters had to work harder in their next match against Putney to counteract a zone defence of the circle, and coupled with a strong mark of the ball they uncharacteristically missed numerous opportunities. The play through court was equally matched across both teams and there were limited turnover opportunities. A loss followed, simply because Putney’s shooters found the net more than Epsom’s.
This led to the final pool match of the day, a must-win match against Surbiton, a team that had beaten the girls in the Surrey Schools. Surbiton scored from their first centre and Epsom followed suit, but then Epsom stepped up the defensive pressure on the second phase of Surbiton’s next centre and a turnover was secured. With the Epsom shooters finding their form again, an early lead was secured. Play continued virtually goal for goal, with the slender lead at risk throughout the first half. After a team talk at half time and the identification of some areas for sharper play, Epsom returned to the court and played dominant, flowing netball to pull 6 goals ahead. Shell-shocked to begin with, Surbiton then adjusted their game and started to pull back, but Epsom kept calm and stopped the run to win by 4 goals.
With just the one loss, the girls qualified for the play-offs in 2nd position. They faced a talented Alleyn's side, who had won all their pool matches and were looking totally dominant. Despite getting an early slender one goal lead, following a turnover of the Alleyns’ centre, Epsom could not maintain their lead and Alleyn's finished the first half 3 goals up. Alleyn's increased their lead to 4 at the start of the second half, but then Epsom matched them goal for goal right up to the final seconds. Alleyn's deservedly took the win, but the Epsom girls should be so proud of how well they played in not just this, but all the matches during the long day.
This was a full squad effort, with every girl contributing. Special mention to Heidi Warren (Rv), who made her debut in the 1st team and impressed with numerous tips and interceptions; Hannah Palmer (M), who returned to the court for the first time after being out with injury for many weeks proved herself to be a crucial member of the attacking unit, shooting incredibly well under immense pressure. Ebube Akojie (Wh) captained the team superbly and led by example with some simply outstanding defensive work, coupled with dominant through court attacking play.