Another very successful year for netball with three teams - U13, U14 and U19 - winning their Sussex Cup competitions; the U15s narrowly lost in the final and the U16s were losing semi-finalists. Unfortunately, the Independent Schools' Tournaments were cancelled because of the weather and so we were denied the opportunity to really finish on a high.
The 1st VII started the season with a full day of training which included a session with Liz Robertson, who is one of the South of England's foremost coaches, and culminated with a "cool-down" swim and a "Ready Steady Cook" Italian meal produced by the girls themselves. The level of team spirit which made that day so enjoyable continued throughout the year and helped the team to achieve considerable success; it also made them a pleasure to coach. Katy Rodgers, their captain, made a strong contribution throughout the season as she calmly encouraged the squad and led by example.
Half of the girls in the senior squad played hockey in the Michaelmas term and so training was limited, but in preparation for the season they played tough games against Sussex University and beat their 2nd VII 42-22 and their 1st VII 28-21. However, the National Schools' Competition in early November revealed weaknesses in the mid-court and shooting circle where new partnerships had not had time to gel, and the team failed to qualify for the next round.
The U14s did represent Sussex in the South East Finals and were 4th, making us the highest placed Sussex school in that age group, but just missing out on a place in the National Finals. The team achieved an unbeaten season, winning all 11 of their full-length matches. The U15s were also very successful season and the only game they lost was their Cup Final.
The 1st VII played two Cup games in December, beating Chichester High School (59-13) and Burgess Hill School for Girls (48-10). However, matches began in earnest after exams in the Lent term, with Cup wins against St. Bede's (35-12), Hurstpierpoint (29-28), Haywards Heath College (63-17) and Imberhorne (48-18), and fixtures against Lancing (26-15), Christ's Hospital (13-17), Eastbourne (33-29), Cranleigh (28-13) and Sevenoaks (35-12).
The most exciting game of the season was at Hurst, in front of a large crowd of home supporters, when there was barely 2 goals separating the sides at any time during the hour's play - we were never behind, but certainly breathed a sigh of relief when the final whistle saw us one goal ahead. Such a game really showed the 1st VII at their best, shooters Katy Rodgers and Fiona Graves generally had a very elegant, relaxed style but were capable of clinical finishing when the situation demanded it. Mid-court players Georgina Taylor and Catherine Western sustained a high work rate as they fiercely competed for every ball, and defenders Nikki Corrigan, Sarah Williams and Cefin Crouch were all veterans of last season and worked together with a sixth-sense coupled with flashes of devastating pace as they made countless interceptions. On the bench we had our third shooter Scarlett Buer and centre court player Cassie Hedger, both girls made important contributions during the season. Unfortunately all those players, with the exception of Fiona Graves, are leaving us at the end of the year. Anita Dhillon and Laura Marsh have successfully played some games for the 1st team, but undoubtedly next season will be a very testing one for the seniors - we like a challenge!
However, we can certainly look forward to some exciting years ahead as our talented youngsters make their way through the school. The Prep School has achieved some outstanding results. In addition to their Cup triumph the U13s reached the National I.A.P.S. Finals and the U12VII went one better and won the same event. Congratulations to the coaches in all parts of the school who work hard to keep Brighton College at the forefront of Sussex netball.