Written by Tan Zhe Ren
Edited by Cheryl Tan
It was a sweltering night as the KE Netballers took to the court for their second preliminary match. After a hard fought victory against the netball powerhouse Temasek, giant killers KE were out for yet another famous scalp – Kent Ridge’s.
The game started positively for KE as their GS, Wanqi, put them 1-0 up within seconds after the kick-off. However the lead was short lived as KR pulled back immediately after a quick break caught KE off-guard.
Within the next minute, KR increased their lead to 3-1 after two quick-fire points despite top-class defending by the KE Captain, Claire. Despite falling behind, the KE netballers were not willing to give up without a fight.
After a series of mesmerizing passes among the KE players, a sly but accurate pass from vice-captain Victoria found Wanqi who duly converted the shot amidst an overcrowded semi-circle.
The next few points scored resulted in the score see-sawing between KE and KR, with KE catching back to within a point of equalizing before KR returned their lead to 2. As KE launched yet another attack to attempt to reduce the deficit, a wayward pass was masterfully kept in by the outstretched arms of a determined Wanqi. In doing so, she drew a foul from a KR defender and converted from the free throw, bringing the score to 4-5 in KR’s favour.
KR, determined not to be outdone, launched a long pass in an attempt to catch KE unaware. Unfortunately, they failed to consider the reactions of the agile KE GK Xiaoyun, who rushed out guns a-blazing to punch the ball clear. GD Claire pounced upon the rebound only to be called back from what seemed, at least to the KE supporters, to be a soft transgression against a KR player. Sadly, there is nothing that can be done when a free throw is given, and KR restored their lead to 2 at 4-6.
The next piece of action proved to be the last one for the quarter as KE’s WA Victoria and GA Dawne rushed for a loose ball only to end up sandwiching a KR player, sending all 3 tumbling to the ground as the whistle blew for the end of the quarter.
After a short break, the match resumed. Tactical changes were made by both factions as new faces entered the playing field in place of their teammates. After the tactical reshuffle, a diminutive Pearly was tasked with the role of the GK. Against opposing GA and GS who were two heads taller than her, there was very little that she could do as they bore down on her goalpost. 30 seconds after the restart and the scoreboard read KE 4 – 7 KR.
The next play was undoubtedly the best of the match. A combination of 12 beautiful passes by KE found an unmarked Wanqi who towered over the defending GK to lob the ball into the net. 5-7 the score!
KR soon found out that what Pearly lacked in height, she more than made up for in aggression and brains. Quick thinking and strong shielding by Pearly held off two KR players as she won the ball for KE. Two cross court passes later, Wanqi made it 6-7, drawing cheers from fanboys comfortably nestled within the KE support. The cheers, though, died down when KR made it 6-8.
Undeterred, Claire’s resolute defending and high tempo pressing forced a KR player into sending the ball out of the court. From the resultant possession, KE took two passes from the baseline to find Wanqi who once again, dutifully converted to make it 7-8.
Despite KE’s best efforts, they were unable to defend against an unending barrage of KR’s attacks, and soon, KR took a commanding lead at 9-14 despite Wanqi’s best efforts and KE and IVP star Dawne netting a wonder shot from just inside the semi-circle.
The second quarter ended in a somewhat fortuitous note for KE as only the umpire’s whistle prevented KR from increasing their lead to 9-15.
The 3rd quarter picked up from where the second quarter left off as KR scored 3 without reply to increase their lead to 9-17. Despite the widening score gap, the KEVII netballers still continued to put their bodies on the line for their team, as evidenced by Pearly who was sent sprawling across the court after a challenge from a KR player.
A semblance of reprieve found its way via two moments of pure individual skill from wanqi and dawn respectively to maintain the deficit at 8, with the scores at 11-19.
KE’s defiance to KR’s attack paid dividends over a 3 minute spell as they repelled wave after wave of attack, with Dawne and Claire both making last ditch stops to break up KR’s play and block their attempts on goal. Unfortunately, as KR grew increasingly desperate, Rhynade became the next victim of KR’s abrasive play.
A flurry of attacks by KR and counter attacks by KE saw 5 goals within the final 2 minutes of the quarter, culminating in the score of 13-22. With seconds to go, however, Claire pulled up with an injury, leaving KE supporters in a state of worry.
KE supporters heaved a sigh of relief as the start of the final quarter also saw their trusty captain fight through the pain from her injury to return to the court.
KR’s frustrations were beginning to show as their play became increasingly physical. Both Wanqi and Dawne, after beautifully threaded passes from Victoria, were fouled within the semi-circle. KE was never one to refuse gifts, and both players duly converted their free throws to make the score 15-22.
After 30 odd minutes of non-stop sprinting and leaping, fatigue began to show on the players’ faces. Shortly after KR scored a point to make it 15-23, one of their players lay curled up in a heap on the floor with a twisted countenance of agony. Cramps (not the menstrual kind) had begun to set in.
Whistles blown for sluggish transgressions generally characterized the remainder of the final quarter as both sides scored solely from free throws given for defensive fouls within the semi-circle. Passes from KR grew increasingly hopeful, as they tried to find their GS for a chance to increase the goal difference. However, Claire, despite her injury, was having none of that. Pass after pass was repelled by a battered but sturdy and determined KE defence.
As the whistle blew for the last time, the scoreboard read 16-25 to KR. Despite the loss, KE was through to the semi-finals!