Strong start sets champs on their way to a first win
REIGNING champions Rezzers Green have sealed their first win of what promises to be a transitional season for them.
And it was not just any old win – they beat Blaze convincingly 39-26 at Grammar School on Tuesday night, addressing last week’s season-opening loss to Specs A.
Utilising the new rotating substitutions to involve a wider squad, including several youngsters, a team previously headed by seven experienced seniors is showing valuably versatility in this new Deloitte Winter League campaign.
Lower team step-up Keeleigh Le Tissier started them off with a string of fine goals, just minutes after representing Rezzers Black against Specs A. She is one of several capable moving shooters replacing the tall, threatening but unavailable combination of Verona Tomlin and Clare Henry.
The Greens also welcomed proven GK Abby McCracken back from Covid as she and GD Gemma Batiste turned over the ball relentlessly.
Solid play through the court gave them an early five-goal buffer, which they converted into a 11-6 quarter lead despite Blaze capitalising on some great intercepts and rebounds from GK Ella Staples and GD Amy Fallaize.
Rezzers carried this impetus into quarter two, during which teenager Emma Sykes – who missed the start due to basketball commitments – complemented Anna Trump successfully in the shooting circle.
Starting Blaze GS Zola Saunders made a circle switch into GK, with the returning Jemma Green and U18 Vicky Yabsley now shouldering their scoring hopes, amid several Blaze changes.
These also involved Fallaize taking a rarer move into the physical C role, earlier held by Hannah Blondel, and last year’s third-placed team enjoyed some promising passages of play.
But that did not stop Rezzers from leading 24-11 at half-time.
A plucky Blaze continued rotating their squad and turned up the heat in quarter three, which they lost narrowly – 10-8. That scoreline proved more reminiscent of their many close past duels against Rezzers.
Finally, Blaze gained consolation in winning the final quarter 7-5, as Rezzers struggled to score amid costly errors and a tough opposing defence.
Yet Rezzers secured all five league points and handed Blaze none as McCracken won player of the match.
Rezzers captain and C Tiff Gervaise-Brazier called Specs last week ‘a shock to the system’ but took the positives – and this was another step forward.
‘It’s really positive, as we started strong today and we’ve been guilty of starting quite slow,’ she said.
‘We’ve walked out knowing it’s going to be a transitional season, so we’re trying new combinations, and the “rolling” subs is really helping us.
‘We knew we’ve got good depth and good fitness in the wider team ... when we take a lull in energy, we’re using the subs to step it back up.
‘We got a bit tired and started making some mistakes in the last quarter, but it’s early in the season. I thought it was a well-contested game – really nice game, actually.’
Just as Rezzers involved Sykes, plus fellow juniors Harriet Savident and Evie Robinson, Yabsley’s step-up was one positive for Blaze coach Nena Copperwaite.
‘There were small snippets of really good stuff in there and some stuff you can see that, as the season progresses, is going to get better,’ the usual captain said after a rare game off.
‘Vicky’s confidence, for instance, will get even more. We’ve got loads of shooting options as well.
‘So yeah, there was some really good stuff, but the result was what it was.’
Ultimately Saunders, Copperwaite’s sister, took POM.
Copperwaite admits Blaze will be doing limited training this season, with players juggling other commitments.
But next spring’s play-offs will have the final say.
Beforehand, fellow ‘big three’ team Specs A showed their fine form by beating Rezzers Black 58-27.
GA Donna Brehaut – their POM – and WD Anais Flatres performed particularly strongly on opposite ends of the court in a match where Specs dominated the first half 31-10.
The Blacks had a stronger second half and welcomed a POM performance by junior attacking sub Olivia Cotterill.