The Shetland netball team put up a brave fight before eventually succumbing to Edinburgh Onyx in the Scottish Cup quarter-final.
Scottish Cup (quarter-final)
Shetland 45, Edinburgh Onyx 54
A squad of 10 travelled south for their “home tie” quarter-final against Edinburgh Onyx, meeting halfway in Aberdeen.
Having met once before in 2012, the experienced Shetland players knew they were in for a challenging encounter.
Captain Marie Clark took the toss and lost, giving Shetland choice of shooting circle. A nervy start saw both teams make unforced errors as the players set about sussing out their opponents trying to settle into a fast paced game.
Shetland had a chance to draw level at 6-6 but couldn’t capitalise this time. Onyx pushed ahead and quickly scored several goals in succession, careering into a 17-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Despite the lead the Shetland girls were up to speed and determined to close the gap. A tighter partnership between defenders Louise Moar (GK), Maisie Unsworth (GD) and Victoria Duthie (WD) allowed them to disrupt the Onyx attack and make life trickier for them.
Complimenting this was more accurate passing and shooting in the attacking circle by Kirsti Leask (GS) and Marie Clark (GA). The Shetland team managed to close the gap by two goals, going into half time trailing 23-31.
Coaches Anne Wood and Morag Fox made no changes at this point. Shetland continued where they left off and piled the pressure onto the Edinburgh side. The centre court trio of Kylie Wood (WA), Vicki Smith (C) and Duthie (WD) worked tirelessly, chasing down balls, marking tightly and making life generally uncomfortable for Onyx.
The Shetland team displayed some lovely, slick passing, causing an element of panic for the second-seeded team. So much so that the Onyx side called a “time-out” to regroup and gather themselves. Shetland held their nerve and won the third quarter comfortably, narrowing the gap to just four goals at 40-36 with one quarter remaining.
Fresh legs were introduced for the last quarter with Karen Bannister replacing Moar at GK and Sanna Aitken taking the WA bib from Wood. Both quickly settled into the competitive match.
Onyx were beginning to regain their composure, managing to intercept and force errors from the Shetland players. A run of goals enabled them to stretch the lead beyond the Shetland team and with time running out, Onyx held on and took the tie 54-45.
Coach Fox described it is a “brilliantly competitive match”, physical but fair, which was ably controlled by the two umpires who volunteered their time.
She said: “The Shetland lasses played really well as a unit, stepping up to the challenge. This close encounter has whetted their appetite for competition and bodes well for the annual inter-county clash against Orkney on Saturday 16th March at Clickimin.
“Two Shetland teams will take on an A and B Orkney side; spectators for these fast and exciting matches would really spur on the teams and be much appreciated. A few ex-pats joined the squad in Aberdeen to support the Shetland lasses and this was much appreciated.
“Youngster Alina Murray didn’t play in this game but thoroughly enjoyed the experience; her time will come. The players in Aberdeen (and at home) have committed to their winter training and this was evident in their energy and skill during the game.
“Two visits from Leighanne Carragher during the season have further enhanced training and skills. Fitness levels are high and the team should be very proud of their performance, pushing the number two seeds to the brink.
“An outstanding performance by WD Victoria Duthie was extremely pleasing to witness and the return to form and fitness of some our more seasoned squad members gave everyone a high. The high continued as the squad helped Vicki Smith celebrate a milestone birthday in the evening that followed.”
The squad and coaches said they would like to thank members of the SLNA committee for their hard work ensuring arrangements and finances were in place to play the tie. The squad members hope that they can build on this success during the 2014/15 season.