Jess Merrin and Amy Mackenzie, both in year 11, have been selected for the Yorkshire Regional Academy. They attended a six-hour trial which was incredibly intense, involving fitness work, netball skills and drills and then game play.
The girls displayed an outstanding level of fitness, skill, resilience, determination and endurance and were both delighted when their names were read out as having been successful.
Jessica trains on a Monday night with Regional Academy 1 in Bradford for three hours. This involves an hour of strength and conditioning training followed by two hours of court time. Amy also trains in Bradford as part of the Regional Performance Academy and then does a further three hours in Sheffield on a Wednesday. The time commitment for both girls is huge.
During half term both girls were asked to play in the Tri-Region tournament between North East, North West and Yorkshire, Yorkshire have never won this competition but were successful against both the other regions and were crowned champions. Well done Jess and Amy!
Two years ago this team managed to get all the way to the National Finals – something Ripon Grammar School had never achieved before. Now, two years older, stronger, fitter and still with that same cohesion amongst the squad that I have never known before, we set about trying to repeat our success of 2015.
Firstly we had to get through the Area round. This was no mean feat – the standard in Yorkshire, and particularly Harrogate and Craven is second to none. Some teams have an easy job getting to the county round. This is not the case in our Area. I have known county standard players not get selected for the Harrogate and Craven squad so we didn’t take the area round lightly.
We had seven players and seven matches to play. Two teams would go through to the County round. The conditions were appalling. I didn’t mind not winning (did I really say that?) I had two goals for my girls – don’t get injured and do enough to qualify. In the end we won six out of seven games, losing to Harrogate Ladies College by just one goal. It didn’t matter – we were through. Bizarrely two years ago we lost to HLC by just one goal in this round…
The County round loomed. In my mind there were four teams vying for the top two places – RGS, Ryedale, Harrogate Ladies College and St Peters. As luck would have it these were our last three fixtures – would we be exhausted by the time we were to play our toughest matches? Time would tell.
We started well – an 18-0 victory against Malton followed by a 14-2 win over Joseph Rowntree – a squad who can never be discounted as their school is so huge and their netball teacher is excellent! Next up were Stokesley who we defeated 16-2. A 15-1 win over St Francis Xavier saw us in the enviable position of having played four and won four.
In these earlier rounds that I expected (hoped) us to win I was able to play all the girls in a variety of positions so everyone had their head in the game. Newcomers to the team Brooke Morrison and Amy Crompton are both shooters and along with Sophie Richardson (who was on fire that day!) they kept the goals going in while my defensive unit of Katie Reed (also year 10) and Amy Mackenzie were giving their all to deny our opponents access to their net. Molly Reed as Wing Defence worked so well in the mid court, linking the defence to the attack and always being ready for a pass back or to help out at the centre pass. Centres Jess Merrin and Lucy Williams were superb, their fitness shining through. By playing them both it meant we kept fresh legs so we could dominate the mid and attacking thirds whilst also being an extra pair of hands in the defending third. Last but not least, Emily Reed rose to the challenge, not only playing brilliantly as Wing Attack as ever, but captaining her team with superb leadership skills – she was phenomenal, displaying great communication, encouragement and an excellent knowledge of tactics.
And so to Ryedale, so often our nemesis in these tournaments. They were ahead at half time and goals were going with the centre pass – they would score, we would score, but they were still ahead. The breakthrough came and then there was no looking back as a flurry of goals went in the RGS net. We had beaten them by 13 goals to 10. Two matches to go – Harrogate Ladies College were next. Remember they had beaten us by one goal in the area round? Two years ago we beat them in the county round by that same goal. Could we do it again? This was definitely our hardest game, everyone had to pull together going for every interception possible, taking every opportunity to put the ball up in the goal circle. The final whistle went – just as two years ago, we had beaten them by just one goal 12 - 11.
By this time I knew we were through to the regional round. We had played six and won six so we couldn’t be denied our qualifying place. But we wanted to go through as champions. We wanted to win every match. St Peters were our final fixture that day and although it was tough, in the end we defeated them by 13 goals to 8.
And so to sum up our county tournament – 7 matches played, 7 matches won, 101 goals scored, 34 goals scored against us, hundreds of interceptions, thousands of amazing passes, 9 very, very happy girls, a group of elated parents (thank you for all your support) and 1 very proud teacher. RGS – County Champions!