Jamaica, England U-21s in series opener at NISC
Jamaica and England's Under-21 netball teams will clash in the first game of their five-match series this evening at the National Indoor Sports Centre (NISC), beginning at 5 p.m.
Both camps insist that fine-tuning preparations for the qualifiers for next year's World Youth Championship in Botswana remain their main focus and Jamaica's assistant coach, Tracey Ann Griffiths, said winning the series would be a great boost.
"We are really preparing for Botswana next year, so this is a good game to see where we are at this stage. England is always a tough team. They always have a balanced side and very good players, so we expect a tough challenge and we will be looking for combination plays and making improvements to our offence," she told The Gleaner.
"Winning the (first) game would certainly boost our confidence going into the other games. We would definitely like to win the series, but at the end of the series, what we want to see is the combinations and the others things that we have been working on," she said.
Like the Jamaicans, the English have a very inexperienced squad. Their coach, Jan Crabtree, believes she will have a clearer idea of their chances of winning the series after the first game.
"It's a very long (series) and a great opportunity for all our players and one that they need. It is very important as it is one of our building blocks (in preparation).
"If they (players) want to perform on the world stage, they need to play against the best countries in the world, which Jamaica is one," she continued.
"I am expecting very good games and we are here to learn. All our squad are under-19s. Two (players) have toured in the last couple of years, so some are in the long squad for the 21s that we are looking to prepare for the World Youth Champs," she said. "... The big thing we are looking at is improvement and learning."
With both squads short on experience, Griffiths expects Jamaica captain Kadie-Ann Dehaney, a senior team player with Netball World Cup experience, to have a major influence.
"Having Kadie-Ann in the team is very important as there are certain things you cannot coach. Kadie-Ann has the experience of travelling and playing at a major tournament like the World Cup and she is the captain.
"Kimberley Thomas is the only other girl with experience, all the others are rookies, so we expect her (Dehaney) to lead the girls well on court," assessed Griffiths.