Spurs seek improvement in BEL resumption
Manchester Spurs are set to regain their winning form in a battle against Clarendon Gaters when the Berger Elite League (BEL) resumes tonight following a break during the holiday season.
The Spurs, leaders of Netball Jamaica's semi-professional competition on 18 points, will face the Gaters at 7:45 p.m. in the feature game of a double-header.
The matches are rescheduled fixtures and will lead off this week's three-day match fixture, with a double-header scheduled for Wednesday, and a triple on Saturday.
In tonight's opening match, the St Ann Orchids, who are placed fourth on seven points, will challenge the St James Sharpes at 6:30 p.m.
Manchester Spurs got off to an auspicious start, reeling off six consecutive victories in emphatic fashion.
However, they lost their last game before the break against the Kingston Hummingbirds, the defending champions and the team that beat them in last year's final.
Both have 18 points from seven matches, with an identical six wins and one loss. Additionally, they are targeting a first-place finish in the round-robin preliminaries. At this point, Manchester Spurs are marginally ahead after scoring 383 goals and conceding 292, in comparison to the Hummingbirds' 372 goals, conceding 293.
The key factors in topping the preliminaries are the semi-final pairings - one versus four and two versus three - with the latter considered a tougher route to the final.
All things being equal, Manchester Spurs are expected to continue clearing that path against the Clarendon Gaters, which they hammered 63-33 in their previous match-up. The leaders possess a balanced team with a fiery attack of goal shooters Gezelle Allison, Anna-Kay Griffiths, along with the well-capable Nicole Dixon.
Clarendon Gaters have fluctuated somewhat, but they have been improving as a shooting team, more so when Petal Smith is inserted inside the arc to partner with Amanda Pinkney. Their cause will also be aided by the return of captain Shadian Hemmings.
Even if they lose, the margin will be important to the Gaters in the battle for semi-final spots three and four, with goal difference a likely tiebreaker. The Gaters currently lead that race on nine points, but Orchids and Racers loom large with seven points apiece.
The Orchids have been hobbled by problems since the last couple of matches, with captain Vangelee Williams, the national vice-captain, not in their line-up, as well as their top two attacking players, the injured Thristina Harwood and national teammate Rebekah Robinson, through surgery.
Orchids Coach Janet Guy would have hoped the season of good tides would have engendered much blessings on her team for a full recovery, as they will be pressing to strengthen their semi-final hopes against BEL's bottom-placed team, which they beat 54-40 in their first-round clash.
For their part, the Sharpes, on three points, are not without chance and will pin their hopes on main shooter Kestina Sturridge, the versatile Sasha Dixon, and defender Kera Christie as they seek full court balance because, while dwindling, they still possess faint hopes of making the semi-final.