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Hazelwood: Netballers fall short
Placing among the top three positions in the Caribbean Netball Association (CNA) Jean Pierre Under-16 Netball Championships was the hope of coach Velma Hazelwood for T&T youth team but the youngsters fell just short of that goal, finishing fourth in the annual competition.
"The girls performed well," said Hazelwood."It was a very competitive tournament, no game was easy but they worked hard each game."
The Jean Pierre tournament, which took place last week at the Vigie Multi-purpose Sports Complex in Castries, St Lucia, featured six other teams including Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and the host.
Winning the youth title was powerhouse Jamaica playing unbeaten overall scoring 230 with 82 against, with St Lucia (192/125) and Barbados (169/126) in second and third places, respectively.
T&T (133/164) opened against Barbados and Hazelwood knew it would have been a challenge facing the former champion. The junior "Calypso Girls" fell to a 27-21 defeat.
"It was very good game against Barbados but we had 16 penalties in their circle. That broke the girls down a bit but they continued to play," said Hazelwood. "I felt they could have won that game."
The local team didn't stay down though and returned the following day to defeat Grenada, 30-25.
"As the competition progressed, they were able to correct some of their mistakes," said Hazelwood, who worked with Lystra Solomon-Simmons as her assistant coach.
St Lucia was the T&T netballers next opponent and they went under 32-19 but rebounded to beat SVG, 29-19 before taking on the "Reggae Girls" of Jamaica, which turned out to be their worst performance of the tournament, losing 38-7.
"When we met Jamaica, the girls were intimidated," said Hazelwood. "They capitalise on our mistakes and won but the next game, we were able to correct our mistakes and got the win against Dominica."
T&T closed with a 27-23 win over the Dominicans and picked up a host of awards in the closing ceremony that followed.
Kelelicia George was named the "Most Valuable Player" (MVP) of the T&T team, which was the "Best Uniformed" team and "Best Team on Parade" while SVG was the "Most Disciplined" team and St Lucia was also awarded the "Most improved" team trophy in the youth Championship, named after the late international T&T netballer Jean Pierre, which was first held in 1998 by the Caribbean Netball Association each year, except 2003, 2007 and 2013.
Earlier in the tournament, George partnered with Kayshanna Duncan and Kelaiah Stewart, to dominate the shooting competition, sealing the crown after combining to net 100 goals. Jamaica was second with 93 and Barbados was third with 92.
"It was a great experience, we stayed positive right through to the end," said Hazelwood, who has already started looking ahead to next year's Championship with the aim to finish among the top three positions as the national team has done in the past.
"We have started assessing the players as to who will be viable for next year's competition. We are developing a different strategy, looking to go into communities to scout players," said Hazelwood. "Some of the current group will be out of the age-group so will do some more scouting in zonal finals of the Secondary Schools Netball League."
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