Mystics U14 I have worked hard on their fitness since September so it is somewhat ironic that the lack of it affected us in our home game versus Tameside I last Sunday. Emily Wood was suffering from a sore throat. (Others might give it a more medically correct label but I can’t spell tonsillitis…..) Daisy Bryan had been laid low by a head cold. Zara Masadeh-Tate had been laid even lower by one. (Emily and Daisy started out at Tameside so were desperately keen to play and dragged themselves in. Zara didn’t so she didn’t.) Charli Wroe is normally fitter than 3 fiddles but she has just got back from America-to see her brother and to ascertain whether Donald Trump is either an alien or a puppet- so hadn’t trained for 3 weeks. Her health wasn’t helped by the fact that during the game she was unlucky enough to get a nosebleed following 2 heavy whacks to the face as well (or unwell) as a dead leg as a result of a late tackle. (How unlucky can one person be?) Kizzy Spence was also unavailable so, as with the fire fighters dealing with the forest fires in the US, it was all hands to the pump.
Apart from health issues (and tissues), the only low spot of the day was a 4 minute spell caused by me rather than a witch. A poor decision on my part cost us 12 points and probably made even our healthy players feel sick. 14 minutes in and we were in control at 31-16 despite having already used all available 10 players, albeit in balanced combinations. In order to give everyone more court time in the first half, I now went for my not-to-be-recommended 5 off 5 on strategy without fully considering the make-up of the 5 going on. (Should it be lipstick or mascara?) With what was ostensibly one guard and 4 forwards, we were as unbalanced as a one-legged chair and understandably(!) lost our offensive fluency and defensive cohesion, as well as most of our lead! 31-16 became 31-28 in half the twinkling of an eye.
I was strongly advised by my more astute assistant to have a re-think. To preserve family harmony, I obeyed. We duly won the remaining 3 minutes 8-2. I cast sentiment aside for the third quarter and we won it 23-6. Now 62-36 to the good, I felt I could act like a pastry chef again and mix things up for the final 10 minutes. It turned out well this time (more like a Victoria Sandwich rather than Victoria station at rush hour) as we won the quarter 18-9 to finish worthy 80-45 winners with our undeniably talented quartet of scoring machines, Olivia Forster, Charli Wroe, Nia Molloy and Lily Hayes all registering double figures yet again.
Many of our baskets came at the end of passing sequences which were very pleasing to the eye with Jo Vourliotis and Daisy Bryan showing their skills in this neglected art. The score may well have been closer had it not been for the defensive tenacity of Lia Vourliotis plus the crucial rebounding ability of the 3 Es, Eleni Vourliotis, Emily Wood and Esha Neyar because Tameside are a tall side -perhaps they should alter their name slightly to Tallside- and are strong on the boards.
With almost half the regular season gone, we remain in contention for a play-off place, having won 6 of our 7 games, losing only to Sheffield who are possibly the strongest u14 team in the whole country. Knowing the first-class attitude, team spirit and togetherness of this delightful group of players, I am quietly confident they will continue to progress. (Unless I do too many ill-advised 5 ons 5 offs!)
Thanks, as always to the staff, sorry, unpaid assistant coach plus joint team managers, James, Sam, Carys and Jim for their invaluable help. Thanks also to the table officials, Mr K Nayar and Ms F Vourliotis for doing such an excellent job as well as to all parents etc. for your wonderful support. As this is my last report before Christmas and the New Year, may I take this opportunity to wish both the people who read my reports a Merry Yuletide and a Happy New Year.