The 4 day NPL tournament at the end of July has long been a staple of the Academy season and is a highlight for all athletes that compete. With the tournament back for the first time in 4 years, the excitement was palpable across the age groups.
London Pulse U17, U19 & U21 squads were all raring to go and looking to show what it means to be a part of the Pulse Family. With the U17s taking silver, the U19s being crowned champions and the U21s placing a respectable 5th, the tournament was a huge success for the academy. Below you can read the match reports from each age group.
U17 Tournament Report
After winning the 2023 U17 NPL Southern League, this young team were looking forward to competing in their first U17 NPL end of season tournament.
The team arrived early at David Ross Sports Village, University of Nottingham on Thursday 27th July. Excellent team performances on the first day resulted in two strong wins against Central Warriors 42-14 and Saracens Mavericks 31-21. A great opportunity to play everyone and look at different combinations on court.
Checking into our halls of residence, university life was embraced, and the team enjoyed dinner, rest and recovery ahead of day two. On Friday morning we faced Loughborough Lightning and due to a slow start and a few injuries we lost the game 24-32. Following a team debrief and further analysis we knew we had to put the game behind us and beat Surrey Storm on Saturday morning to win our group, secure a top 4 position and have the opportunity to play in the semi-final.
We spent Friday afternoon having fun at our team photoshoot and attending an education session run by the NPA. After dinner we all watched England Roses beat Barbados in the opening game of their World Cup campaign and felt inspired to compete even harder.
Thanks to our excellent physios, the team were looked after very well and after a good night’s sleep the team were fired up to play Surrey Storm on Saturday. A powerful start allowed London Pulse to take a strong first quarter and the performance kept on building across the court resulting in a strong win 28-17. After a must win game, we had secured top spot in our group and faced Manchester Thunder in the semi-final. We knew this would be a tough game mentally and physically. We started the game well and won the first quarter 9-6. Manchester Thunder responded but Pulse kept their lead winning the second and third quarter. Thunder narrowly won the fourth quarter, but Pulse kept the focus and won the game 30-27. A fantastic performance across the court and we certainly celebrated our success.
The final was confirmed against Loughborough Lightning on Sunday and we knew it was going to be a tough battle. After drawing the first quarter and winning the second quarter by 1, Loughborough Lightning pulled away in the second half, resulting in being crowned the worthy winners of the U17 NPL tournament. The presentation ceremony followed, and the young U17 London Pulse team achieved the silver medal.
Congratulations to Zaneya who was awarded the U17 Tournament MVP and to Zaneya, Coco, Daisy and Ella BB who were all recognised by England selectors and invited to the England Netball Roses Academy selection camp at the end of August.
Finally, a special mention to Ellie Sadler who sadly couldn’t be with the U17 NPL team as she is using her talent to help inspire Team England to glory at the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games.
U19 Tournament Report
After being crowned U19 National Performance League Champions in 2022/23 the team were looking forward to this event albeit without their Captain Izzi Phillips who was preparing for the CYG in Trinidad and Tobago.
The squad arrived bright and early at David Ross Sports Village, Nottingham for their first game v Seven Stars. The team had a strong start and the end of Q1 score was 11-8 to Pulse. Following a few mid court changes the half time score was 18-15 Pulse. Our Head Coach continued to make changes throughout this game which resulted in a strong finish securing our first win 40-29. Huge congratulations to Azara for making her debut with this squad and shooting at 100% accuracy.
Following a debrief and lunch our next game was against Leeds Rhinos. After a highly contested first quarter Pulse were leading 8-7. A change in the defensive circle ended with the half time score being 21-12 to Pulse. Pulse found their rhythm and managed to empty their bench in the second half of this match with the game ending 43-22 to Pulse.
Congratulations to Lauren Baldwin, Princess Alagbala and Etienne King for making their debuts for this squad.
After a debrief and match analysis this team had earned a rest. The girls enjoyed a team dinner in Nightingale followed by one to one sessions with their coach.
Friday morning started with a very early fire alarm wake up call before they headed to the studio for their team photo.
The next fixture was to be against the very strong and talented Central Warriors. Pulse had a good start winning Quarter one 11-6. The second quarter ended with Central fighting to take the quarter winning 8-11. Despite Hannah Gibson shooting at 90% accuracy in this match Pulse lost to Warriors 32-38…..time for some reflections and a debrief.
On Saturday 29th we faced North East Phoenix, a must win match! After a well rested night and a hearty breakfast the we were more than ready for this fixture. In quarter one Princess got the call up as the starting GK and she was on fire taking three interceptions. Q1 score 10-4 Pulse. Following the strong start it gave the coach confidence to empty the bench and half time score was 21-9 to Pulse. The second half of the match did not disappoint and the final score was 42-18 to Pulse.
This awesome team had done enough to meet Manchester Thunder in the semi finals.
After a thrilling start v Thunder, Pulse had the edge and were leading at half time 17-16. Pulse lost the third quarter 9-7 so time for some circle changes, Princess on as GK and Azara on as GS. The changes worked and Pulse took the win and final score Thunder 32-Pulse 35 earning us a place in the finals!
Huge celebrations ensued on court with our incredible U17’s who had also defeated Manchester Thunder in their semi finals.
On Sunday 30th July we were to face Central Warriors in the finals. The team did their homework in preparation for this fixture.
It was a slow nervous start from Pulse which led to us being down at the end of Q1 8-10.
Following a change in our defensive circle we clawed back the score to 17-17 at the end of Q2. After a goal for goal third quarter the score was 27-27. The team kept their cool and knew they had a job to do. In Q4 Pulse kept the defensive pressure on and forced Warriors to make errors which resulted in Pulse taking the win 39-35. Well done to Hannah Gibson shooting at 96% and Azara at 100% accuracy.
The team had done it! NPL Tournament Gold Medalists.
A huge thank you to all involved and a special shout out to Hiba Ansari the team physio who ensured we stayed injury free all weekend.
Thank you to the catering staff at Nighingale Halls of residence Nottingham University for the delicious food and for being flexible with the food timings.
A special thanks to Julie Cridland who organises everything and ensures we are always where we should be and lastly to our incredible Head Coach Sharron Lewis-Burke who has delivered first class coaching sessions and have helped us to develop and progress as individuals and as a team.
Huge Congratulations to the following athletes who have been invited to the Roses Academy selection camp:- Hannah G, Sophia Shalabi, Hannah K, Tami F, Azara W
U21 Tournament Report
The team’s journey to this stage of the season had been marked by relentless preparation over the preceding two months, with a strong focus on ensuring peak performance throughout the tournament. The U21’s team had a diverse roster of seasoned players who have participated in this tournament in previous years and talented athletes who experienced this for their first time – London Pulse U21’s found themselves well-equipped with a perfect balance of experience.
Day one brought forth formidable challenges against Team Bath and Manchester Thunder. Despite taking losses in these matches, the team demonstrated an exceptional fighting spirit, exceeding their performances from this season league games. This early display of resilience set the tone for the days ahead.
As the tournament progressed into the second day, London Pulse squared off against Seven Stars, suffering a loss in their first match. However, they refused to let their heads go down, gathering together as a unit to dissect their performance and identify areas for improvement. Their performance against Saracens Mavericks was a testament to their ability to adapt and learn from previous setbacks.
The winning streak carried forward into Saturday as London Pulse faced Leeds Rhinos, securing another crucial victory that boosted their confidence even further. The hard-fought progression resulted in a rematch against Seven Stars for the 5th/6th place play-off. Drawing from the lessons learned in their previous encounter, the team demonstrated incredible tenacity and skill, resulting in a well-deserved victory that secured the 5th position in the tournament.
Throughout this weekend, London Pulse U21’s showcased their unwavering dedication and commitment to progress. As they reflect on their journey, the team will be proud of their achievements and look forward to even greater success in the future, knowing they have honed their skills and put on a great performance during the NPL tournament.