PEEBLES High School netball teams were the talk of the netball world last week with an unprecedented three squads reaching the final of the Scottish schools gold section.
The Scottish Schools Cup attracted more entries than ever this year, with well over 100 schools putting teams forward for the popular championship.
Early round matches started in November last year, with Peebles sides contesting each of the age groups.
Excitement grew in the local club as all four teams (S1, S2, S3 and senior) steadily progressed through the rounds. When all four teams reached the semi-final stage the club realised history was in the making. The S1s, S2s and S3s went on to win their semi-final matches, putting pressure on Peebles seniors to make it a clean sweep.
The senior semi-final, featuring Peebles against Hamilton’s Holycross, boasted no fewer than five international players on the court at the Gytes. After an hour of nerve-wracking play, the Tweeddale girls were disappointed to lose by only four goals, sending them out of the cup.
Finals day was held at the new sports complex at Ravenscraig and, as ever, provided high drama, outbreaks of nerves, but also huge success.
Peebles S1s appeared overcome, producing none of the flow of their recent form, failing to capitalise on their breaks up court and showing all the signs of letting their early start (5.30am) in Peebles affect their play. Their defeat to a very strong Hyndland team by 47-5 was a huge disappointment, but a learning curve for the youngsters who were very sporting in defeat.
Next on court were the S2s, the underdogs for their match against Arbroath High School as this was a repeat of last year’s final in which Arbroath took the victory. Peebles came out with huge determination from the start, holding Arbroath to a 12-12 scoreline by half-time.
However, a weaker third quarter from the Borderers that saw one of their players leaving the court ill, left them trailing. Into the final quarter and they were back on form, matching their opponent’s score, but losing overall by 35-26.
It was down to the S3s to make one last attempt to bring silverware back to the Borders.
Facing the strong Hyndland team, last year’s winners Peebles knew they had to put on an outstanding performance.
And that is what they did. Fast and accurate play from Peebles from the first centre pass caught their opponents off-guard, allowing the local lasses to build up a lead of 12-5 by the first break. Into the second quarter, Hyndland started to make many unforced errors, enabling Peebles to turn around the ball in their favour and reach half-time 22-13 ahead.
In the second half, Neve McLean in wing attack was on top form, working strongly with Nicola Berthelsen in centre, and Alison MacKinnon in wing defence, all raising their game when it mattered most.
A score of 33-20 in Peebles favour, with 12 minutes to play, suggested victory was theirs.
However, in a painful last quarter for spectators, Hyndland began a determined fightback, with a spate of accurate shooting.
As the scoreline narrowed, Peebles began clock-watching, urging on the final whistle. When it came at 39-32 in Peebles’ favour, huge relief was mixed with jubilation at another Scottish Schools’ win for the club, and retention of the S3 gold championship trophy, won by their clubmates in 2011.
Teams – S3 winners: Nicola Berthelsen (Capt), Nikki Pettitt (Vice Capt), Niamh Cannon, Courteney Dobson, Laura Graham, Mhairi Jackson, Susanne Krabbendam, Alison MacKinnon, Neve McLean, Kerry Troup.
S2 runners-up: Gemma Gass (Capt), Sarah Hudson (Vice Capt), Emma Axon, Simone Bailey, Alana Craigmile, Kerri Dow, Rowan Espie, Maisie Farrer, Anna Miller, Alex Pender, Shevaun Smith.
S1 runners-up: Maddy Docherty (Capt), Mhairi Davidson (Vice Capt), Ishbel Dickson, Rachel Forsyth, Charlotte Hope, Brogan Lamb, Alice McBride, Dawn MacLean, Amy McTier, Adele Tait.
Coach: Linda Nicholson. Team Manager: Lynn Hudson.