The U13 Netball team of JESS Ranches defied the odds against some of the most prestigious schools in the UK to claim silver medals in the inaugural World Schools Netball Cup.
The event, which was hosted at the home of England Netball, Loughborough University, saw 40 of the world’s finest school netball teams compete over the course of three days and across two age-groups for the right to be crowned World Champions.
JESS announced their intentions during the very first match of the tournament when, watched on by a crowd of over eight hundred in the stands and thousands more on Facebook Live, they produced a huge shock to defeat one of the pre-tournament favourites, Millfield Prep, 13-6.
A one-point defeat to Southend School for Girls (16-17) in their opening fixture of day two was then followed up with wins over Caterham School (21-9), Peebles High School (23-11), and St Mary’s College (21-7) to round off day two of the competition with a record of four wins and one defeat, leaving them joint top of their group going into the third and final day.
The wheels appeared to have come off the JESS train on Tuesday morning, when they trailed by seven points and looked down and out against The Westgate School. However, the blue and whites showed incredible tenacity to snatch victory (18-17) from the jaws of defeat, before seeing off the impressive Oldham Hulme Grammar School (24-19) in their final group match.
A hard fought semi-final victory over The Grammar School at Leeds (17-14) set up a final with Cheadle Hulme, who had topped group B with seven win from seven, before overcoming Southend (25-17) in their semi-final.
The JESS girls were welcomed one by one by lights, smoke, and cheers from a capacity crowd inside the Sir David Wallace Arena for their final, before fighting tooth and nail in a bid to bring the coveted World Schools Netball Cup back to the UAE at the first time of asking.
Despite their best efforts, the final match was just a step too far for the talented young JESS team, who went down fighting 30-14.
JESS’s Head Coach, former Northern Ireland Captain Bronagh McAfee, was overwhelmed with pride at the girls’ performance.
“They’ve played their hearts out and I couldn’t be prouder. To come to Loughborough and perform the way they have against all these schools that are steeped in history and tradition is just incredible.”
Assistant Coach, former England Netball Captain Amanda Newton, was not surprised by her team’s tenacious style of play and never-say-die attitude.
“These girls are fighters; they never shy away from a scrap. I’ve seen them do it all season long, and it was no shock that they turned those matches around when they looked like they were out of it.”
Sarah Gandon, Technical Director for the event, was also impressed by JESS’s performances.
“JESS have surprised an awful lot of people here at Loughborough this week - their performances have really put Dubai Netball on the map, and they should be immensely proud of themselves.”
The World Schools Netball Cup returns to Loughborough University in 2020. To find out more, head to wsgevents.com