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Calypso Girls chase World Cup spot
Much is expected from the national netball team when it tackles seven other nations for one of two spots up for grabs at next year's Netball World Cup in the United Kingdom.
Last Wednesday, members of the local team were involved in an intense fitness workout and later on game situation at the pigeon-infested indoor court at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port-of-Spain, trying to get it right ahead of the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA) qualifiers.
The AFNA Tournament, which starts on Saturday and runs until September 2, will be held at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium in Barbados.
With pigeon droppings falling on the tattered court intermittently, coach Wesley "Pepe" Gomes had trainer Wayne Samuel put them through their paces from jumping drills, to testing their fitness using the Yo-Yo technique, a variation of the beep test, knowing fully well the challenge the "Calypso Girls", will face in Barbados.
"We have a nice blend of youth and experience," said Gomes, who raved about his team. "The centre-court is the strongest it has been since I have been the coach," said Gomes.
To land a spot in Liverpool, where the Cup will be held, T&T will have to better the teams from Grenada, St Vincent & The Grenadines, Argentina, St Maarten, Canada, USA and the host country.
"We have heard that St Vincent is playing well and we know that Grenada has been to Europe in the last year or so and know that Barbados went to the Commonwealth Games," said Gomes. "Canada and America have always been a mystery. They focus on AFNA and always play good in the tournament."
Though not having many international competitions to measure his team's readiness, he still feels confident that the "Calypso Girls" can reach their goal. Gomes will have at his arsenal, national Under-21 coach Rhonda John-Davis who has been re-installed as captain, replacing Joelisa Cooper, who is part of a solid shooting unit that includes professional players Samantha Wallace and Kalifa McCollin. Both shooters recently returned from their stints overseas, Wallace with the New South Wales Swifts in Australia and McCollin, with benecosMavericks in England.
"The addition of Samantha and Kalifa will surely make us the best frontcourt at the tournament," said Gomes. "I can't see anyone else having a stronger shooting circle than us so it will definitely help us."
Wallace returned to T&T on Friday and is pumped to lead the T&T with her shooting expertise.
"I'm feeling really confident. I am just ready to go out there to Barbados and show them what we have," said the six-footer. I am just ready to go out there and smash it.
"Barbados will definitely be our biggest rival but we cannot underestimate the other teams like Grenada and St Lucia. We need to take each game step by step but I'm excited to go."
And with the likes of experienced centre-court player John-Davis feeding her the ball, getting to the World Cup is within reach. Success for T&T at the qualifiers will open the possibility of John-Davis making history in competing at her sixth World netball event, the first for any player.
"Believe it or not that is far from my mind right now," admitted the softly-spoken John-Davis, who previously served as captain from 2007-2010. "I just need to help the team qualify and when that time reach I will cross that bridge. Right now I don't have any feelings towards that I know it will be a great thing for T&T but my focus right now is qualifying.
"We have been working hard and doing a lot to make sure that we get to the World Cup after that, it will see for itself."
Asked to lead the national team again she said, "I feel a great sense of joy to have been selected to lead such a talented group of your ladies. I do feel a level of comfort as I have played with the more senior players over the past years and for the rookies, I have coached them at the under 21 level. I'm very confident that we will perform well at the AFNA qualifier. We have the perfect combination of experience and youth which is a recipe for success, so look for the Calypso Girls in Liverpool 2019."
Missing from the team profiles is the Team Manager Carol Demming, who has managed many national teams in the past.
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