SINGAPORE – With less than a minute to go and trailing by just a goal, the Sneakers Stingrays were in the driver’s seat to equalise against defending champions Blaze Dolphins in the Deloitte Netball Super League (NSL) final.
But miscommunication led to a turnover and the Dolphins’ Lee Pei Shan coolly scored the last goal to secure her side’s 43-41 victory and retain their title on Sunday.
The Dolphins also ended the Stingrays’ hopes of an unbeaten season and coach Wang Jing Qing was proud of her charges’ performance.
The Dolphins had lost by two goals in the season opener before a heavy 64-35 defeat in the second round, but Wang said the team were more composed this time.
Wang, who was also named the NSL’s Most Valuable Coach, added: “The scores were very tight and even when we were trailing, they didn’t give up and continued putting pressure on their opponents.”
Co-captain Khor Ting Fang, who earlier shed tears as she embraced her teammates at the final whistle, admitted she did not expect the result.
Beaming, she said: “Today, we came with the idea that we had nothing to lose, we’re the underdogs. So we just tried to do what we can and leave it all out on court.
“We were a lot more calm today. We didn’t panic and steadily played our own game – that’s what helped us reduce our error rate.”
The teams put up a fine display of fast-paced netball to the delight of the over 400 spectators at Our Tampines Hub who cheered the action during the thrilling final.
The Stingrays led 23-22 at half-time, but the Dolphins fought back to lead 34-32 after the third quarter.
They then endured some nervy moments in the last period as the Stingrays appeared to be on the verge of a comeback. But Lee ensured it did not materialise, even after Amandeep Kaur Chahal scored two quick goals to reduce the gap to just one with a minute to go.
At the final whistle, the Dolphins supporters erupted into cheers as players from both sides embraced their teammates tearfully.
Stingrays captain Eyu Yan Yan, who missed the pass in the last passage of play, said: “It was a blur and to put it very plainly, it was a lapse in focus for one second and it was very clear I missed the catch, which might have resulted in an equaliser.
“But it’s never one incident that results in a (game’s ending), so we take this as a team and we’ll be back stronger. It’s never easy sustaining a strong team performance throughout the season.
“Everyone put in a lot throughout the months of preparation and during the season. I’m very proud of our performance and I think we held nothing back and we, as a team, also have no regrets.”
National coach Annette Bishop also announced the national opens and development squads, handing a first call-up to Fier Orcas’ defender K. Mishalenee, who was also named the NSL’s most improved Under-21 player.
The national team will next head to the Gold Coast for the PacificAus Series in preparation for the July 28-Aug 6 Netball World Cup in Cape Town. Singapore will then host the Nations Cup in October before November’s Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Thailand.
Mishalenee, 21, was surprised but honoured to receive the call-up. She said: “It means a lot, this is really special. This is motivation for me to work harder and I just want to try to be able to fit into the team and work hard together with them.”
Deloitte Netball Super League awards
Most valuable coach: Wang Jing Qing (Blaze Dolphins)
Most improved Under-21 player: K. Mishalenee (Fier Orcas)
Best defender: Yew Shu Ning (Blaze Dolphins)
Best midfielder: Tan Yi Jie (Mission Mannas)
Best shooter: Toh Kai Wei (Sneakers Stingrays)
Most valuable international player: Unaisi Rauluni (Mission Mannas)
2023 National Opens Squad
Amandeep Kaur Chahal, Angelina Lim, Aqilah Andin, Charmaine Soh, Goh Wei Ping, Jamie Lim, K. Mishalenee, Khor Ting Fang, Kimberly Lim, Lee Pei Shan, Rachel Ling, Reena Manogaran, Sindhu Nair, Tan Yi Jie, Toh Kai Wei, Yew Shu Ning