RIBBLE Valley netball girls are the toast of England after lifting a national crown and a clutch of county honours.
The powerful Under 14a squad produced a stirring finish in the Netball National final, edging out rivals Tameside 23-22 in a thriller of a contest.
The girls warmed up for their competition victory with super wins in their preliminary ties against Northants (31-7), London Academy (31-12), Elmdon (31-11) and Team Jets (26-12) Then two splendid victories over Eastwood (19-11) and Woodley (26-13) – and Bury in the last four – fired them into the national final.
With both teams unbeaten in the competition, it was always going to be close, with the lead changing hands several times as the two sides fought each other to a standstill.
The Ribble Valley girls drew first blood, however, scoring three goals in as a many minutes, but going into the last quarter the two sides were locked together 19-19.
Then, with one minute left and the sides drawing 22-22, Ribble Valley scored their precious winning point.
However, Tameside went close to levelling it in the last few seconds and taking the game into extra time when they hit the ring, but the hooter sounded for Ribble Valley to claim the title with shooter Beth Tomlinson leading the charge.
“It is our club’s biggest honour at junior level and I’m very proud of all the girls because they've worked so hard to get to this level of competition,” said Ribble Valley Netball Club coach Sarah Thompson.
“The club is really thriving, so much so we’ve had girls from across Lancashire coming over to join us.
“But to be the champions of England is an incredibly proud honour for a rural club like ours.
“A lot of the time we are playing against big city and large town clubs, so to be competing and winning honours at this level is really a great credit to everybody.
“Junior netball is very strong in the county and our girls have made a lot of sacrifices to achieve their goal.
“It really was lovely to see so many parents and friends and supporters at the final to cheer them on and I’d to say a big thank-you to everybody who has backed us.”
Thompson, who has coached at the club for 20 years added: “We set our goal last September, to reach the under 14 national club finals, and they achieved it.
“In the regional rounds, they are hour long games, so the girls needed good fitness, skills and concentration levels.”
The girls followed up their National final win by lifting a regional title in Cheshire while the under-13 squad also got in on the act, winning an under-13 competition in Surrey.
Several of the under-14 girls have won county honours while former club member Natalie Haythornthwaite is the captain of the England Under-21 team.
Defender Niamh Kay is also a player with great potential and is part of the Regional North West Ladies netball squad.
The club celebrated their memorable campaign with an end of season trip to Paris.
“We had a terrific five days and we won the competition,” added Mrs Thompson.
Mrs Thompson said the club is always on the look out for fresh talent to add to their various squads.
“We’ve some tremendous talent at the club,” added Mrs Thompson.
“We have players from the age of six to adult age, and it is a very friendly club to be involved with.”
For further info on Ribble Valley Netball Club contact 07891 956057.