Women’s Sports Column 20-26 May 2017

county2Welcome to this week’s column.  We’re heading towards some exciting stuff this summer – but then there’s always exciting stuff in the world of women’s sport, isn’t there?  Well I think so, and I’m glad to see my followers do too.  This week I have stories from football, netball, tennis, athletics, hockey, cricket and lacrosse.  Plus a disheartening “And finally” from cricket – remember I said I was going to stop reading the comments sections after articles?  Well I haven’t yet, but this week has made me even more resolved to do so.

Onward!

Netball

Round 16 of the Super League was completed over the weekend.  Loughborough are still top of the pile after a convincing win over Celtic Dragons on Saturday.  Lightning lead the table by nine points.  The others in the top four are Wasps, Thunder and Storm.  Bath are still in the hunt for a Final Four place as they are level with Bath on 30 and lie in fifth.  This week’s scores were:

Friday 19 May

Severn Stars 64-47 Team Northumbria
Team Bath 63-47 Sirens

Saturday 20 May

Loughborough Lightning 74-44 Celtic Dragons
Hertfordshire Mavericks 46-60 Manchester Thunder

Monday 22 May

Wasps Netball 64-70 Surrey Storm

This Bank Holiday weekend it is round 17.  I will be at Loughborough v Team Northumbria on Saturday, so if you see me come and say hello!

This round’s televised match is on Monday 29 May and is Manchester Thunder v Team Bath.  It will be live on Sky Sports at 7.30pm.

Lacrosse

As usual thanks to Martin for keeping me on my lacrosse toes.  Last week Centaurs were crowned National Club Champions.

The three winners of the North, South East and South West leagues played in a round-robin format tournament to decide the champions.

The scores were as follows:

Oxton 15-4 Bristol Bombers
Centaurs 25-3 Bristol Bombers (15-3) Mercy ruling
Centaurs 10-10 Oxton

Thinking of the Lacrosse World Cup, which is only 50-odd days away, there were several England and Wales players on show.  Oxton had England players Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Charlotte Lytollis and Olivia Wimpenny.  The Centaurs had five Wales players in their team as well as England player Sophie Morrill.

Although the two teams could not be separated at the final whistle, the title went to Centaurs on goal difference.  As the mercy ruling had been applied at 15-3, the difference was just one goal.

Tennis

Off the Court

Injuries

Caroline Wozniacki withdrew from the Strasbourg Grand Prix with a back injury.  She retired during the second set of her first-round match against American Shelby Rogers.

With the French Open only a week away there must be a doubt as to whether Wozniacki will take her place in the draw.

World number four Simona Halep may also be a doubt as she tore an ankle ligament during the Italian Open final.  She has described her chances as “50-50”.

Players returning

Petra Kvitova is hoping to play at Wimbledon, she has revealed this week.  We still do not know if she will play in Paris, but if not she definitely has her sights on a return at Wimbledon.  She has already won the title twice and it will be good to see her back on the court as soon as possible.

Another player who may make her return at Wimbledon is Victoria Azarenka.  She gave birth to a son in December and now she says she is “ready to start competing” again.  She will play in one of the warm-up tournaments and then hopefully take her place in the main draw.

If she plays her first tournament within 12 months of giving birth she will retain her ranking of six in the world.

Qualifying for Roland Garros

Heather Watson is through to the second round of qualifying after beating Russian Anastasiya Komardina 3-6 7-5 6-1.   She has to win two more matches to make it to the main draw.  However, British numbers three and four, Naomi Broady and Tara Moore lost in the first round of qualifying and will not compete.

Laura Robson

Laura Robson is still on the comeback trail. Her persistence and tenacity cannot be denied, and it seems to be paying off.  She won the ITF 60k Kurume tournament in Japan last week and now moves back into the world top 200.  She moves from 218th to 169th.  She defeated fellow Briton Katie Boulter in the final 6-3 6-4.  It is hard to believe she is still only 23.

On the Court

Italian Open

Eighth seed Elina Svitolina won the Italian Open last weekend.  She defeated sixth seed Simona Halep 4-6 7-5 6-1.  As mentioned earlier, Halep tore an ankle ligament during the match and is now a doubt for the French Open.

Strasbourg Grand Prix

The quarter-finals took place on 25 May and the results were:

Samantha Stosur(6)  beat Carla Suarez Navarrro(4) 7-5 6-4
Daria Gavrilova (7) beat Ash Barty 6-4 6-7 7-6
Caroline Garcia (5) beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6 6-2
Peng Shuai (8) beat Shelby Rogers 6-0 6-4

The semi-finals will be on 26 May and the draw is:

Peng v Stosur
Garcia v Gavrilova

Hockey

Hannah Macleod has announced her retirement from international hockey.

She was part of the GB team that won gold so thrillingly at Rio in 2016.

Macleod will now concentrate on her coaching role with the England Under-21 squad.

Cricket

Quadrangular Series

19 May

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 203/6 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 120 runs

Third place play-off

Ireland finished their tournament on a winning note as they beat Zimbabwe in the third place play-off.

Ireland 254/5 (50 overs)
Zimbabwe 235 all out (49.4 overs)
Ireland won by 19 runs

Captain Laura Delaney led from the front as she scored 81 for Ireland with Shauna Kavanagh backing her up with 67.  But Ireland will be really happy that they were able to take 10 Zimbabwe wickets.  Pick of the bowlers was seamer Aoife Beggs who took 5/52.

Final

India continued their excellent form in the final as they reduced South Africa to 156 all out in just over 40 overs.  They then reached their target losing only two wickets and with 102 balls to spare.

South Africa 156 all out (40.2 overs)
India 160/2 (33 overs)
India won by 8 wickets

Top scorer for South Africa was Sune Luus with 55.  The phenomenal Jhulan Goswami was in the wickets again taking 3/22 off 8 overs, while Poonam Yadav took 3/32 off 9.

India lost Deepti Sharma early on for 8 and Mona Meshram for 2, but the in-form Punam Raut with 70 and captain Mithali Raj with 62 saw them home. South Africa also bowled 15 wides.

Athletics

The news came this week that Welsh discus thrower Philippa Roles has died at the age of 39.  Roles competed at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 for Team GB.  She finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Delhi and sixth in Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne.

No cause of death has yet been revealed.

Her personal record was 62.89 metres, which is fourth in all-time British rankings.

Football – On the Pitch

Spring Series

Saturday 20 May

Arsenal Ladies 4-2 Birmingham City Ladies

Arsenal are now second in the table with this win over the Blues at the Hive.  The away side took the lead in the first minute when Rachel Williams headed home a Sarah Mayling cross.  Heather O’Reilly equalised for the Gunners two minutes before half-time from a through-ball by Danielle Van De Donk.

After the break Van De Donk got a goal of her own to put the home side ahead, but just three minutes later Williams was on the scoresheet again to equalise for Birmingham.

But in an inspired substitution saw Arsenal take the points as Louise Quinn headed in from a free kick in the 78th minute to make it 3-2 and again from a corner in the 90th to make the final score 4-2.

Bristol City Women 1-1 Liverpool Ladies

It was honours even at the Stoke Gifford stadium as Bristol took a valuable point from the Spring Series’ early pace-setters, Liverpool Ladies.

The away side were on top throughout but were held until the 80th minute when Katie Zelem fired in after a poorly-cleared cross.

It looked as though Liverpool had secured the win, but City weren’t beaten and five minutes later Lily Agg headed in from Claire Emslie to see the points were shared.

Sunday 21 May

Manchester City Women 5-1 Yeovil Town Ladies

It is safe to say that City have hit their straps.  Things started badly for Yeovil when on 10 minutes Ann-Marie Heatherson turned a Lucy Bronze cross into her own net.  Two minutes later City were two up when Jill Scott lobbed keeper Megan Walsh.

On 20 minutes Lucy Quinn got one back for the Lady Glovers, but there was to be no comeback.

Jane Ross scored the Champions’ third before half-time and the game was effectively over as a contest.

In the second-half Ross grabbed a second and Kosovare Asllani City’s fifth.  Ellie Roebuck saved a penalty from Sarah Wiltshire for Man City.

The only fly in the ointment for City was Carli Lloyd’s 89th minute straight red card for an elbow.

Sunderland AFC 0-7 Chelsea Ladies

Chelsea were five-up by half-time in this match and even had time to miss a penaly – a complete mauling for the Lady Black Cats.

Gemma Davison missed the spot kick that would have put Chelsea one-up, but it obviously did not knock their confidence.

Erin Cuthbert scored the first on 17.  Karen Carney doubled the lead on 31 after a precise pass from So Yun Ji.  Three minutes later Maren Mjelde got their third and substitute Ramona Bachmann the fourth on 41.  Cuthbert scored her second just before half-time and a dejected Sunderland team left the field.

Sunderland’s defence performed much better in the second-half, but they couldn’t stop the returning Fran Kirby from scoring a double on 80 and 85 minutes to complete the rout.

Chelsea would have been very heartened to welcome back Kirby after injury but disappointed to see Eni Aluko limp off in the first-half.

Thursday 25 May

Manchester City Women 1-0 Chelsea Ladies

After their stunning win on Sunday, Chelsea would have been fancying their chances against the champions.  There was, unsurprisingly, an emotional atmosphere at the Academy Stadium as a minute’s silence was held for the victims of the attack on the Manchester Arena on Monday.

But it was Chelsea who had trouble in settling.  They were defence-minded in the first-half and by the time they decided to take the attack to City it was too late and Manchester had got into their stride.

The only goal of the game came from Toni Duggan just before the half-hour.  How Chelsea must be sick of the sights of Duggan who has now scored 10 goals in 10 games against them.  Nikita Parris also looked lively for City although her finishing left something to be desired.

Off the Pitch

Notts County

Well, I didn’t see this coming.  New Notts County owner Alan Hardy has confirmed that he plans to bring women’s football back to the club.

As you will know, I have had plenty to say on this subject and could say plenty more, but this new announcement has thrown me somewhat.  I don’t want to be sceptical or cynical and would be more than happy to see a new team, so I’ll hold my thoughts until we see just what comes next.

This is what Hardy has said so far:

  • He wants to put together a sustainable model, which first sees a girls’ academy being set up.
  • He wants a clear pathway for academy players to progress through to a women’s first team.
  • He sees it as a long-term project
  • He knows they will have to work through the leagues and divisions but is willing to commit to that

On the problems he had with the previous set-up:

“Unfortunately, the ladies’ team I inherited was an entity on its own. There was just the first-team; there was nothing that was attaching it to the club in any way – probably because it was brought over from Lincoln and it had no structure or foundations.

“As of next season, we will have an under-nines, under-10s and under-11s girls’ academy, which will be playing in the boys’ Young Elizabethan League (YEL).”

All good words so far.  I just hope that the FA offers as much support as it can – very often (and I know I’ve said this before) I feel the FA has all the ideas (the “initiatives” – ugh beginning to dislike that word) regarding women’s football, then sets everyone adrift to fend for themselves with little or no back-up.  And before you all yell that clubs have to sustain themselves and why should they be propped up by the governing body – I don’t mean that they should be propped up – just that the FA should be aware of potential problems or issues and should be available to provide assistance.

It’s not just football that does this, but I would suggest the ECB and RFU are equally culpable.  And to support this, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes had her say about the FA this week.

Emma Hayes

The Chelsea manager pulled no punches on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.  She said that the FA is guilty of treading women’s football as an “afterthought” – something with which I would heartily agree.

She made the claim with reference to the training and pay of match officials.  She said that the pool of referees is too big and when it comes to payment, officials at WSL matches are paid around half the amount of those in the men’s National League (the top division of which is the fifth tier of English football).

The FA was quick to issue a response to the criticisms.  With respect to the officiating “problem” it has a “Gameplan for Growth” strategy:

“We acknowledge there is more to do but our commitment is clear”, it said.

“The FA is also: developing a pathway to recruit, train, deploy and mentor more women and men, from all walks of life, to referee at every level of the women’s game, and we’re reaching out to everyone involved, including clubs, to get a clearer understanding of peoples’ perceptions of officiating and seeking ways in which standards could be improved.”

It’s very interesting that the FA felt the need to issue a statement only hours after the interview.

Bibiana Steinhaus

The Bundesliga will see its first female referee next season.  38-year old policewoman Bibiana Steinhaus had previously been a fourth official at a Bundesliga match and has been a German FA referee since 1999.

She has already refereed the 2011 Women’s World Cup final and the women’s 2012 Olympic final.

Did I read some of the comments after this article on the BBC?  Yes I did.  Were they as bad as you think?  Yes, they were.

Signing

Arsenal have signed Netherlands international Vivianne Miedema from Bayern Munich for the new 2017/18 winter WSL season.

Miedema, a forward, already has 48 caps for the Netherlands and had been at Munich for three seasons.

And finally,

The BBC released a “Breaking news” item online this week that said that both Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor are included in Mark Robinson’s World Cup squad.  Any genuine cricket fan will see this as great news.  It is a real result that Taylor is available for selection and that Knight looks to be overcoming injury.

So, and yes, I know I should know better by now, I thought I’d look at the congratulatory comments after the article.  Except at that point, there weren’t any.  There were just four or five from men saying this was not news and why were the BBC covering it?

For a brief, fleeting but naive moment I thought the comments meant that both players were so good they couldn’t be left out.  Alas no.  What they were actually saying was that the article was not news because there was no competition for places in the squad and they just put anyone available in it, and of course, by implication, that women’s cricket was beneath notice.  They were, of course, displaying their total ignorance of the subject: Sarah Taylor has been out of the England set-up for a year, dealing with her anxiety issues, whilst Captain Heather Knight sustained a stress fracture in her foot at the training camp in the UAE and was (and still may be) a doubt for the World Cup.

So what makes these men think they are qualified to comment?  Do they care that they are so spectacularly wrong?  Probably not, but I just wish the wilfully uninformed would stay out of it.

If you can’t be bothered to get your facts right, don’t be bothered to comment.  Thanks.

And finally (2)

I’m currently writing a short four-part history of cricket for WiSP Sports.  If you would like to read part one here’s the link:  WiSP Sports.

There will be no column next week as I’m away watching the Champions’ Trophy – yes I do watch men’s sport too…..

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