Portsmouth Grammar School (PGS) are one step away from being crowned national champions.
The first VII travel to Brentwood, Essex, tomorrow to compete in the final of the Independent Schools’ Netball Cup.
There, the girls, who topped the southern qualifying pool, will take on northern champions Oldham Hulme Grammar.
The final will be their biggest challenge to date on a road that began as far back as September, when a 33-27 victory was secured against Benenden School, Kent.
But with victory against last year’s national champions, Millfield, along the way to the final, confidence is sky high in the PGS ranks.
‘Everyone played really well,’ said captain Frankie Materna, following the 30-25 semi-final win over Millfield.
‘Together we were a great team and we are looking forward to meeting Oldham and enjoying a good game.’
Following victory over Benenden in their opening game, PGS dared to dream about a place in the final with two further triumphs against London schools – at home to Colfe’s and away to Emanuel.
In both games, the locals encountered very different styles of play which they overcame superbly – winning 39-17 and then 47-26.
That set up a quarter-final tie against renowned netballers Bancroft’s School, Essex.
But Portsmouth were up to the task, winning 38-34.
‘We knew this would be an intense game,’ said head of netball Suzanne Gardner.
‘Bancroft’s started strongly and some impressive shooting saw them take an early lead.
‘But as the match progressed, PGS played some outstanding netball and the link-up between Rachel Montgomery, Kirsten Hall and Frankie Materna enabled us to take the lead.
‘Try as they did, Bancroft’s could not get back on terms and the superior fitness of the PGS players began to tell.’
Gardner also heaped praise on her troops following their last-four win over Millfield.
‘The team was fantastic,’ she said.
‘I’m so proud of the style of netball they played. To reach a national final is an amazing achievement.’
The win was in part compensation for the team’s disappointment in not making their mark in the southern regional round of the National Schools’ Cup.
The under-14s also failed to progress from the regional round, despite being Hampshire champions.
But Gardner believes the future looks bright for the school’s netball teams.
‘The team can be very proud of themselves and PGS netballing future looks bright, with three under-13 players, Ashleigh Dekker, Alice Cheshire and Issy Stancliffe playing an impressive part in the under-14 squad.’