Singapore sunk by last-gasp winner in Nations Cup
Coach Milicich marks competitive debut with defeat in Nations Cup, but insists team will bounce back
Natalie Milicich's reign as national netball coach got off to a disappointing start, after Singapore conceded a late goal to world No. 22 Ireland to lose 54-53 in the opening match of the Mission Foods Nations Cup yesterday.
The game at the OCBC Arena had looked set to go into extra-time, but Ireland's Jan Hynes clearly did not read the script.
With just five seconds left, the goal shooter sank the winner and broke the hearts of 19th-ranked Singapore.
This despite Singapore starting the final quarter in the driver's seat, thanks to a seven-point lead.
But the gritty Irish chipped away at the advantage, and eventually reaped the reward for their fighting spirit in front of a 1,300-strong crowd.
Milicich, who took over as Singapore coach in September, lamented a communication breakdown and a lack of trust among her players when they had their backs to the wall.
The 50-year-old New Zealander said of her first competitive match in charge: "We needed just a little bit more trust in one another in the last few minutes. We sort of just stopped playing and we were very unlucky with our decisions in the last few minutes.
"We sort of just stopped playing and we were very unlucky with our decisions in the last few minutes."Singapore netball coach Natalie Milicich
"Sometimes, when the pressure's on, we've just got to make sure that we keep doing the things that we've been doing well and keep trusting ourselves."
Despite the late collapse, Milicich preferred to look at the positives, insisting that the team put up a credible performance.
With four games left, starting with tonight's clash against 30th-ranked Swaziland, she believes her team will show what they are capable of in the remainder of the six-team tournament.
She said: "The girls have got lots that they haven't shown today. We've got other combinations that we can look at as well, and at the end of the day, they'll know that there are some areas for improvement.
"We've got to make sure that we finish those shots and not give in to our shivers in those critical moments."
Despite yesterday's result, Singapore captain Vanessa Lee feels that the team are looking better than during the SEA Games in August, when they lost their 2015 Games gold to hosts Malaysia.
Said the 30-year-old: "When we look at the team now, we can see that the team are more composed and there's more control.
"We're definitely gutted by the loss, to come so close but yet lose by one.
"But I guess it also comes down to finishing the game well. We may be disappointed with this loss, but we'll go back, regroup and look at what we can improve on."
- Malaysia 35 Cook Islands 69
- Hong Kong 36 Swaziland 48
- Ireland v Malaysia (3pm)
- Cook Islands v Hong Kong (5pm)
- Singapore v Swaziland (7pm)