Shooting woes for Singapore
Charmaine and Co off target in loss to Zambia
SINGAPORE 36 - ZAMBIA 67
REPORTING FROM SYDNEY
A 50th international appearance is usually a special occasion for any athlete.
But, for Singapore's Charmaine Soh, her 50th international Test cap yesterday was one to forget, as the Republic fell 67-36 to Zambia at the Netball World Cup.
There was hardly anything positive for the Asian champions to draw from a flat performance at the Allphones Arena at the Sydney Olympic Park.
The Africans may be similar in size and stature as the Singaporeans, but they were by far the quicker and more energetic side.
Pausing at times to find her words after the game, Soh, 25, said: "They are a very fast and agile team, and we did not treasure our own passes and possession."
Singapore coach Ruth Aitken said: "Zambia were incredibly accurate on the attack. We just couldn't get any ball on the turnover, which was unusual for us.
"They are very athletic in a very unassuming way, and we just struggled to adjust to their style."
Zambian shooters Diana Banda, Lucy Jere and Elizabeth Bwalya had conversion rates ranging from 84 to 94 per cent.
By contrast, Soh converted just 54 per cent of her shots, while her compatriots Chen Huifen and Yu Meiling had 63 and 64 per cent accuracy in the shooting circle respectively.
Soh said: "It was down to our own mistakes, I felt it was more due to our own mental strength. We were not up to the task.
"Physically, we were okay since we had a rest day yesterday, so we could have done so much better. It was disappointing and a hard defeat to take, but we will learn from it."
New Zealander Aitken is looking into improving the players' shooting positions for the next game.
She said: "I certainly don't think there was a lot more pressure on the shots... it's about the shooters having to have confidence, and I suppose it's about being comfortable in the seat of their shots.
"We need to look at how they are taking the ball to make sure that they are well-balanced to put the ball up, because they are good shooters.
"But we are not shooting at the level that we need to."
While the Republic would be playing for positions 13th to 16th anyway, a victory yesterday would have put them in a better position to finish in the top half of that bracket, as it would mean that they will play Sri Lanka today for a spot in the 13th-14th placing game tomorrow.
Because they lost, they will play world No. 9 Barbados instead.
Aitken said: "Barbados had today off... we've chosen the hard road, we just have to walk it now."
Meanwhile, Soh has vowed to up her game.
She said: "It was a very disappointing 50th cap for me because I felt I also didn't play well and could have done more to help the team. I will do much better on my 51st cap."
Pool E: Jamaica 63 Malawi 62, New Zealand 76 Uganda 33
Pool F: England 62 South Africa 46, Australia 89 Wales 24
Pool G: Singapore 36 Zambia 67
Semi-finals: New Zealand v England, Australia v Jamaica
5th to 8th: Malawi v Wales, Uganda v South Africa
9th to 12th: Trinidad and Tobago v Scotland, Fiji v Samoa
13th to 16th: Singapore v Barbados, Zambia v Sri Lanka.
Tutaia all fired up
She was part of the New Zealand Under-21 team that won the World Youth Cup in 2005, and made her debut for the Silver Ferns later that year.
Ten years on, New Zealand goal assist Maria Tutaia has won two Commonwealth Games gold medals, in 2006 and 2010, as well as the World Netball Series in 2009.
But the 28-year-old, who can play in the positions of goal assist or goal shooter, is still waiting for her first World Cup gold medal, after being on the losing side in 2007 and 2011.
The disappointment of 2011 still haunts her.
With just 20 seconds to go in the final against arch-rivals Australia, she missed her shot, and the Netball Diamonds went on to win 58-57.
But Tutaia and her teammates are determined not to let history repeat itself this time round.
New Zealand beat Australia 52-47 in a Pool A game last Sunday, and remain the only undefeated team left in the 16-nation tournament in Sydney.
Ahead of winning her 100th international Test cap in their 76-33 win over Uganda yesterday at the Allphones Arena, the 1.88m-tall Tutaia said: "It would mean the world to me to win the title in Australia. The last time we were in Singapore, it was such a devastating loss for us.
"The last four years have been tough on us, but we know what we are capable of. In the World Cup especially, it's not the form that you carry into the tournament, but whether you turn up for your games."
Despite being ranked second in the world, behind Australia, the Silver Ferns were written off before the competition, as coach Waimarama Taumaunu opted to call up lesser-known players such as Bailey Mes and Malia Paseka, instead of experienced campaigners like Cathrine Latu.
"There was no pressure on us (ahead of the Australia game) and there was a lot of expectation on them" said Tutaia, who was in Singapore last year for the Nations Cup.
"A lot of people wrote us off when the team were named and said that we would be a no-show in Australia.
"That was great fuel for us to go out there and show people that we can compete. I love it when people talk like that, because it just makes me fired up."
Their victory in the fierce trans-Tasman battle last Sunday has given the Silver Ferns a shot in the arm - it snapped a nine-match losing streak to their bitter rivals.
But captain Casey Kopua was quick to point out that they have won only a battle, not the war.
The 30-year-old said: "It is a confidence boost, definitely, but we also know that it was just a round-robin match and, definitely when we come up against them next, it won't be the same; both teams will up the intensity."
The win has also raised the expectations of the fans and the media, but Tutaia is unperturbed by the spotlight.
Asked if they are now favourites for the world title, she replied: "I don't really know. To be honest, I am a true believer that it's the pressure that you put upon yourself.
"Now that we've beaten Australia, there are expectations from the New Zealand crowd.
"But we know we need to compete, and we are here for one thing - to win." - LIM SAY HENG