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Image Courtesy - Kai Johnson

Last season’s Women’s NBL Division 1 and Women’s Division 1 Play Off Champions Team Solent Kestrels faced a tough season opener away to the ever competitive Endeavour Ipswich Basketball Club.

The regular season opened on exactly the same day last year with Solent springing, what at the time was, a surprise crushing defeat of the highly fancied Thames Valley Cavaliers. Their season opener this year was to be a completely different story. The close season had seen a number of changes behind the scenes, including the departure of well-liked and respected head coach, Ben Stanley to WBBL outfit Leicester Riders, with his assistant Robbie Connell now taking the reigns.

Kestrels entered the regular season with a very young and inexperienced squad, supplemented by the recruitment of veteran Earleesha Jackson. The squad situation was further compounded by injury to six of last season’s returning players, ahead of the clash with Ipswich.

The game started with Ipswich going on a 26-0 run on the back of an aggressive full court press which Solent were unable to cope with effectively and score at the other end. The well drilled and experienced Ipswich team were able to exert pressure throughout the 1st quarter, with Harriet Welham returning from Europe and GB talent Liv Forster able to score off numerous steals and open shots, supported by sharpshooter Danni Cazey, the first quarter ending 46-7 to Ipswich.

With Ipswich lifting their full court press defence in the 2nd quarter, TSK were able to respond slightly in the second quarter with Earleesha Jackson providing hustle and efficiency at both ends of the floor at both ends of the floor. Ipswich extended their lead to go into the half time break with a 75-20 lead.

Whilst unable to make inroads into Ipswich’s lead, Kestrels’ less experienced players did compete in the second half and provided signs of good things for the coming weeks; Faith McDowall, Maeve Blandford, Glory Uzomefuna and Tara Knowles in particular showing signs of growing confidence and a desire to challenge the team who must be serious, early title challengers Ipswich and veteran Earleesha Jackson standing out in particular with her hustle at both ends of the court.

The final score of Ipswich 118-42 Kestrels was a true reflection of the game. A chastening experience first up for the Kestrels’ women who have a tough week of practice ahead if they are to improve on this result, which was a stark reminder for this young and inexperienced squad of how competitive WNBL Division 1 basketball is. They next play Anglia Ruskin University at Solent Sports Complex on Saturday 7th October at 6pm.

Kestrels leading performers:

Earleesha Jackson 13pts/9rebs/3stls

Tara Knowles: 7pts/4rebs

Glory Uzomefuna: 6pts/5rebs/1stl

Anna Stone: 6pts/2rebs/1stl

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