Netball: Charmaine on fire

Netball: Charmaine on fire
Singapore netball player Charmaine Soh

More than half of the capacity 3,000 crowd at the OCBC Arena stayed behind well after Singapore beat Sri Lanka 59-41 to win the Mission Foods Asian Netball Championships yesterday.

They cheered loudly as Singapore lifted the title during the prize presentation.

Then, armed with pen and anything they could find to write on, many of them came down court side and waited for a certain individual to peel away from the celebrations.

Singapore goal shooter Charmaine Soh took it all in her stride, signing autographs while answering questions from the media.

During the first quarter of the final, she admitted she was a bundle of nerves, missing five out of 10 attempts, as Singapore trailed their arch-rivals 12-8 after 10 minutes.

When the second quarter began, she shifted into gear and proved an unstoppable force, pouring in 42 points as the defending champions roared away from the Sri Lankans.

"I needed time to settle down because I was quite nervous at the beginning," said the 24-year-old, after the game.

"I really wanted to shoot well for my teammates. Every time I scored, they encouraged me and I just kept going from there."

Once the 1.77m goal shooter found her stride, she hardly missed - scoring 25 from 27 attempts in the second and third quarters.

The Singapore team really needed her to be on top of her game, as Sri Lanka's Tharjini Sivalingam, standing at 2.09m, was also a force for her team.

Tharjini chalked up 41 points from 45 attempts, as the visitors constantly launched the ball up to her.

In the end, Singapore defended well, taking advantage of Sri Lanka's turnovers while relying on Soh to shoot them to victory.

"The second quarter was the turning point for us; I think the girls were a bit nervous in the first quarter because of the crowd," said Singapore coach Ruth Aitken.

"I think our fitness put us in good stead and we stuck with our game plan well, which was to move the ball around with speed."

Aitken described the victory as a team effort, but praised Soh for her calm and precise shooting performance.

"She's very special, she's got an amazing shot. It was all about the feel, and she had it today - she could've thrown with her eyes closed," said Aitken.

REPERTOIRE

Unlike Tharjini, who often stood under the basket for her shots, Soh demonstrated a wider repertoire of shooting - firing in from anywhere within the semi-circle.

Soh, who has 25 caps, said her shooting prowess is down to practice - six times a week, from all angles.

"I train to shoot from the top of the circle, while playing out different scenarios," said the full-time auditor.

"I used to play basketball before, but I couldn't take it because it was too physical. Netball is perfect for me."

In the match for third place, Malaysia beat Hong Kong 50-39.

By finishing in the top two, both Singapore and Sri Lanka qualified for the Netball World Cup in Australia next year.

Next up for the Singapore girls is the Nations Cup here in December, before next June's South-east Asia Games, also on home soil.

aakasim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Sep 15, 2014.
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