Plymouth Pilgrims closing in on another netball league title
PLYMOUTH Pilgrims are closing in on an astonishing two decades worth of netball dominance.
Pilgrims are leading the Plymouth and District League's Premier A division by 11 points, having won each of their 14 games this season.
They consolidated their place at the summit of the league's top division with a 50-8 victory over under-strength University One.
A successful campaign this season would probably hand the club their 21st consecutive title – although no-one is really sure just how many they have won on the trot.
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Pilgrims head coach Sadie Burt sensibly declines to predict another title for the city side, who have not lost it since last century.
"Nobody is really sure how many years in a row we've won it, but I believe the last time we lost the title was back in 1992," admitted Burt.
"But as far as we're concerned this season, it's the old cliche of taking each game as it comes.
"This year, the fixtures have been done in such a way that we play our hardest matches at the end of the season.
"So we've still got Marjon (fourth), Totem (third) and PCC (second) to come yet. PCC are particularly strong this year
"However, we relish the challenge and we like to give our very best.
"We're proud of being from Plymouth and Plymothian, so we think it's important that we give a good showing."
One of the keys – apart from a highly-developed will to win – of Pilgrims' two-decade reign at the top of the league is the club's ability to integrate younger talent with more experienced players, which ensures a constant influx of new blood.
Another is the team is never complacent.
"We always try to give ourselves new targets, new ways of doing things," said Burt. "We don't rest on our laurels.
"And we always respect what other teams are doing.
"We don't like getting beaten, but if we do, we put our hands up if the other team has played well.
"We got beaten (in individual games) last season and we didn't like it, but that's the way it goes in sport sometimes.
"I think the league has got stronger and that does help to keep you on your toes.
"We're there to be shot at, but that comes with the territory."
So how would the club react if the – almost – unthinkable happened and they were pipped to the title?
"If it ever happened that we did lose the title, we'd be even more determined to win it back next time," said Burt.
In Division Two, Roper James beat a bug and basement side Puffins 25-16 into the bargain.
They had just six players through illness and holidays and it was no huge surprise when Puffins went 6-3 up in the first quarter despite the efforts of goal attack Sarah Sandey.
Ropers' stand-in team captain Sharon Spry made a few tactical adjustments to cope with the missing players, moving herself back to wing attack to help Heather Nash to supply shooter Helen Norman.
Puffins centre Deven Disten worked tirelessly, feeding the ball into her shooters Charlotte Burt and Nicky Hibble.
But they were increasingly foiled by Ropers' defenders Emily Taylor and Kerry Palfreyman.
Ropers went 17-13 ahead, although Puffins' goalkeeper Heidi Wyette did everything she could to keep Ropers out.
By the end of the fourth quarter, Ropers had turned the game around to win the lion's share of the points and cement themselves in mid-table.
Nominated players were Sharon Spry (Roper) and Heidi Wyette (Puffins).