Singapore’s 16th place finish was confirmed with defeat against Sri Lanka this morning, but Milicich will take positives from an improved final performance.
“We’ve had some really good learnings.
“We tried everything. The girls never gave up, and they kept their energy up in that last quarter. Our word for today was perseverance, and our defenders really showed that.”
Singapore have one of the youngest squads in the competition, with all-but two of their 12-player squad making their World Cup debuts in Liverpool.
“You’ve got to put things into perspective – we are a very young team and we have lost some true leaders from within the group. It’s a rebuilding time for us, but I think that some of those young ones have learned a lot and will be stronger for it in years to come.”
One of those Singaporeans who did have previous World Cup experience was Charmaine Soh, for whom this was a third tournament.
She impressed throughout the tournament, and Millicich was delighted with the way she performed.
“Today Charmaine had a fabulous game. She works so hard, and the kilometres she runs in a game must be huge! She leads by example on and off court, and I’m really proud about how she’s finished the tournament as well.”
Sivalingam scored 77 of her team’s 78 goals, beating the 76 she scored against the same opposition earlier on in the tournament. There was encouragement for Singapore too though, as they considerably narrowed the margin of defeat between the two meetings, eventually losing 78-57 here.
Unsurprisingly, Sivalingam the focal point of the Sri Lankan attack from the start, meanwhile at the other end of the court, goal keeper Chathurangi Jayasooriya won her 50th cap.
There wasn’t much joy for defenders at either end when the action got under way, as the first quarter became an intriguing battle between two different but equally effective shooting styles.
Sivalingam was the picture of consistency from under the post in the Sri Lanka shooting circle, while the effortless, eye-catching style of Singapore’s Charmaine Soh was again proving effective at the other end.
Despite one crowd-pleasing interception from the Singaporean defence, though, Sri Lanka were finding Sivalingam in the circle with almost mechanical precision, and she gradually built their lead as the first quarter wore on.
She registered her first miss – albeit she then converted the rebound – with 90 seconds of the quarter left, but the frequency with which her team-mates had been able to locate her in the circle meant that Sri Lanka ended the quarter with a commanding 23-15 lead.
Despite her shooters’ 100% record in the first quarter, Singapore coach Natalie Milicich made a change for the second quarter, bringing on the extra height of Pei Shan Lee at goal shooter.
As Soh continued her exceptional form in front of goal, Singapore began to build some momentum, as two successive turnovers handed them some impetus and helped reduce the gap at 29-22.
The long, high feed into the circle to Sivalingam was always an option for Sri Lanka though – despite the best efforts of the Singapore defenders – and she helped to push the lead back out and over ten for the first time.
With five minutes of the half to go, Sivalingam’s attacking partner Hasitha Mendis had her first shot of the game. She missed, but Sivalingam was on hand to ensure that the opportunity didn’t get away from Sri Lanka.
Singapore were still putting together some neat bursts of play, and hearing every interception cheered by the M&S Bank Arena crowd, but Sivalingam helped Sri Lanka to extend their lead further as the quarter progressed. The lead would have narrowed slightly had Soh managed to stay in play with a remarkably athletic attempt to retrieve the ball in the dying seconds, but despite her fantastic efforts then and throughout the half, Sri Lanka led 43-28 at half time.
Soh recorded her first miss of the match early into the third quarter, although she did well to regain the ball and score the rebound.
At the other end though, the ruthless efficiency of Sivalingam was continuing, and the lead hit 20 as she netted again to make it 53-33. Singapore coach Natalie Milicich made a change at goal keeper, bringing on Joanna Toh for Sindhu Nair, but the task off stopping the relentless service into Sivalingam wasn’t getting any easier.
By the end of the third, she had taken Sri Lanka out to a 65-40, with her shooting partner Mendis still having only taken one attempt at goal.
Both coaches rotated their squads considerably in the fourth quarter, which Singapore would go on to win by four. This was thanks in part to the defensive work of Nair and Aqilah Andin, which forced Sivalingam into more errors than she had made previously in the match.
Despite that, she had still recorded 100% of her teams goals right up until the last three minutes, when Mendis went for goal and converted for the first time in the game.
There was still time for Sivalingam to break a personal record though, as – with the last action of the game – she scored her 77th goal of the match, exceeding her previous tournament-high score of 76.
The match finished 78-57, bringing to a close both teams’ Vitality Netball World Cup.
Sri Lanka’s Tharjini Sivalingam said:
“I am so very happy. I enjoyed that, and I would like to thank the organisers in England, and my team-mates and coach. My team-mates practice their technique all of the time with each other, and I’m so happy that we have won.”
Singapore coach Natalie Milicich said:
“I’m really proud of how we finished. To win the last quarter was a real positive, and I think we’ve shown throughout the tournament that we never give up. Today was about us having a better performance and I think we did that, but the learnings for us are around consistency and managing those critical moments.”
The game pitted top against bottom in Group E, and that difference in placings so far at the competition was reflected on the court.
Having lost against both Sri Lanka and Fiji prior to this game, Singapore are still looking for their first win of the tournament and never looked likely to find it here.
Samoa won all three of the previous meetings at a World Cup between the teams – including by seven goals at the last tournament in Sydney – and were in no mood to see that record taken away from them.
In the first quarter, it was clear from the start which side was going to take home the points. As much as Singapore did well in possession under pressure at times, Samoa were more ruthless and visibly crisper with their passes.
Lenora Misa was Player of the Match as Samoa beat Sri Lanka yesterday, producing a perfect template for dealing with tournament top-scorer Tharjini Sivalingam. Misa, today winning her fifth cap for her country, was impressive once again, though her game was not tested to anywhere close to the same level against Singapore’s Xinyi Tan and Charmaine Soh.
The gap at the end of the first quarter was only seven goals, but the gulf in quality was evident. That goal difference was set to increase as the game played out, and by the end of the second period, Samoa had scored 15 more times to Singapore’s 12.
Singapore battled and netted three times in the space of 90 seconds, but that only encouraged their opponents to restore their buffer. As quickly as Singapore had led by two in the quarter, they were pegged back once again.
Having only won one quarter at the tournament so far, it was not long before Singapore had allowed Samoa to get back into rhythm. Goal shooter Toa Tanimo was already over 20 goals for the game and at half-time, the Group E leaders led the match by a scoreline of 31-21.
The second half of the game followed much the same pattern as the first had, though Singapore very nearly got a second quarter-win at the tournament in the penultimate 15-minute period.
Only a goal in the very last second from Tanimo to make it 13-13 in the third quarter prevented Singapore from achieving that minor victory, albeit one that would have made little difference in this match overall.
Singapore’s wing attack Kimberly Lim, making her sixth appearance at the tournament and her 84th for her country overall, reappeared on court for the final quarter, having also played in the second. Her creative skills, though, were not sufficient to drive Singapore back into contention.
Tanimo finished the match having converted 45 goals from 48 attempts, and her side won the final quarter by 19 goals to 15, the highest-scoring quarter of the game.
Samoa’s 13th-place play-off against Fiji – set to be a fascinating encounter – will take place on Friday morning. Singapore will have one final chance to get their first win of the competition, as they play Sri Lanka in the 15th-place play-off during the same session.
Player of the Match, Tee Salanoa, said:
“I’m really happy (with the performance today). Our game-plan was to start strong and finish strong. We had a really good start and we really pushed it out in the last quarter.”
The Fijians drew level on points with Sri Lanka and Samoa in Group E – at least until the pair play each other later today – by beating Natalie Milicich’s team 71-56.
In this second group stage, the top two in Group E – comprised of those who finished bottom of the initial groups – will face off to play for 13th place, while the two at the bottom compete to finish 15th.
Both teams lost all three of their matches in the first group stage. Fiji, though, had won all five of the previous meetings between the pair at World Cups and also won all three games in a three-match test earlier this year, back in April.
It was Fiji who started the first quarter on top, with goal shooter Lydia Panapasa – denied a last-second equaliser in the 55-54 defeat to Samoa yesterday – wasting no time in firing her side three goals in front.
Singapore pulled a couple back courtesy of two close-range finishes from Kai Wei Toh, but Fiji were beginning to dominate.
Panapasa had six within three minutes of the first centre pass, and had added 11 more to that tally by the time the first period came to a close – achieving a 100% rate of accuracy.
Singapore kept themselves in contention with 12 goals of their own and did well in attack when given the chance, although Fiji were edging the possession statistics and led by 10 after 15 minutes.
That 10-goal advantage was cut to nine during the second quarter as the teams went in for half-time with the scoreline standing at 35-26 to Fiji.
Matila Vocea replaced Panapasa for the second quarter and while she netted nine times, her accuracy was only 82%. Fiji could have led by more had they taken slightly more care in the final third, but were still content to be nine goals clear at the break.
Having been pegged back a little, Fiji were keen to take control of the fixture once again. Their centre Kaitlyn Fisher, who was earning her eighth cap for her country, got the second half of the game under way, and with Panapasa now back on the court, Fiji began to pull away again.
Singapore’s experienced goal shooter and team captain Charmaine Soh, now on 108 international appearances, did her utmost to drag her team forwards as she helped her side score 14, but Fiji were proving to be too strong.
Vocea improved as she switched to goal attack, while Panapasa clinically extended her 100% record in front of the net to 32 goals from 32 attempts.
Singapore, with 15 minutes to claw back a 12-goal gap, knew they had a tough task ahead of them to get anything from the match. So it proved, as they scored 16 times themselves in the final quarter, but conceded another 19 in the process.
Panapasa finished the game having netted 41 times, missing twice in the final 15 minutes, though by this point the result was secure.
The first quarter – where Fiji put themselves 10 goals clear – proved to be the difference, with the remainder of the game much more evenly contested.
Group E will conclude with Fiji playing Sri Lanka and Singapore facing Samoa on Wednesday morning. The final placing matches for all four teams will then take place on Friday morning.
Fiji’s Adi Vakaoca Bolakoro said:
“It’s amazing (to win our first match of the tournament). I’m excited for the girls. We wanted to win this game. We executed our goals – we’re very happy. The girls kept pushing to the last whistle even though we were leading.
“I think after losing yesterday we went back, we had to regroup again and then we wanted to win today. Sri Lanka (tomorrow) is going to be a hard, tough game as well, but we are hoping to win again.
“It’s about keeping possession, maintaining our possession, and executing every ball that we get.”
Both sides started brightly, each claiming two goals apiece. However it was Sri Lanka who then put their foot down, with their tall goal shooter Sivalingam firing in seven goals to give them a 7-4 advantage.
It was a perfect ten as she extended the lead to 10-5, on what was already proving a difficult day for the Singaporean defence. Their main threat in attack was Charmaine Soh who netted nine of their eleven first-quarter goals. However Sivalingam had already boosted her tournament tally by 21.
The second quarter began in the same vein, with the Sri Lankan goal shooter taking her chances, and resistance being offered by Soh. Sivalingam’s shooting partner Hasitha Mendis got her first goal to take the score out to 28-14, but she was overshadowed by the prolific Sivalingam.
Even when marked by two Singaporean defenders, the outcome when the ball was fed into Sivalingam was almost inevitable. Pei Shan Lee, on for Singapore in place of the ineffectual Xinyi Tan, popped in her first goal to make the score 38-18, but Sivalingam’s relentless shooting ensured her side led 45-21 at half time.
There was minimal surprise among the court 2 crowd when the Sri Lankan goal shooter opened the scoring in the second half. She soon reached her personal half century, with the score at 52-24, and while Singapore upped their goal tally slightly from the opening two quarters, they were still down 71-36 at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter saw more of the same when a rebounded Singapore shot allowed Sivalingam to add another brace to her tally. The Singaporeans were starting to wilt, leaving more space for Sri Lanka to exploit.
The game’s star player was substituted as the clock ticked down, but there was still time for Sri Lanka to add a further nine goals to their tally to ensure an even more one-sided look to the final score.
Sri Lankan captain Chathurangi Jayasooriya said:
“This game was more challenging for us as we are the Asian champions. We are glad to get our first win.”
Singapore head coach Natalie Milicich said:
“At the end of the day you cannot make those errors against a team which is efficient in attack. We are a little team so we will always find it difficult to get ball. We have to make up for it by being more efficient with ball in hand.”
The Singaporeans lost 89-21 against the might of the Silver Ferns, and after finishing bottom of Group B they will now compete for the 13th-16th placed positions in the next phase of the competition.
Despite the defeat, Milicich’s team won plenty of friends among the crowd, with bright, adventurous play helping them to that historic high score against their illustrious opponents.
“I think the occasion was the exciting thing. We haven’t had that kind of support in this sort of environment since we’ve been here, and I think the players really enjoyed it.
“I told them to just soak it up, because it’s a rare opportunity for them. We’ve done very well to get out there and rub shoulders with the Ferns. We’ve come off the court with smiles on our faces and that’s what we wanted.”
Singapore now go on to fight for placings, with their target being to improve upon their 15th place finish four year ago.
“We need to make sure we consolidate on what we have learned in the last three days, and put some things together for our next three games, which are really important.
“Our goal hasn’t changed – we want to improve on our 15th ranking from the last World Cup, so we’re aiming to finish in 13th or 14th spot.
“The players had some individual goals that they want to achieve from today and I think they achieved those. We’re not trying to think too much about the score, but that overall performance, and I think we did some really nice things out there today.”
The Silver Ferns seemed determined to send out a message to the rest of their rivals as they recorded their largest margin of victory so far in the competition and maintained their 100% record.
The match was the first time the two teams had met in the Netball World Cup since 1975 when New Zealand claimed victory, and they were heavy favourites once again, heading into the contest with Singapore still searching for their first win.
After their impressive 78-25 win over Barbados yesterday, the Silver Ferns continued from where they had left off as they raced into a 9-0 lead with only five minutes played.
Singapore finally netted their first goal of the game moments later, but they found it tough against a well-organised New Zealand defence. When Singapore did get shooting opportunities, they struggled to convert, making just five of their ten goal attempts.
The Silver Ferns continued to build their lead as Maria Folau and Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who made her first start of the tournament, combined to score 20 of their 21 goal attempts as the first quarter finished 20-5 to New Zealand.
The second quarter began in a similar pattern to the first as New Zealand racked up four unanswered goals before Charmaine Soh scored Singapore’s first goal of the period.
That proved to be their only goal for the next eight minutes as they struggled to create opportunities against New Zealand’s relentless defence and the Silver Ferns capitalised as they scored 14 in a row before Soh ended the drought for Singapore.
Led by Maria Folau’s elite shooting performance as she made 27 of her 28 first half goal attempts, New Zealand led 43-8 at half time, winning the quarter 23-3.
The third quarter began as a much more even contest with both sides converting their goal attempts. Pei Shan Lee and Kai Wei Toh replaced Soh and Xinyi Tan for Singapore which gave them an initial attacking boost.
Singapore still struggled to deal with New Zealand’s attack, however, and their swift passing and movement continued to create opportunities as Selby-Rickit and Ameliaranne Ekenasio shot 91% to extend their lead to 63-14.
In the fourth quarter Singapore enjoyed their best attacking period scoring seven goals but they could do nothing to halt New Zealand who finished the game in style, winning the quarter 26-7. Selby-Rickit continued her efficient shooting to finish the game having made 36 of her 38 goal attempts.
The result means that New Zealand advance – with six points – into Group F in Preliminaries Stage Two, whilst Singapore will be hoping to secure their first victory of the tournament as they move into Group E.
New Zealand goal keeper Casey Kopua said:
“It was another opportunity to get out on court and fine tune the gameplan but also to be able to have a bit of fun. It’s important for us to move forward every day and take what we can from each game into the next one.
“In the game we had a lot of structures that we were trying to work on no matter what was happening, so that was good to work on and play the gameplan that we want to play.”
The Queens bounced back resoundingly from their defeat to New Zealand, winning 87-38.
A footwork error by Singapore on the first pass of the game initially put them on the back foot, but as they relaxed into the match they began to even things out.
However, with the reliable presence of Joyce Mvula shooting at 95% in the Queens’ attacking circle, and with a steady flow of ball from the defence, it wasn’t long before Malawi found their footing and ploughed quickly onwards, to lead 27-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Heading into the second, Singapore switched things up in their defensive end with substitutes coming on.
The changes proved fruitful. Whilst still physically challenged by Malawi on the ball, Singapore were able to compete more readily with the Queens. This, coupled with Charmaine Soh converting 12 goals from 13 attempts, led to the Singaporeans producing a much-improved quarter performance, although they still trailed 45-20 at half time.
Malawi came out of the blocks fastest as the whistle started the second half, and despite changes up and down the court, the new-look Queens displayed the same fluidity and instinct as the previous line-up.
Singapore, on the other hand, struggled shooting-wise in the third quarter. Their goal attack Kai Wei Toh, under the pressure of the Malawi defence, only managed 55% in the quarter, as Malawi extended their lead out to 63-30.
Singapore once more tinkered with their line-up in a bid to try and face the Malawi charge, which continued, unrelenting in the final quarter. However, the full court defensive pressure from the Queens ultimately became too much for Singapore, who were unable to produce a response, and ultimately went down 87-38 – with Malawi’s total their second highest ever in a single World Cup match.
Malawi’s goal shooter Joyce Mvula said:
“We feel much better. Yesterday was a hard time for us but we kept on going. We just have to keep the momentum going tomorrow, where we have to win. I know it’s not easy but we just have to be strong.”
The Gems extending their four-game winning streak over Singapore to five as their flowing game prevailed throughout each quarter, with strong shooting statistics being supported by turnover ball. Whilst Singapore showed promise in the third quarter, they were ultimately unable to contend with the speed of the Gems.
Barbados showed from the outset their intensity and dynamism. Tight player-on-player defence with a touch of added physical pressure presented an immediate challenge for Singapore.
Shonette Azore-Bruce – the tournament’s third oldest player – demonstrated her World Cup experience as she commanded her shooting circle, dictating the balls that were seamlessly fed into her.
Chairmaine Soh was a shining light for Singapore in the first quarter, but as the Gems began to stretch their legs, they also stretched their lead – to 17-6 at the end of the first 15.
Quarter two began with a new-look Singapore attack, and it initially showed promise. By opting for shorter and sharper passes in the attack and competing more for the ball in the through-court play, Singapore were able to deny the Gems opportunity to poach passes.
Changes made in the shooting end similarly deprived Latonia Blackman as much opportunity to turn over ball and Soh continued to shine for Singapore as she shot intelligently.
As the quarter progressed though, a general lack of execution prevented Singapore from making the most of their newly-found increased possession, whereas Barbados kept things ticking over, establishing a 33-14 half-time lead.
A new half saw another new Singaporean attacking line-up, and the improved connection in attack made Singapore a harder nut for the Gems to crack.
Xinyi Tan at goal shooter was able to support Soh, who had previously been carrying all the shooting duties, and with 83% (5/6) she committed to her task well. Barbados built momentum in the last minute of the quarter though, adding an extra three goals to their tally, breaking what had up until then been a goal-for-goal quarter.
Despite Singapore coming quickly out of the gates in the final quarter the Bajan Gems were a tour de force.
Shonica Wharton, coupled with Sheniqua Thomas, showed the expectant Liverpool crowd her shooting prowess with shots from all ranges and with a 92% accuracy, she enabled the Gems to quell any resurgent Singaporean spirit.
Barbados GD Rhe-Ann Niles-Mapp said:
“We’re feeling great – it was great that we got all 12 players on the court, and we played a consistent game, which is what we wanted. It’s always great to start with a win, and to get the competition going and get a feel for the court as well.”
Singapore coach Natalie Milicich said:
“I think we actually improved as the match went on. Our lack of experience at this level certainly showed in those first few minutes, and to play catch-up against Barbados was always going to be hard, but I was really proud of how we chipped away and made improvements throughout the match.”