The Israel Netball League is entering its final stretch, with Tel Aviv and Katamon both prevailing in crunch matches last Thursday to set up next month’s final.
The first match of the night was a clash between Katamon – ex-school mates and the “young guns” of Israel Netball – and Ra’anana, last year’s runners up.
It was a classic battle of youth versus experience. Katamon needed a win to reach the final, and showed great confidence from the start as it secured a 16-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, against a Ra’anana team that has lost a couple of key players this season.
Katamon pulled away a little more at the end of each quarter to take the match 43-29 – almost a repeat of their previous meeting this season, 43-30. Katamon’s fate, however, would be decided by the next match.
A depleted Tel Aviv, which has played many of this season’s matches with a squad of seven or even less (for a seven-a-side game!), had to secure a win against this season’s surprise package, Jerusalem Mercaz, in order to secure a top-of-the-table finish. Mercaz beat Tel Aviv in the first match of the season – making it the only team to have beaten Tel Aviv in two seasons of netball – and could secure a final place with a win over last year’s champion.
The first half of the match was tense and close, with Tel Aviv – whose players made some uncharacteristically simple errors – only leading by three points at the interval. After a shuffle of positions for the second half, the White City ladies started to play more like their true selves and pulled away, eventually winning 44-30 and securing a place at the top of this season’s table.
So, a Tel Aviv-Katamon final awaits on June 11, but not before a final round of matches. Jerusalem Mercaz is set for the third-place playoff, but it remains to be seen whether its opponent will be J-Town or Ra’anana, which has a game in hand.