A return to the top flight Netball Championship is the main prize on offer when the UAE compete at the U17 Europe Challenge in Gibraltar, starting Friday.
The Eyasses, as they are popularly known, face Switzerland and then Gibraltar in the second game on the opening day of the quadrangular event. On Saturday, they meet Isle of Man before closing out against Republic of Ireland on Sunday.
The team that tops the league will receive promotion to the Championship that includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in February 2023.
“The Eyasses are excited to head into this competition in Gibraltar. We have some tough games ahead of us, but our very clear objective is to win so that we get promoted to the premier Competitive Competition,” Susanne Skelding, the UAE team manager, told The National.
The Eyasses travel to Gibraltar on the back of a silver medal they won at the friendly tournament in Newcastle in March. They defeated Scotland 52-48 and went down to the eventual winners England 85-29.
“One of the reasons we took the opportunity to enter the friendly event in Newcastle was to prepare against the likes of England and Scotland, who play in the Competitive Competition which we are aiming to move into,” Skelding said.
The Eyasses first participated in the 2018 Challenge Competition in Ireland, which they won.
They were promoted for the Competitive league in 2019 and beat beat Northern Ireland in the dying seconds of the game to win the Challenge competition.
However, they were subsequently unable to enter a U17 team due to Covid restrictions, so are back in the Challenge event.
“One of the biggest positives the players took forward from the Scotland match was that the players now really believe in themselves, because Scotland did put a lot of pressure on us,” Deb Jones, the UAE head coach, said.
“So just psychologically within the team there is a massive belief that we can do this and win overall.
“Physically as well, the Eyasses are not going to come up against a team any more physical than Scotland on court and they stood up well against it in Newcastle, coming out with the win. So from a purely playing perspective they know that they have the strength in the tank to actually beat a high level team under pressure.”
Jones believes the girls have prepared well for this tour and are ready for the challenge.
“Their heads are in the game and they definitely want to come away with the win, not just for themselves as a team but as a squad as a whole, so that the UAE gets the promotion it truly deserves,” she added.
UAE Eyasses squad
Olivia Petricola (Captain), Caitlin Gowdy (Vice Captain), Charlie Preston (Vice Captain), Jemma Eley, Molly Fuller, Claire Janssen, Alana Farrell-Morton, Arushi Holt, Eliza Petricola, Isabel Affley, Cristiana Morrall and Tessa Smies.