Malawi Queens are no longer guaranteed position six on International Netball Federation (INF) rankings after suffering a second defeat at the ongoing African Netball Championships in Lusaka, Zambia.
The sixth-ranked Queens’ were yesterday stunned 54-56 by 17th-ranked Zambia, shattering their hopes of winning the continental championship for the first time since 2011.
The loss reduces their chances of retaining their standing on INF world ranking considering that this is a second loss after losing 46-51 to defending champions She Cranes of Uganda on Wednesday.
Being the highest-ranked team at the seven-team contest, the Queens needed to win at least all their six games to win the title and preserve their status as the second best team in Africa after South Africa’s Proteas.
The Queens are not even assured of the runners-up position due to the two losses at the competition played on a round-robin format in which the team that tops the standings is automatically crowned champion.
Currently, Uganda, who thrashed Kenya 61-42 yesterday and Zambia, are the leading teams having plucked three-straight wins apiece while the Queens, who had played a game more as we went to press, are third with two victories and two defeats.
The Queens’ remain with two games against Namibia today and Kenya tomorrow to complete their fixtures.
Yesterday, the Queens narrowly led 17-14 in the first quarter before a 29-all tie at halftime.
The third segment ended with the Queens leading by only two baskets at 45-43.
Their starting line-up had United Kingdom-based Joyce Mvula and Jane Chimaliro as goal shooter and goal attacker, respectively. Bridget Kumwenda was wing- attacker while Thandie Galeta-Saenda, Martha Dambo, Joana Kachilika and Laureen Ngwira were centre, wing-defender, goal-defender and goalkeeper, in that order. Substitutes were Takondwa Lwazi, Jessica Mazengera-Sanudi, Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda, Alinafe Kamwala and Juliet Sambo.
In their last meeting during the 2017 championships, Queens narrowly beat Zambia 51-45.
Queens assistant coach Whyte Mlilima said teams had improved and the loss to Zambia was a wake-up call for.
“Teams are coming really hard on us,” he said.
Former Queens’ shooter Linda Magombo-Munthali said the Queens’ poor performance was a result of poor centre play and rickety defence.
“We were perfect on the shooting aspect of the game, but there were some loopholes in our centre-court play, especially on the wings, which made defending difficult. We have the players but sometimes the technical panel needs to be cautious on which players to feature against particular opponents,” she said.
With the latest defeat, the Queens have now suffered six losses to lower-ranked teams within the past two years, five of which were against Uganda, who are likely to displace the Queens in the next world rankings.
They were beaten twice in the run up to the 2017 African Netball Championship before suffering another defeat in the actual contest and once in the preliminary round of the Commonwealth Games.