Dean Smith is intent on reminding Charlotte FC "how good we could be" as the visitors look to back up an impressive win when they head to Columbus Crew in MLS.

Smith's side humbled Eastern Conference leaders FC Cincinnati with a 3-1 victory last time out, with Ashley Westwood assisting all three goals – a club record.

That eye-catching result marked a perfect response after back-to-back defeats against Inter Miami and Houston Dynamo, leaving Charlotte sixth in the East standings.

The next challenge for visiting head coach Smith is to keep his side honest, and more importantly, consistent.

"I keep talking in our dressing room about how good we could be. And we've got to be consistent," Smith said.

"We've just lost the last two games. I thought we played really well against Inter Miami. Our first half against Houston, we dropped our standards and got beat because of that.

"So we wanted to make sure that our standards were back there. And I thought it was a good follow-up performance to the Inter Miami game."

Westwood was the hero, picking apart the 10-man Cincinnati with ease en route to a headline result against the division leaders.

"We never know when we're beaten, and that's a good thing to have," said former Burnley midfielder Westwood. "We get knocked down, we keep coming back up.

"And it's a real togetherness. All the lads are running for each other. We know how organised we are. Everyone knows what they're doing."

The Crew are third in the same standings after smashing Los Angeles FC 5-1 in their last match – a result that delighted boss Wilfried Nancy.

"Really happy because the task that we had was really difficult, knowing the context and the situations," Nancy said.

"My players found a way to be ourselves and to play the way we wanted to play and to play really good sequences, but also to be disgusting to play against.

"This is something that I like. I'm happy because the level was good. I'm happy."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Columbus Crew – Cucho Hernandez

Cucho Hernandez was on target in the hammering of LAFC last time out, and will continue leading the line and aiming to extend his remarkable run in front of goal.

The Crew star has scored eight goals in his last seven appearances, with his overall tally for the season at 12 goals in 16 MLS matches.

Charlotte FC – Ashley Westwood

Westwood has become an integral part of Smith's side, leading the way from midfield.

The former Premier League midfielder collected two first-half assists in Cincinnati before adding another after the break, taking his season tally to five in 22 MLS games.

MATCH PREDICTION – COLUMBUS CREW WIN

The Crew are the overwhelming favourites for this one, signified by their high likelihood of victory in Opta's pre-match predictions. That owes to their strong recent form.

Columbus have won their last five matches by a combined 20-2 scoreline, since losing to Inter Miami towards the end of last month.

The hosts will take confidence in knowing they have avoided defeat in their last two home meetings with Charlotte, drawing 1-1 in 2022 before a 4-2 victory last season.

Charlotte do, however, have the chance to inflict an unlikely double on Columbus after triumphing 2-0 in March's reverse fixture.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Columbus Crew win – 61.9%

Draw – 20.2%

Charlotte FC win – 18%

West Indies coach Andre Coley has challenged his team to draw upon their resilience from earlier this year as they gear up for the second Test against England, starting on Thursday. Following a heavy defeat by an innings at Lord's, Coley is urging his players to channel the fighting spirit they displayed in Australia, where they turned their series around with a remarkable victory.

In January, the West Indies suffered a crushing 10-wicket defeat in the first Test at Adelaide Oval. However, they bounced back dramatically in the second Test at the Gabba, thanks to Shamar Joseph's sensational seven-wicket haul in the second innings. As they prepare for the second Test at Trent Bridge, Coley is confident his team can draw inspiration from that experience and set the stage for a thrilling decider at Edgbaston.

Reflecting on the Gabba Test, Coley said, "The way we bounced back was powerful. It shows that even if you start poorly, you can compose yourself and come back strong in a series. That's the mindset we need to carry into this second Test."

Despite the defeat at Lord's, Coley believes his team has learned valuable lessons. "We've had time to acclimatize and get time in the middle. Yes, the result at Lord's wasn't what we wanted, but there's a lot to learn from it. This is a young, emerging side, and we're positive about our approach to the second Test."

Coley emphasized the importance of intensity and longer partnerships from his batters. "We need to show more intensity in the field and put together longer partnerships. There were moments in the game where we showed grit, but we need to be consistent. Our bowlers did well to restrict England, and now it's up to our batters to build on that."

The coach also highlighted the importance of mental and emotional resilience. "Test cricket is challenging, especially away from home. Our players need to be mentally and emotionally prepared. We have it within our ranks to compete with England, and we need to believe in our abilities."

Coley is confident his team can rise to the occasion. "We know the conditions will be testing, but we have the talent and the spirit to compete. Our players are in good spirits, and we're ready to take on the challenge at Trent Bridge."

As the West Indies prepare for the crucial second Test, Coley's message is clear: with the right mindset and determination, they can bounce back and keep their series hopes alive.

Rob Valentino accepts Atlanta United are going through a "tough moment" as they bid to halt their four-game losing streak against New York City on Wednesday.

Atlanta's slump continued with a 1-0 defeat at CF Montreal last weekend, which came on the back of MLS losses to the New England Revolution and Real Salt Lake and a U.S. Open Cup exit versus Indy Eleven.

The Five Stripes sit 11th in the Eastern Conference, two points adrift of the playoff picture, and have only won two of eight matches under interim coach Valentino (two draws, four defeats).

Asked how his team could offer more in attack, Valentino said: "Look, it's a tough moment, right? 

"I said earlier that it was going to be like that, and I think with most teams in the league, if you are solid defensively you can frustrate them and then create chances.

"That's what I've been trying to add. We didn't get a goal which I'm not happy about, but it shows that we have something in the group."

NYCFC, meanwhile, have been inconsistent of late, recording two wins, one draw and four defeats in their last seven games.

They drew 0-0 with the Chicago Fire on Saturday, with young left-back Christian McFarlane making his full debut and producing an impressive performance.

"I thought he was excellent," Cushing said of McFarlane. "I thought he showed his quality; his physical quality and his technical quality. 

"I think he showed the potential to be a top left-back anywhere in the world. He is a guy that can play week in week out. 

"I think he showed maturity for a guy that's only [previously] come into a game at home against Columbus. To go on the road and play 90 minutes in a game where we didn't play so well."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Atlanta United – Brooks Lennon

Lennon failed to create a chance as Atlanta struggled versus Montreal last time out, though his five assists are more than any other Five Stripes player has managed this term.

He also leads all his team-mates for expected assists (5.34 xA) and chances created (52) in MLS this season.

New York City – Christian McFarlane

NYCFC recorded just their second clean sheet since May last time out, with English 17-year-old McFarlane producing a composed display.

He made two tackles and completed 80% of his passes in the final third versus Chicago, and Cushing looks set to give him another opportunity here. 

MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

Atlanta are in a dismal run of form, though three of their four straight defeats have come on the road. At home, they have recorded one win, one draw and one loss in their last three.

New York, meanwhile, are winless in four on the road, losing three in a row before their goalless draw with the Fire and failing to net in three of those four matches.

It could be a game of few chances between teams low on confidence, and seven of the teams' previous 16 meetings have finished level (four Atlanta wins, five for NYCFC).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Atlanta United – 42%

New York City – 31.3%

Draw – 26.7%

John Herdman hopes Toronto FC's bad run is behind them and a playoff push on the horizon as they prepare to meet Inter Miami, who are still bristling at suffering their joint-record defeat last time out in MLS.

Toronto staged a second-half comeback to beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1 on Saturday, snapping a seven-match losing streak across all competitions.

The Reds had been winless in nine ahead of their victory over the Union, which dragged them up to eighth in the Eastern Conference, three points adrift of the top seven. 

With a number of players returning from injury and confidence restored, Herdman hopes that result can be something of a turning point.

"We can go into that match now against Miami with one of my best starting XIs for the first time since the beginning of the season," Herdman said. 

"We're never too high and never too low, and we just keep our feet on the ground, stay focused. 

"It's one win – and I thank the fans, they have been brilliant with us, they kept us going – but it's just the start, the start of a playoff push."

Miami, meanwhile, have been knocked off the top of the Eastern Conference, losing 6-1 to FC Cincinnati on their last outing on July 7.

 

Cincinnati then won their subsequent match to leapfrog Miami, who have been without Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez due to the Copa America, at the summit.

Boss Gerardo Martino highlighted the Herons' defensive issues after their last match, saying: "We had a period early in the season where we were vulnerable at the back.

"We started to fix that, the previous five or six games we did a solid job defending, but then we reverted defensively to how we played early in the season. 

"We are still not there despite our good results and performances. We have to keep working and hoping in the final part of the season we can improve with our full roster."

However, Miami may have to wait to reintroduce Messi after he exited Argentina's Copa America final victory over Colombia with an ankle injury.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Julian Gressel 

Gressel has eight assists in MLS this season, a tally only bettered by Messi (nine) among Miami players.

His tally of 4.19 expected assists (xA), meanwhile, is better than Messi's 3.59. With the Herons still missing some of their key men, they may need Gressel to supply the chances.

Toronto FC – Federico Bernardeschi

Only nine players have bettered Bernardeschi's tally of 53 chances created in MLS this year, while he also has 12 goal involvements (eight goals, four assists).

Ranking fourth for shots attempted (79) but just 34th for expected goals (6.5 xG), the Italian is not afraid to try his luck from any position.

MATCH PREDICTION: INTER MIAMI WIN

Toronto halted a nine-game winless streak by beating Philadelphia last time out, but their last pair of back-to-back victories in MLS came in late April and early May.

They are winless in their last seven away games, losing their last four in a row and conceding multiple goals in six of their last seven.

Miami, meanwhile, have only lost one of their last eight home matches in MLS, winning four of their last six. Despite their absences, they approach the game as favourites.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Inter Miami – 72.4%

Toronto FC – 11.7%

Draw – 15.9%

The Republic Bank Caribbean Premier League (CPL) squads for the 2024 season have been confirmed following the completion of the player draft on Monday.

Kyle Mayers was the first pick of the draft, joining the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. He will be joined at the Patriots by Mikyle Louis, Ryan John and Veerasammy Permaul. 

The Saint Lucia Kings welcome USA international Aaron Jones who qualifies to play at the CPL as a local player as he has a Barbados passport. The Kings have also selected Khari Campbell, Johann Jeremiah, Mikkel Govia and Akeem Auguste. 

The Barbados Royals have picked Kadeem Alleyne, Isai Thorne and Nathan Sealy to complete their squad while the Guyana Amazon Warriors have selected all-rounders Raymon Reifer and Ronaldo Alimohamed. Matthew Nandu also rejoins the Warriors having been selected in the draft. 

The Antigua & Barbuda Falcons picked five players at the draft with Roshon Primus, Justin Greaves, Jahmar Hamilton, Teddy Bishop and Kofi James joining the newest CPL team. The Trinbago Knight Riders selected Nathan Edward and Shaquere Parris in their emerging player spots.

The 2024 season gets underway on the 29 August with the Antigua & Barbuda Falcons taking on the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium. The tournament will also visit St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. 

The full squads are as follows:

Barbados Royals: Rovman Powell, Jason Holder, David Miller, Quinton De Kock, Maheesh Theekshana, Alick Athanaze, Naveen-ul-Haq, Obed McCoy, Kevin Wickham, Keshav Maharaj, Kadeem Alleyne, Rahkeem Cornwall, Isai Thorne, Nathan Sealy, Nyeem Young, Rivaldo Clarke, Ramon Simmonds

Guyana Amazon Warriors: Imran Tahir, Shimron Hetmyer, Saim Ayub, Shai Hope, Romario Shepherd, Azam Khan, Gudakesh Motie, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Keemo Paul, Dwaine Pretorius, Kevin Sinclair, Raymon Reifer, Ronaldo Alimohamed, Shamar Joseph, Kevlon Anderson, Matthew Nandu, Junior Sinclair

Antigua & Barbuda Falcons: Imad Wasim, Brandon King, Fabian Allen, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mohammad Amir, Chris Green, Fakhar Zaman, Roshon Primus, Justin Greaves, Hayden Walsh, Jahmar Hamilton, Teddy Bishop, Kofi James, Shamar Springer, Kelvin Pitman, Jewel Andrew, Joshua James

St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots: Kyle Mayers, Wanindu Hasaranga, Rilee Rossouw, Sherfane Rutherford, Evin Lewis, Sikandar Raza, Nuwan Thushara, Andre Fletcher, Tristan Stubbs, Dominic Drakes, Odean Smith, Mikyle Louis, Joshua Da Silva, Veerasammy Permaul, Ryan John, Ashmead Nedd, Johann Layne

Saint Lucia Kings: Heinrich Klaasen, Faf Du Plessis, Alzarri Joseph, Johnson Charles, Roston Chase, Noor Ahmad, David Wiese, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Matthew Forde, Aaron Jones, Khary Pierre, Khari Campbell, Johann Jeremiah, Shadrack Descarte, Mikkel Govia, McKenny Clarke, Akeem Auguste

Trinbago Knight Riders: Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Nicholas Pooran, Tim David, Akeal Hosein, Jason Roy, Dwayne Bravo, Josh Little, Waqar Salamkheil, Jayden Seales, Ali Khan, Mark Deyal, Keacy Carty, Terrence Hinds, Nathan Edward, Shaquere Parris

 

In a nail-biting finish, the Adelaide Thunderbirds clinched a gripping 64-62 victory over the Sunshine Coast Lightning on Sunday, securing the top spot on the Super Netball ladder and guaranteeing home court advantage for the remainder of the season.

Romelda Aiken-George was a standout for the Thunderbirds, scoring an impressive 44 goals from 51 shots, leading her team to victory in a game that kept fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle.

The Thunderbirds’ triumph at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre completed an unbeaten regular season on their home court. This crucial win placed them at the top of the standings, ahead of the Melbourne Vixens and West Coast Fever, with all three teams holding 11-3 records but the Thunderbirds edging out on percentage.

The game reached a fever pitch in the final term when Lightning captain Steph Fretwell leveled the scores at 60-60 with a dramatic Super Shot. In response, Thunderbirds attacker Georgie Horjus nailed a clutch two-pointer, shifting the momentum back to Adelaide.

A critical fumble by Sunshine Coast's wing defense, Tara Hinchliffe, on the next centre pass allowed the Thunderbirds to capitalize. Aiken-George scored twice, ultimately sealing the Lightning’s fate in the last minute of the match.

Next Saturday, the Thunderbirds will host the second-placed Vixens in the first-versus-second major semi-final at Adelaide 36ers Arena in Findon. The winner will earn direct passage to the grand final, set for August 3 at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

The Sunshine Coast Lightning, having secured fourth place regardless of Sunday's outcome, will face the third-ranked West Coast Fever in a sudden-death minor semi-final at RAC Arena next Sunday.

The Thunderbirds overcame an early ankle injury to shooter Lauren Frew and a fierce challenge from the Lightning, who had never before lost in Adelaide. Sunshine Coast trailed 18-15 at quarter-time but rallied through the creativity of Leesa Mi Mi at centre and the defensive prowess of veteran Courtney Bruce.

The Lightning briefly took the lead in the second quarter before star shooter Cara Koenen was forced to the bench after injuring her left elbow in a collision with Latanya Wilson. The Thunderbirds seized this opportunity, closing the half with a 7-0 run to lead 35-29 at the main interval.

Although Koenen returned with her elbow strapped, the Thunderbirds extended their advantage to 52-42. However, a Super-Shot spree by Fretwell cut the margin to six goals by three-quarter time.

Despite a strong finish from the Lightning, Hinchliffe’s late turnover and Adelaide's dominance in gains (11-6) and rebounds (10-0) ensured the Thunderbirds’ victory, leaving the Lightning to rue missed opportunities.

 With their eyes now set firmly on the finals, the Adelaide Thunderbirds have shown they are a force to be reckoned with, and their performance on Sunday has solidified their status as the team to beat in the race for the Super Netball title.

 

Jamaican fitness athlete Kristen McGregor is one step closer to her dream of qualifying for the prestigious Ms. Olympia Contest after securing a silver medal at the Wings of Strength competition in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday night. This impressive finish in the Open Figure Category comes just a week after her fifth-place result at the Mr. Big Evolution Olympia Qualifier in Lisbon, Portugal, on July 7.

McGregor’s journey towards Ms. Olympia qualification has been marked by determination and perseverance. Her performance in Atlanta demonstrated her exceptional form and dedication, moving her up three places from her recent showing in Lisbon and bringing her closer to the ultimate goal of competing in the Ms. Olympia Contest in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 11.

Expressing her excitement and gratitude, McGregor, who won the Ms. Olympia Amateur contest in 2020, shared her joy with fans and supporters. "There is always an end, but there is never a limit. You can do anything you set your mind to with the right support, energy, and system in place. I took home the silver this weekend and I am truly grateful as I am one step closer to my target. Thank you to @themsolympia, @wingsofstrength, and @npc_ifbb_atlantaprosupershow for organizing a great show," McGregor said.

McGregor’s consistent performance and unwavering determination have made her a standout athlete in the fitness world. As she continues her preparations, her focus remains sharp on achieving her dream of competing at Ms. Olympia, the pinnacle of bodybuilding and fitness competitions.

The Columbus Crew ended Los Angeles FC's unbeaten run at the BMO Stadium with a 5-1 victory in a game that saw three red cards in a frenetic ending to proceedings. 

Sergi Palencia was the first player sent off for the hosts, with LAFC's Jesus Murillo and the Crew's Marino Hinestroza also given their marching orders for an altercation just before the final whistle. 

Christian Ramirez opened the scoring in the first half, with Cucho Hernandez and Diego Rossi increasing the visitors' advantage to three by the hour mark. 

Palencia was shown his second yellow card for a pull on substitute Alexandru Matan, with Ramirez notching his second of the game from the resulting free-kick. 

Nathan Ordaz clawed one back for LAFC, but Matan would round off the scoring at the BMO Stadium as he curled an effort beyond Hugo Lloris. 

But following a tackle from Eddie Segura on Hinestroza, a push from Murillo on the Crew attacker resulted in a scuffle, with referee Lukasz Szpala showing two red cards.

"A very poor performance from us tonight, really in all categories, is the only way I would describe it," LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said. 

"Columbus were better in every moment of the game tonight and hats off to them, they played a fantastic game and deserved to win. 

"But for us, it is obviously super disappointing for our fans and we don't want to ever present ourselves like that again at home."

LAFC remain top of the Western Conference despite their defeat, but will be without Palencia and Murillo for their top-of-the-table clash with Real Salt Lake next week. 

Guyana are champions of the CWI Rising Stars Under-19 Women’s T20 Championship after a 23-run DLS method win over the Leeward Islands in the final at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy on Saturday.

The Leewards were bundled out for 68 in 19.4 overs after winning the toss.

Captain Jahzara Claxton was the only batter in double figures for the Leewards with 25 as Trisha Hardat ripped through the batting on her way to a match-winning 4-10 off her four overs.

She was well supported by Danellie Manns who took 2-14 from four overs.

Guyana were then on their way to a comfortable chase at 63-5 in the 12th over before rain came and brought proceedings to a close.

At the time of the delay, Guyana were 63-5, 23 runs ahead of the DLS par score.

Naomi Barkoye led the way with 24 while Shonette Belgrave made 21.

Amara Richards and Sainvani Kambalapalli took two wickets, each, to help the Leewards effort.

At Diego Martin Sports Complex, 2023 champions Trinidad & Tobago defeated the Windward Islands by five wickets to claim third place.

T&T restricted the Windwards to 67-7 off their 20 overs after winning the toss and fielding first.

Nesha Alexander with 18, captain Zaida James with 11 and Denella Creese with 10 were the only Windwards batters into double figures as Kenika Cassar bowled brilliantly on her way to figures of 2-5 from her four overs.

Kirah Manpaul took 2-8 from her one over in support.

Trinidad & Tobago then needed 17 overs to reach 68-5. Brianna Harricharan led the way with 17* while Katrina Ruben made 12.

Amiah Gilbert took 2-18 from two overs.

At the Sir Frank Worrell Memorial Ground, Jamaica defeated Barbados by seven wickets to claim fifth place.

 Barbados, after winning the toss and batting first, were bowled out for 63 19.1 overs by the Jamaicans.

Naijanni Cumberbatch led the way for the Bajans with 20. Moniqueca Reid took 3-20 from her four overs for Jamaica while Sashane Ricketts took 2-1 from 1.1 overs.

Chrishana McKenzie then spearheaded a successful chase with 21* while Jaunel Deers made 17 as Jamaica reached 64-3 in 19.3 overs.

With temperatures in Paris expected to be high during the upcoming Olympic Games, Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic Committee (TTOC) is taking steps to ensure that the 17 athletes will be comfortable enough both in and out of competition to give of their best for the twin island republic.

Though the likes of athletics stalwarts Keshorn Walcott, Jereem “The Dream” Richards, Michelle-Lee Ahye, and cyclist Nicholas Paul are experienced campaigners at the highest level, and know how to handle the heat of world class competition, it’s the heat off the track in the French capital is expected to pose a challenge.

However, TTOC president Diane Henderson, is not too concerned.

“In any country, we have always dealt with... when it was extremely cold in Lima, Peru, we had to go out and buy heaters, headwear and gloves, so it’s no different,” Henderson said during the team’s Puma Gear Reveal at TTOC’s headquarters, on Friday.

With the Games organisers taking an eco-friendly approach, the Olympic Village will not have air condition units. As such, some countries, including United States, will supply their own AC units in order to ensure the comfort of athletes as they strive for optimal performance.

Henderson pointed out that TTOC stands ready to provide the necessary assistance to meet the needs of the athletes.

“If the conditions are such, we would have to get fans or something in Paris to deal with that. We’re aware of it so we could always deal with that when we go. It has never been an issue when we have to go out and get stuff. Usually you have the assistants who would guide you effectively and say where we could get the necessary equipment,” she explained.

Sprinters Ahye and Elijah Joseph were among the athletes that modelled the new Team TTO uniforms on Friday, as they gear up for battle on the world’s biggest sporting stage.

“We have always wanted to do something to showcase the uniforms. It brings a lot of pride to the athletes and they feel really special. I think it went well. We’re always grateful to Puma for this sponsorship and partnership. It’s very important to have that support continuously for all our multi-sport Games,” Henderson noted.

Trinidad and Tobago Olympic squad:  

Athletics –Michelle-Lee Ahye - 100m & 4x100 relay; Leah Bertrand- 100m & 4x100 relay; Sole Frederick- 4x100 relay; Akilah Lewis- 4x100 relay; Sanaa Frederick - 4x100 relay (Reserve); Portious Warren- Shot Put; Keshorn Walcott- Javelin; Jereem Richards- 200m, 400m & 4x400 relay; Devin Augustine- 100m; Jaden Marchan- 4x400 relay; Shakeem Mc Kay- 4x400 relay; Renny Quow- 4x400 relay; Elijah Joseph- 4x400 relay (Reserve)

Cycling –Nicholas Paul, Kwesi Browne

Swimming –Dylan Carter - 50m and 100m Freestyle; Zuri Ferguson- Backstroke 100m

 

 

Another stellar shooting exhibition from Jamaica’s Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard assisted West Coast Fever to another clinical performance in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) League, as they toppled Melbourne Mavericks 76-57 in front of a record-breaking crowd of 11,841 at RAC Arena, in Perth, on Saturday.

While the 19-goal victory didn’t push the Fevers to the top of the standing as they had hoped, it did ensure they ended the regular season on a high heading into the finals. They provisionally sit second on the standings on 44 points, same as leaders Melbourne Vixens, who were 62-52 winners over Queensland Firebirds.

However, reigning champions Adelaide Thunderbirds (40 points), could overtake both to finish regular season as minor premiers, with a win over Sunshine Coast Lightning on Sunday.

Still, Fowler-Nembhard, who shot 69 from 69, including a solitary Supershot worth two goals, and her team have much to celebrate as they have regained some semblance of rhythm when it matters most. Alice Teague-Neeld (five goals from six attempts) and another Jamaican Shanice Beckford (two goals from three attempts) supported the top-rated shooter.

Meanwhile, another Jamaican Shimona Jok led the Mavericks with 30 goals from 34 attempts, with support from Eleanor Cardwell (21 goals from 24 attempts) and Gabrielle Sinclair (six goals from eight attempts), but it was not enough for them to make the finals in their inaugural SSN season.

Both teams started the game strongly, with the Jamaican shooters as Fowler-Nembhard and Jok exchanging goal-for-goal at opposite ends of the court. However, Fever gradually asserted some authority on the contest and opened up a five-goal lead to end the first quarter at 20-15.

The second quarter was a stark contrast to the first as both teams struggled to maintain possession due to some unforced errors, before the Mavericks regained their composure and scored a few unanswered goals to reduce the deficit.

That shift in momentum forced Fever’s Head coach Dan Ryan to move Sunday Aryang into goal defence, while Jess Anstiss took the wing defence bib, and Kelsey Browne entered the game in centre. Those changes had immediate impact, as Aryang picked up a rebound off a missed effort from Jok.

From there, Fever ensured they remained on top at 34-30 at the half-time interval, though they were outscored 14-15 in what was a strong second quarter for the Mavericks.

Like they did in the first, the two teams traded goals for most of the third quarter until Aryang picked up an incredible intercept for the Fever. That, along with a few missed efforts on the Mavericks’ part, allowed Fever to widen the gap to a 13-goal lead at 56-43 heading into the final quarter.

In chase of a 24-goal winning margin to secure top spot, the Fever threw it all on the line in the final quarter, as they applied consistent pressure to the Mavericks, who never really had a response, but did well enough to deny the host a wider margin of victory.

To say that 400m hurdler Shiann Salmon made a remarkable breakthrough when she secured an individual spot on Jamaica’s team to the Paris Olympic Games, would be an understatement.

After just missing out on a spot to the Tokyo 2020 showpiece –for which she was listed as a reserve to Rhonda Whyte, Leah Nugent, and Janieve Russell –Salmon vowed to right that wrong on this occasion, and that she did.

She produced one of her finest performances in recent times to place third in a new personal best of 53.71s, behind Rushell Clayton (52.51s) and Janieve Russell (53.33s) at the JAAA National Senior Championships recently.

“I feel so good. I'm elated. I put the work in to achieve this and I always told myself that I wasn’t going to leave Jamaica as an alternate for the Olympic Games, and I did just that. This was my moment, and I couldn't let anything hold me back, so I'm very happy,” Salmon told SportsMax.TV.

Salmon’s path to achieving the Olympic feat was by no means smooth, as faced intense pressure and anxiety leading up to her qualification race, so much so that she was physically sick before stepping onto the National Stadium track.

Despite these challenges, she managed to harness her nerves and deliver an efficient performance that solidified her place among the elite athletes set to represent Jamaica.

“I was incredibly nervous before the race that I actually threw up a few times,” Salmon admitted.

Salmon is all smiles after accomplishing the Olympic qualifying feat.

“But like I said, I did the work and so I just kept reminding myself ‘you can do it, three persons cannot beat you,’ and I knew I had to push through, so I'm very happy,” she added.

Beyond her focus and determination, the highlight of Salmon’s display was an improved backstretch execution, an aspect of the race she pointed out she and her coaches have rigorously worked on in training.

While her qualification is a significant achievement, the 25-year-old and her coaches are not resting on their laurels. Instead, they intend to continue identifying areas for improvement to enhance her competitiveness in the closing stages of the race.

“Sometimes I don’t execute my races properly, I tend to sleep on the backstretch and the race gets away from me and then I try to finish strong. But for the National Championships, I was just reminding myself mid-race, ‘do not sleep, do not sleep, do not let them go too far,’ And that's what I did,” she shared.

“My coaches also talked to me about, and we have been focusing a lot on executing a proper race strategy because it's crucial for me to maintain my speed and form through that part of the race to ensure I finish strong. So we’re working on refining my technique and endurance to make sure I'm at my best when it counts the most,” Salmon noted.

Having represented Jamaica with distinction, winning multiple individual and relay medals at the youth and senior levels, including NACAC Championships, Commonwealth Games, and the World Championships, Salmon would very much love to add an Olympic medal to her accolades.