T&T netballers returned home yesterday morning tired but gleeful having repeated as champion of the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA) Championships which ended on Sunday in Barbados.
"We played to our full potential," said an appreciative coach Wesley "Pepe" Gomes yesterday at Piarco airport on the arrival of the national team.
The "Calypso Girls" qualified as the top team from the AFNA region for next year's Netball World Cup carded from July 12-21 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England.
There, the best netball teams in the World will battle for supremacy and coach Gomes knows it will not be an easy task despite his team's applauding performance over the past week in the regional tournament.
"We need a lot of work," said Gomes bluntly. "We need a lot of strength and we still don't have the discipline to hold the formation. We have a lot of repetition to do."
Already analysing his team as the local coach knows that he has under a year to get his team ready for the World event, the players and staff will get some days off as he plans to reconvene practice sessions by the end of the week.
"In the international tournament, the girls are going to be bigger and stronger. We have to work on our strength. They do not get much rest they are back on the court by Friday," said Gomes.
The local team played unbeaten in the eight-nation round-robin tournament to earn full 14 points, ahead of second-placed Barbados (12 points), the other country to qualify for the World Cup.
On Sunday, T&T defeated the Barbadians, 65-51, in the final match at the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium, getting revenge for its three-match series loss to Barbados, last year.
In Barbados, T&T opened with an 86-29 win over the USA, then eased past Canada 80-26 in its second match before whipping St Maarten 95-8, the following day. The "Calypso Girls" then crushed Argentina, 112-12, and St Vincent and the Grenadines (80-26).
Captain Rhonda John-Davis was pleased with her team's success saying: "It feels great. Just being able to accomplish our goals is great but we obviously have a lot of work to do leading up to the World Cup so its back to the drawing board.
"We are ready and we understand what it takes. We are ready for that preparation."
T&T's leading goal-shooter Samantha Wallace agreed with her captain on the national netballers having much to do if they are to make an impact at the World Cup.
"We have a lot of work to do," said Wallace, a professional netballer in Australia. "We still have to work on our fitness, our passing, our full-court zone, there is a lot of work to do."
Wallace was part of T&T's top shooting unit that dominated at the competition. Goal-attack Kalifa McCollin, another professional netballer, who plays in England, had the best overall shooting percentage of 95.12, netting 156 goals from 164 attempts. Former captain Joelisa Cooper was second with 94.78 per cent (127/134), Wallace was third-best with 92.75 (256/276) and youngster Tahirah Hollingsworth was 17th with 71.76 per cent (61/85) among the 36 shooters at the qualifiers.
"I am still on a high," said Dr Patricia Butcher, president of T&T Netball Association (TTNA), yesterday. "I am so happy for the girls, the technical staff and the country.
"It has been a lot of sleepless nights with the financial challenges we faced ahead of the tournament but it all paid off.
"The focus now is the World Cup so they will get a week or two rest then its back to the drawing board. I think by the end of the World Cup we can move up to sixth place. We have a ranking match against Jamaica in October so it starts there."
An announcement of all the qualifying teams for the World Cup will take place after the final qualifiers in the Asian region with the official draw for the World Cup taking place on September 15 in Nottingham.