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Superleague netball: Bishop's Stortford schoolgirls Izzy Baker and Rachel Akande picked for London Pulse age-group squads

Friends Izzy Baker and Rachel Akande are celebrating after being selected for age-group squads at Superleague netball club London Pulse.

Baker, 16, and Akande, 17, have been named in the under-17 and under-19 squads respectively following successful trials.

The pals, who live in Bishop's Stortford, have known each other since starting at Herts and Essex High School six years ago. Baker is now at The Bishop's Stortford High School and Akande is still at Herts and Essex, both studying for their A-levels.

Friends Rachel Akande, left, and Izzy Baker have been selected for London Pulse squads (43530743)
Friends Rachel Akande, left, and Izzy Baker have been selected for London Pulse squads (43530743)

Both are goal shooters, with Baker also representing Hertford Hornets and Akande playing for Tegate.

They were successful when trialing for London Pulse last year and made the under-17 long squad, but, with the season being cut short in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, they missed out on taking part in a competition against the nine other Superleague teams in Manchester.

They took part in Pulse's online-based fitness programme during lockdown which saw them train four or five times a week doing strength and conditioning classes, HIIT workouts and shooting drills via Zoom as well as following nutritional meal plans and listening to guest speakers.

Then, due to their birthdays, Baker and Akande took part in this season's trials for the under-17 and under-19 squads respectively, with video-based trials being followed by physical sessions at The Score Centre in Leyton.

And both made the grade – 25 girls were picked for the under-19s and just 18 for the under-17s – as they stood out amongst a group of several hundred trialists.

"I love netball and have missed playing due to Covid, but I can't wait to get back onto the court next year with London Pulse and I'm going to be training hard to get to the NPL tournament in July," said Baker, who is also one of just 65 players from across the country to be selected to complete the Diploma of Sporting Excellence with England netball and Loughborough College.

The friends are training twice a week with their respective Pulse squads at the Copper Box on the Olympic Park in Stratford alongside training sessions with their clubs.

Akande said: "I've missed playing netball through the pandemic and can't wait to get on court and play matches next year with London Pulse."

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