basketball

Ashleigh Munns: We’ve proved that we can compete at this level

Essex Rebels became the first team to beat Leicester Riders in over a year on Friday night when they claimed an impressive 82-76 triumph.

The Riders had won all 12 games in all competitions this season, but came up short on the road to see their perfect record ended having given debuts to three new signings – including 2012 Olympian Azania Stewart, out of retirement.

Essex have made a strong start to the league campaign with five wins in seven with Angel Waithe leading the way in their latest success with 27 points and 15 rebounds.

And, Ashleigh Munns – who played the full 40 minutes – insists the Rebels won’t be getting carried away with the result, despite its magnitude.

“It’s hard to begin to describe what this result means for the team,” she told Hoopsfix. “Leicester are stacked with talent and depth, and for us to even compete at their level, let alone come out on top, is a testament to the hard work and belief we’ve had as a team so far this season

“We’ve proved to ourselves that we can compete at this level and that will be our continuing goal moving forward. But the Leicester win is just one game in a long season. We won’t be putting any pressure on ourselves but want to continue to improve in all areas.”

Munns has made a successful return to the sport having last played for Sevenoaks Suns during the 2017-18 season. The former England Under-18 international has been a major contributor to the Rebels’ threat from three-point range with 22 makes at 43% accuracy to rank amongst the league’s top five.

“It wasn’t a hard decision to return,” Munns said, having been focusing on her career in recent years. “Rebels were building a new squad and having spoken to Coach Tom [Sadler] and met the team I felt it was going to be a good fit.

“After a couple of weeks, I was in no doubt that I’d made the right decision and I am grateful to be back playing the game I love with such a great group of people.”

The Rebels now sit third in the Championship standings, behind leaders Leicester and unbeaten BA London Lions, while Sevenoaks Suns have also yet to lose with the league shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable in recent years.

“Personally, I think this season is turning out to be one of the most competitive we’ve seen,” claimed Munns. “Any team can beat any other on a given day. I think that’s got to be good for the game.

“Unfortunately, the problems surrounding COVID over the last year have meant a very disjointed season for everyone, but this hasn’t been reflected in the standard of play.

“Due to the absence of fans, the live streaming has played an important part in keeping the interest going, but I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to playing in front of our supporters again.”

Essex return to action on Sunday when they host Oaklands Wolves before a run of games on the road with Munns looking forward to how her team deals with the upcoming challenge.

“We’ve got a versatile squad and we really are a team in the true sense of the word,” she concluded. “After this weekend, we have some long road trips but I’m excited to see how we cope and how far we can go.”

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