We went to Taupo for the NZ Secondary Schools Tournament after an up and down season in Christchurch (finishing 3rd) plagued by injuries and players unable to play due to Mainland Football commitments.
Last year we finished a disappointing 25th, having finished 11th the season before.
The girls won their first two games against St Peter's and Massey on the first day to confirm their position in Top 16 and re-qualify for 2019. This gave us the opportunity to rest some key players and to blood some of our younger players into a Nationals tournament. We lost the third pool game against Trident which meant we avoided the Christchurch champions STAC and played Napier Girls in the afternoon. We won this hard-fought game to make the quarter finals in our fifth game on Wednesday.
Pitted against a strong Hamilton team with two NZ players, after a number of injuries to key players, we sadly went down 2-0 to the eventual winners of the tournament.
Battered, bruised and broken, the girls showed true spirit and a real squad performance to bounce back and win 1-0 against St Mary's, who had already knocked out last year’s champions St Kentigerns.
This set us up for a Christchurch grudge match to decide the highest placing South Island team and 5th team nationally. We were to be playing against STAC having lost to them twice this season with a heavily depleted squad. Looking at our injured captain Nova Daly-Davies and other key players hobble or carried off the pitch, our main concern was how we were going to field a team, let alone win the game. On game day all of the week’s team bonding and hard work was going to need to shine through. We had eaten together every night with phones left back in the room, carried out hot and cold treatment in the Waikato and its natural geothermal pools, movie nights, group studies, visited Huka Falls and watched the Aratia rapids unleash from the dam. However, we had played 6 games of football and had 7 of the 15 girls receiving physio treatment for injuries, some serious. With a number of junior players called upon to start, the girls played out of their skin and followed the game plan perfectly to grind out a well-deserved 1-1 draw with the goal coming from Y11 Jennifer Merkin, our top scorer for the season and the tournament. The game went to penalties and the score remained level even after the first 5 penalties taking it to sudden death. A save from Katie Williamson meant Emily Keer Keer was able to step up and score the winning penalty to perfectly end a family legacy with three girls from the family having played for the First XI. It also meant our highest ever finish at Nationals and we will return to the
tournament next year as a top seed.
Mr S Manners
Teacher in Charge Girls Football/Coach 1st XI