This could be the perfect ending to a great era of Valley netball.
The Weston club secured its fourth straight North Otago premier title with a 40-34 win over gutsy St Kevin’s College in a thrilling final on Saturday.
St Kevin’s led 31-26 after three quarters before a ruthless Valley won the final quarter 14-3.
That triggered what seemed to be equal parts delight and relief from the experienced Valley Gold team, which has set the standard in local netball for a long time but may have a new look next season.
“Four straight is a pretty awesome achievement,” player-coach Petra Aspros said after the final.
“It’s particularly special because we’re going to have a few retirees this year, I think.
“So I think this was almost a must-win for us.”
Aspros, Sarah Newlands and Kara Cox have been ever-presents in all four championship runs, while Rihi Schultz and others have played large roles.
That has given Valley a level of consistency that other sides, especially the school teams, have struggled to match.
“We’re pretty lucky at Valley that we have our core group, and whoever comes in is with some pretty amazing netballers,” Aspros said.
“There’s such a nice connection with all of us. It just works.”
Still, this was no walk in the park for Valley.
It jumped to an 8-2 lead but only held a 9-8 buffer at the first break, and St Kevin’s nudged ahead 21-20 at halftime before completely dominating the third quarter.
Aspros said she knew Valley was going to have to work hard if it was to claim the title.
“St Kevin’s are a good side, a tough side. The last time we played them, we had to really work hard to beat them as well.”
The schoolgirls’ five-goal lead evaporated in the final quarter as Valley turned up the defensive pressure.
“It was do or die. I just said to them, ‘We came here to win, and we have to win. Use our heads.’
“We asked every single player to come up with one ball. Then we just looked after what we got.”
Cox was prominent at the start and finish of the game, using her height to gather rebounds and haul in some lovely passes from Kate Macgregor and Mikayla Cleveland.
Nicky Wallace never stopped working for Valley, while Leanne Mavor made a significant contribution off the bench.
For St Kevin’s, Gemma Dowling and Whitney Cleveland were a wonderful combination in midcourt, Brytnee Firman showed her class at goal shoot, and the irrepressible Tivinia Misiloi enjoyed her battle with Cox.