It is semifinals time in the North Otago premier netball competition. Rebecca Ryan checks in with the top four teams before the weekend’s playoffs.
Maheno Green is ‘‘super pumped’’ for tomorrow’s semifinal match-up against St Kevin’s Senior A.
After being defeated in the 2020, 2019 and 2018 finals — and leading the way last year until the season ended abruptly due to Covid-19 — coach Carmen Brenssell said her side was ready to go all the way.
‘‘They’re not going to give it to anyone — they’ve been waiting too long,’’ Brenssell said.
In a potential preview of an all-country final, Valley beat Maheno 28-23 on Saturday in a round moved indoors due to yet another inclement weekend. The game could have gone either way, but Maheno struggled to capitalise on its turnovers, of which it had many thanks to some ‘‘outstanding defence’’.
That would be a focus of Maheno’s training this week, as would ‘‘being kind’’ to the shooters, and preparing to come up against St Kevin’s strong defensive circle.
‘‘They’ll be in there to shut us right down,’’ Brenssell said.
‘‘We really need to pull our A game out to play against them.’’
Maheno has been hit with injuries this year, which had forced Brenssell to do ‘‘a bit of rethinking’’ throughout the season. Phillipa Masoe, Amy Waqawai and Anika Smith were all sidelined for Saturday’s game, and Kat Kawau went down with an injury in the final quarter against Valley. Brenssell hoped Masoe would be back on court tomorrow, but said she was blessed with great depth in her squad.
‘‘We’ve got such a strong team — it doesn’t really matter who we put on the court,’’ she said.
ST KEVIN’S A
It has been another disrupted year of netball for St Kevin’s College A — with Covid-19 and rain cancellations — but coach Rachel Fowler is pleased with her team’s progress.
Fowler said she was very proud of her side for making the top four, and the players were preparing for a tough game against Maheno. The last time the two sides met, Maheno won 28-15.
‘‘But hopefully they should come up all right [tomorrow],’’ she said.
Maheno’s defensive circle was strong, as was St Kevin’s — so Fowler expected it would be a battle of the attacks to really take control of the game and capitalise on turnovers.
‘‘Maheno plays a very fast game through the mid-court, so we just have to make sure we can do as much as we can to shut that down,’’ she said.
St Kevin’s was a young side this year — with year 12 players making up the core of the squad. Captain Olivia Mavor had been a great leader, and a standout on court, helping control St Kevin’s game throughout the court at centre, Fowler said.
Valley Karaka has made it to the semifinals with the No 1 ranking, undefeated against all of the women’s teams in the competition, and having secured a bonus point against the North Otago men’s team.
Co-coach Nicky Fisher said her side had made some great progress this season, and players had really ‘‘stepped up another notch’’ over the past month. She was proud of the team for grinding out a 28-23 win against Maheno at the weekend, having only won by one in their previous encounter.
Fisher hoped everything the team had worked on this season would come together in tomorrow’s semifinal against Waitaki Girls’ High School Wildfire. The last time the two teams met, Valley won 34-25.
‘‘Just building and making sure we’ve got that physicality and the links between each other,’’ she said.
Brytnee Firman, Lauren Hueppauff, Helena Johns and Izzy Hurst, new additions to the team, had impressed this season, and Valley was also lucky to have retained a core group of players who had played together for several years, Fisher said.
Everyone was in high spirits before tomorrow’s semifinal, but they were not underestimating the challenge against Waitaki Girls’. The school side was fast, and had an impressive shooting circle, Fisher said.
It is Fisher’s first year coaching the Valley side, and she has been hugely dedicated to the role — only missing one game, on July 2, the day she gave birth to her son, Blake.
Abbey McKenzie and Petra Aspros had stepped in to help co-coach and player Lisa Fenwick, in Fisher’s absence.
Waitaki Girls’ High School Wildfire has ‘‘nothing to lose and everything to gain’’ heading into this weekend’s semifinal against Valley Karaka, coach Steve Ross says.
‘‘That, essentially, is the only way you can look at it, really,’’ Ross said.
The fourth-placed school side was expecting a tough game against Valley, and was focusing on shutting down the country club’s shooters, and really capitalising on any turnovers.
Wildfire was a young team — made up mostly of year 11s and 12s. For their age and experience level, they were doing ‘‘phenomenally well’’ this season, Ross said.
‘‘It’s a team that’s only going to get better and better,’’ he said.
Wildfire qualified for the semifinals after beating Kurow A on Saturday. Heading into the match, the schoolgirls knew they had to win by at least two goals to reach the semifinals, and just did enough, beating the country club 31-28.
‘‘They knew what they had to do and they did it — it was good to play under pressure, because they knew they had to win or they weren’t going to go through [to the top four],’’ Ross said.
Valley Karaka played a different style of netball than schoolgirls — and that was something the players were preparing for.
‘‘It’s being more patient and not getting suckered in to what they want you to do,’’ he said.
‘‘You’ve got to respect them, but not be scared of them.’’