RSSL Netball Finals

Five-peat for St Mary’s College in Regional Netball competition

St Mary’s College won a five-peat of the Wellington Division 1 Regional Netball League titles on Monday night, beating Hutt Valley rivals St Oran’s College 39-27.

The 12-goal margin of victory in the final at Kilbirnie’s ASB Centre belied a much closer contest that saw St Oran’s in the game for much of the contest.

St Mary’s established a 10-goal advantage when leading 23-13 early in the third quarter, but St Oran’s fought back strongly with a five-goal run to cut their lead to 23-18 and then to 25-21 at three-quarter time.

Making a series of turnovers in mid-court and with goal-shoot Cindy-Ray Bracken having a strong game for St Oran’s the final was poised for a thrilling finish.

However, St Mary’s came back on court composed and focused and soon stretched their lead, extending their advantage to 32-24 lead with five minutes to play and soon pushing this out to 10 goals.

Earlier, the first quarter was a tense, messy affair, both sides missing crucial shots on goal and St Oran’s taking an 8-7 lead into the first break.

Enter year 9 shooter Phoenix Schwalger.

Making a bold change, the St Mary’s coaches brought rookie Schwalger on to play goal shoot, moving captain Lucy Ross to goal attack.

The move paid dividends, as St Mary’s hit the lead early in the second quarter, winning the second quarter 11 goals to 6 and taking a 19-13 lead into halftime.

St Mary’s skipper Lucy Ross said the final felt close throughout. “It definitely felt really tight all game, but we pushed hard to the end to get the win,” said Lucy.

“I thought our defenders were really putting pressure on their shooters and winning good turnover ball for us.

“At the other end, Phoenix came on and did a great job for us. She has just recently come into our team and she has fitted in to the environment well and it was really good to get her the experience of playing in a final.

“Bringing her on at the start of the second quarter was a good way to change up the game and one that worked for us.”

The win also turned around their 30-36 loss to St Oran’s in the round-robin earlier in the competition.

St Mary’s now have a short break before heading north for a school holiday tournament.

“We are going to play in a tournament at St Peter’s School in Cambridge along with the top 12 schools in New Zealand, so it will be good to come up against them and play our hardest against the best teams.”

Meanwhile, there were two other finals on Monday night at Kilbirnie.

Division 2 Final: Wgtn Girls’ beat Wainui High 37-28

Division 3 Final: Mana beat St Mathew’s 41-13