Celtic vs Harcourts
6pm Trust House
Wairarapa Netball Complex
Unbeaten Celtic United coach Elleshia Clarkson is reading little into Harcourts’ form slump, and expects a typically torrid semifinal tonight.
Their perfect record meant Celtic finished the round-robin at the top of the table, whereas Harcourts finished fourth, setting up a tantalising knockout game between the two traditional rivals.
Celtic won their first-round clash 41–40 but handed Harcourts a 60–37 trouncing in the top four series, much to Clarkson’s surprise.
“Harcourts are always top contenders, and it is not common to see them placed fourth,” Clarkson said.
“Nevertheless, a semifinal is guaranteed when the competition splits into top four and bottom four, and because the top four teams are so close in skill and ability, it does not matter where you place.
“Harcourts are a strong team that have been playing together for a long time and have bonded so well over the years. They will always be a hard opposition, and we are expecting a really competitive game.”
Clarkson, however, remains confident Celtic are peaking at the right time of the season.
“Each game to date, we have played different combinations and always get our entire squad on the court. We believe this is the best preparation a team can have.”
Clarkson also admits that wearing the favourites tag is unusual for the team, who usually thrive as underdogs.
“We are a very humble side, so confidence remains the same. We just hope to put on a good performance on court and hopefully get the win while doing it.”
In contrast to Celtic’s consistency, Harcourts have struggled with numbers for several weeks, but despite their inconsistent season, veteran defender Sarah Watson hopes her team can turn their form around at the right time.
“No team is unbeatable despite previous scores, and we’ll be going in looking for a good fight,” Watson said.
“Back to full strength, I think it will be anyone’s game, and the team that holds their composure the best and really fight for the ball and wants to win will take it out.”
Watson feels that a strong start and treasuring possession will be key for a Harcourts’ success.
“We haven’t been good with possession scoring off our own ball, especially turnover ball, and we’re not scoring off them as consistently as we should be.
“We’re used to getting a turnover and scoring off it, but that has been extremely poor this year, which is a credit to the other teams as well for putting the pressure on.”
Watson said Celtic’s strength is their strong bench and their ability to rotate players in several different positions.
The second semifinal between two-time defending champions Wairarapa College and Jo Kelly and Co Carterton Maroon will be played at 7pm on Monday. There will be a full preview in Monday’s Times-Age.