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St Matthew’s target top three

Captain Ocean Bartlett is one of five Wairarapa Korus in the St Matthew’s national tournament squad. PHOTOS/FILE

CRICKET

CHRIS COGDALE
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St Matthew’s Collegiate headed to Palmerston North yesterday confident they can better last year’s third placing at the Gillette Venus Cup – NZ Cricket’s premier secondary schoolgirl tournament.

Eight of the players from the 2019 squad are returning for their second national tournament, and coach Gene Bartlett said that will hold the team in good stead.

“Last year they were extremely nervous, and they were quite overwhelmed travelling away to Christchurch,” he said.

“This year they are a year wiser, and they’ve played really good cricket in recent times, and we haven’t lost in the Central Districts playoffs for the last two years.”

Talented twins Kate and Gemma Sims, and medium-pace bowler Hattie Vincent have left school since the 2019 tournament and leave a big hole.

Elizabeth Cohr has been in good form with bat and ball.

However, St Matt’s can still boast a core group of five players with representative experience with the Wairarapa Korus – captain Ocean Bartlett, Elizabeth Cohr, Emma McLeod, Gracie Donaldson, and Olivia Clark, while wicketkeeper Jessie Hollard is a senior Taranaki representative.

Bartlett said that experience would be a big advantage.

“It’s all that game awareness and strategic stuff we’ve been working on with the girls, and the goal is to do better than last year.

“We can only control what we’ve got, and that’s all that we focus on and just making sure that the girls are confident.

“They’ve been training really well even though the weather’s been rubbish, so we are lacking a bit of match fitness, but the girls are in a good space, they’re hitting the ball hard and hitting good lengths with their bowling, and we had another fielding session on Tuesday, and it’s just a mental game now.”

St Matt’s have a 13-strong squad for the three-day tournament, and Bartlett said that was all about giving the younger players a taste of a higher level of competition.

“We want the girls to experience the culture of it, and that’s what we’ve done all the way through. Even with the play-offs, we’ve taken more than we’ve needed so they can understand how things roll on another scale.

“The CD play-offs were a step up a level, but the nationals are even more so.”

St Matt’s kicked off their campaign today with a morning game against Tauranga Girls College, followed this afternoon by Takapuna Grammar School, who qualified as the Auckland representatives ahead of 2019 champions Epsom Girls Grammar.

Tomorrow they play 2019 runners-up Christchurch Girls High School, and Hutt Valley High School, before they finish their round-robin against St Hilda’s Collegiate [Dunedin] on Sunday morning.

The final and play-offs will be played on Sunday afternoon.

Bartlett said making the finals two years in a row has put St Matt’s and Masterton on the map.

“Last year, no one knew where Masterton was, and when we left, they all knew where Masterton was, which was a cool thing.”

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