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Stout Waicol defence sinks champs

Waicol skipper Sophie Cusack … missed just once in upset win over Harcourts. PHOTO/FILE

NETBALL

JOHN LAZO-RON
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Wairarapa College continued their stellar start to the premier one season, upsetting defending champions Harcourts by eight goals last Friday.

The 53-45 victory was Waicol’s second win from as many matches after they toppled last year’s runners-up Carterton Maroon in the opening round.

In other premier one matches, Celtic United beat Greytown 59-34, and Carterton defeated St Matthew’s 50-28.

Waicol lead the standings on eight points, followed by Carterton 5, Celtic, Harcourts, and Greytown are tied on four.

Harcourt’s coach Geraldine Carroll praised Waicol’s performance after the match.

“Waicol played really well.

“They are playing well. As a ref, I get to watch them a lot, so I can see how good they actually are.”

Despite the loss, Carroll said her team could take many positives from the match.

“We weren’t losing for all of the game, we just lost the game,” she said.

“We’re always in a building stage of the start of the season. We always work on ourselves first because I have a lot of new ones in, so we’re just building every week which has been great.

“I know we’ll come back strong from this.”

Waicol captain and goal shoot Sophie Cusack led the way, missing just one of her shots to ensure Waicol kept up with last season’s front-runners.

The Wairarapa College netball team has started two from two this season, already toppling the two front-runners from last season. PHOTO/JOHN LAZO-RON

Waicol coach Keely Riwai-Couch praised her team’s defensive effort, particularly in the fourth quarter, to keep Harcourts from getting close.

“There were moments of brilliance by our defensive team of Jaimie Blackburn and Charlize Carson-Butler,” she said.

“They really stepped up in that last quarter, and on the other end, Sophie struggled to miss, in a great effort from the team all around.”

Although the final result looked flattering, Riwai-Couch said it was anything but easy, with her girls having to fight back from a five-point deficit in the third quarter after leading through the previous quarters.

“We have a couple of injuries, so we didn’t start with our core seven. But we started relatively strong, up by two to three points, and it was like that right through to the third quarter,” she said.

“There was a surge from Harcourts in that third quarter, and we were down by five at one stage. There were a few errors on our behalf, so we had a few turnovers that didn’t help us.

“Thankfully, we managed to pull back and take the win.”

Although the victories were significant because of who they beat, Riwai-Couch said they weren’t letting the wins get to their heads as it was only the beginning of the season.

“It’s been a positive start, so I’m very proud and pleased because it builds the girls’ confidence, and they’ve been rewarded for the hard work they’ve put in,” she said.

“It’s a big road ahead, however, and we don’t want to get complacent.”

Asked how she prepared her girls for these big matches, Riwai-Couch said mental toughness was the key.

She said it wasn’t always easy for a young girl, especially if they’re new to the scene, to transition mentally and physically to play against an adult, which was why it was a big focus for the team.

“It can be tough,” she said.

“When you come up against a side like Harcourts, who have held the title for a number of years, mentally, the girls probably doubt themselves because [Harcourts] are at the top of the comp.

“You never know how they’re going to be until they take the court, so we’re trying to build up an environment where the girls are mentally and physically tough.

“And the team always changes. So we sometimes have a couple of 14-year-olds who come in and have to step up a couple of grades higher than what they’ve been in previous years. So it’s not easy.”

However, she said this season’s start was good for the girls’ confidence to know they can play well and compete against the top teams in the grade, looking to achieve their goal to keep improving and making the finals.

Cusack who has been in the side for three years, agreed with her coach, saying the wins felt great, but there was a lot of room for improvement.

She said making the step up to premier one was challenging, but the girls had handled it well.

“Playing in this competition is definitely a big step up from premier two, but it’s really exciting,” Sophie said.

“The girls are handling it really well, working as a team and taking that step up well.

“We’re pretty strong across the entire squad, but our defence has been awesome.”

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