Waimea girls end on glorious note

Waimea College Senior A sent off their three year 13 players in fine fashion, winning their final match at the New Zealand Secondary Schools championships to finish as the 11th-best netball school in the country.

It was an emotional farewell for captain Ella Marwick, vice-captain Ashley Laing and goal attack Kayla Cross, but it was also triumphant as Waimea beat Palmerston North Girls' High School 41-34 in their final match in Timaru.

Waimea were without injured centre Kaitlyn Stringer but still got off to a fast start, leading 12-5 after the first quarter. They dominated the offensive rebounds to go ahead 23-14, and continued their accuracy through a host of changes to head into the final quarter 36-22 ahead.

Gracie Roberts again showed her range of skills, picking up assists, rebounds, centre passes, intercepts and deflections. Although Roberts did not slot into goal attack, she played both centre and goal defence.

Shaun Aindow, Katie Ditzel and Cross shot well, with Lucy Ingham and Marwick feeding with precision. In defence, Laing and Hannah Davenhill did not allow the Palmerston North girls any easy inroads into the circle, a trait that continued when Freya Watson and Ciara Deeley took the court.

Waimea finished three spots down from last year but enjoyed a better record than in 2011, winning three of seven games at the highly competitive national event. Drawn in a difficult pool, Waimea limped into post-pool play without a win, but then found their rhythm in winning three of four to round out the tournament.

Waimea, the 2012 South Island champions, were at their best at the South Island tournament in Dunedin last month on the back of a strong premier campaign that saw them finish second in the top Nelson competition. They beat St Margaret's (fourth at nationals) in the quarterfinals and Craighead Diocesan (eighth) in the semifinals, but could not recapture that form.

In a year that was billed as a rebuilding season for Waimea Senior A netball, the girls went far beyond expectations, due in no small part to the leadership and maturity of the senior girls. Coach Faye Eden said the final match of the tournament yesterday had been all about them.

"We got everybody on court and finished off with the year 13s," Eden said. "There were a few tears because that was their last game and it was a good ending. It wasn't about winning or losing today, it was about them.

"Kayla was in the B team last year, and I needed a goal attack. She had never played there but she stepped up. She is smart and she does her job drawing defence, and she has been an absolute delight, a real team player.

"Ashley is so passionate out there on court but when she is not on, she is fantastic with teaching all the new girls. She is really competitive - she will just fight and fight for the team.

"And Ella, she is just the most fantastic leader on and off the court - she is just amazing. This week, one thing that came from Ella, she said, ‘This is the one team I will tell my grandkids about'. And we just thought, ‘Wow, what a thing to say'.

"That just summed up what it has been like this year, a real team effort, and to come 11th, we are just delighted."

The Nelson Mail