St Mary's Netball Club could soon be equalled for the number of premier teams it has in the Invercargill Netball Centre's Saturday competition.
Southland Girls' High School Year 10A sealed top spot in the first grade with a 38-25 win over its Senior C team last Saturday, so the junior girls will play a promotion-relegation game on Monday against Northern Tavern St Mary's Black to see whether they can make the step up to Premier B division.
While the experienced St Mary's Black won their last game of the round against Otatara Stars 42-40, Otatara's bonus point from that game and Collegiate Gold's 46-36 win over Verdon Senior A, has St Mary's Black in the bottom spot.
Rata Stubbies gained top qualifier in Premier B after their 36-33 win over St Mary's B.
The Stubbies will be challenged by Southland Girls' High B on Saturday to see whether the Stubbies can rise to their potential.
If the Southland Girls' 10A team can win their challenge game, there will be three Girls' High teams in the 12-team premier grade.
This is made even more notable with the Southland Girls' High School's Senior A team sitting at the top of premier netball at the end of the first round, a feat not matched since Verdon College Senior A in the early 2000s.
The Senior A team's win over its schoolmates sealed its place as first-round winner after St Mary's A failed to account for Rata Red.
Rata Red's improved shooting accuracy ensured the key defensive turnovers won by Tegan Hunt and Rachael Fahy were capitalised on.
Margot Norman's dependable play in the midcourt maintained the flow of steady ball to the shooters and Rata came out winners 40-31.
In the other premier game, Natalie Avellino made all around her look equally creative in her Northern Tavern St Mary's All Stars 49-40 win over Bluff A.
A solid scoring run in the second quarter through the steady hands of shooter Trinity Mennell was enough to keep the All Stars out of trouble in the last half.
Grade winners will play promotion-relegation games on Monday at ILT Stadium Southland before the next round starts on July 5, though the secondary school and year 7/8 grades play this weekend.
For the top three premier teams, the Southland-wide league continues this week with the second round of games to be held on Thursday at the stadium. Defending champions St Mary's Men will encounter new entrants Limehills, who will have found their feet with one game under their belts.
Girls' High will face a stern test against a resurgent Ex High from Gore, and Rata will hope to repeat Saturday's effort as they again play St Mary's A.
Lone Star United will take on the other newcomers to the league, youngsters Central Southland College.
The four games will be played on the main courts at 6.30pm and 8pm.
- The Southland Times