Southland's top four netball teams will battle for grand final berths in the semifinals of the Southland-wide netball league in Gore tonight.
Top qualifiers St Mary's Men take on fourth seeds Ex-High in the first of two matches at the Gore's MLT events centre. Second-placed United take on third seeds Southland Girls' High in the second of tonight's games.
St Mary's Men handed United their first defeat of the season with a 44-42 victory in what could prove to be a preview of the competition's grand final next week.
Though defeated, United coach Reinga Te Huia was "pretty pleased" with her side's performance ahead of their finals campaign.
"We were down by about 18 at one stage and managed to only lose by two," she said.
Te Huia has been happy with her teams' form throughout the season and credited having the services of veteran shooter Donna Wilkins as key to the team's success.
"She is a massive contributor and she lifts the whole side."
Wilkins' work inside the circle has been complemented at the other end of the court by another former Southern Sting player, defender Sarah Hamilton.
"She's been getting heaps of turnovers this year which is helping us score all [of our] goals,"
Though United dominated their semifinal opponents 64-31 earlier this year Te Huia was wary of Girls High's ability to test her team.
"Whenever we play Girls High they always disrupt our game."
Sticking to their own structure was the key to countering that disruption, Te Huia said. "It's really important we stick to our game plan and make sure we play our own game, if we can do that we can be unstoppable."
St Mary's Men were the only team to remain unbeaten and gained maximum qualifying points from round-robin play.
Fourth placed qualifiers Southland Girls' High, who notched five wins and two losses this season, will have to turn around a 57-26 defeat to their opponents in round- robin play if they are to progress further in the Southland wide competition.
Jonny Turner is an SIT journalism student
- The Southland Times