The Waitakere Blue Diamonds have won their first national women’s title since 1993, and their first-ever NZWPNL win, 8-7 over double defending champs Marist Magic.
Hutt Heat claimed the bronze in a penalty shoot-out after it was drawn 8-8 at half-time against North Harbour. Big saves from Hutt Heat goalkeeper Gabby Crothall got her team over the line 12-10 whilst all four penalty shooters converted.
BRONZE MEDAL: HUTT HEAT 12 v NORTH HARBOUR 10
HUT: Gabrielle Crothall, Isabella Morrison, Evie Mills 2, Alex Boyd 2, Casie Bowry, Koren Wilkinson 3, Ciara Flynn, Charlie Wilkinson, Paige Walls, Brydie Pye, Kirsten Hudson 3, Kate Enoka 2, Megan Thomas. Coach: Megan Thomson, Manager: Linda Pye.
NHB: Alisha Winstanley, Sarah Stewart, Taylor Sheehan 2, Katie McKenty, Nadia Pavlovich 2, Shannon Hughes, Chelsea Geary, Emily Nicholson 4, Bernadette Doyle, Ema Carevic 2, Kaitlin Howarth, Amy Brotherton, Olivia Murphy. Coach: Richard Claridge, Asst: Michael Buck, Manager: Janet Nicholson.
The NZWPNL bronze medal match was streamed to Facebook Live. Watch the game back here.
After two tough semi-final losses on Saturday afternoon, the fight between Hutt Heat and North Harbour was always going to be a passionate one. Having lost key centre forward Casie Bowry through injury, Hutt Heat lacked firepower at the beginning of the match but only after an Evie Mills outside shot from a man up to lead 1-0. Heat were hesitant on attack early on, allowing North Harbour to convert down the other end.
North Harbour were ahead 5-2 at half time, thanks to excellent work in centre forward from Emily Nicholson, who scored four of her team’s five goals (Pavlovich).
Hutt Heat faced a three goal defecit heading into the third quarter. It was Koren Wilkinson who scored two goals in the quarter to spark Hutt Heat into fire, highlighted by a Kate Enoka lob close to three-quarter time to burst into the lead 7-6.
Veteran Kirsten Hudson stepped up in the final quarter to restore the one goal buffer, but Ema Carevic pulled through for North Harbour with two goals of her own in the final quarter to equalise and she would have the last say of the game in regular time for 8-8. The NZWPNL bronze medal was to be decided by penalty shoot-out.
The two sides traded blows down each end of the pool in the shootout, but Gabby Crothall had the final say when she made a save for Hutt Heat and with it took the 2017 bronze medals.
GOLD MEDAL: WAITAKERE BLUE DIAMONDS 8 v MARIST MAGIC 7
WTK: Chantelle Conroy, Laura Zuniga 4, Kelly Mason, Brogan Houghton, Libby Alsemgeest 1, Gabby MacDonald, Rebecca North, Hannah Read, Grace Tobin 1, Emmerson Houghton 2, Miranda Chase, Libby Gault, Antonia Lidgard. Coach: Goran Sablic, Manager: Margaret Chase.
MAR: Jessica Milicich, Nicole Lewis 1, Ricci Ferigo 1, Hannah Klein 1, Simone Lewis, Mikayla Eruera, Malia Josephson, Emma Stoneman 1, Gabrielle Milicich, Caitlin Mary Parker Allen, Kelsey Snelgar, Samantha Fraser 2, Tate Renata 1. Coach: Reza Soleimani, Manager: Jo Milicich-Misikini.
The NZWPNL gold medal match was streamed to Facebook Live. Watch the game back here.
The double defending champions Marist Magic were the first on the board in the final through Samantha Fraser, and she’d be the only player to score in the opening period.
Grace Tobin took a confident shot from the wing in six on five; catching the near post before the ball spiraled across the goal line for the Blue Diamonds’ first goal of the game. Marist Magic responded in the next possession; a one-two between Fraser and Emma Stoneman allowed Fraser to score her second goal of the final and head back into the lead 2-1.
Magic made the gap two when they earned a man-up, Snelgar drew a defender to the wing and Stoneman became free right in front of the cage, allowing her to pop the ball into the back of the net.
A poor pass allowed Laura Zuniga to head down the pool on a counter, lobbing the ball over Magic goalkeeper Jessica Milicich to keep in touch with the Magic leading by one.
With the clock winding down in the second quarter, Emma Stoneman had a counter attack and under time pressure got the ball away but hit the bar, then the rebound was collected by Ricci Ferigo in front of the cage and she pushed it past Blue Diamonds goalkeeper Chantelle Conroy for 4-2 at the half.
The Blue Diamonds dug deep in the third quarter, that started with a six-on-five goal to young gun Libby Alsemgeest in the middle after a pass in from Emmerson Houghton. They’d eventually score another three goals (Emmerson Houghton 2, Zuniga) to Magic’s two (Nicole Lewis, Tate Renata) to take the score to 6-6 heading into the last quarter.
A pivotal play in the final quarter saw Zuniga do it all by herself, intercepting a pass and, like she had done in the second quarter, lobbed it over Milicich to take the lead 7-6 with four minutes left on the clock.
Another crucial moment of the match was when Houghton was excluded, earning the Magic a six-on-five. Klein took a lob from the wing that rebounded off the crossbar and Ferigo got her fingers to it but couldn’t make it to the net, Klein lunged for the ball and was held by Zuniga and so Marist earned another kick out. A quick one-two between Nicole Lewis and Klein allowed her to skip the ball across the face of the net to draw level 7-7 with two minutes to play.
Down the other end, the Blue Diamonds showed their colours when Laura Zuniga pulled up and again lobbed Milicich to take the game-winning goal at 1:48.
It's Waitakere's second senior women's national title; mother-daughter Jeanette (1993) and Grace (2017) Tobin were members of the championship-winning teams.
Emmerson Houghton (MVP) – Waitakere Blue Diamonds
Jessica Milicich (GK) – Marist Magic
Casie Bowry (Top goal scorer) – Hutt Heat
Laura Zuniga – (Top goal scorer) – Waitakere Blue Diamonds
Emily Nicholson - North Harbour Hygiene Systems
Emma Stoneman – Marist Magic
Kirsten Hudson – Hutt Heat