The Samuel Marsden Collegiate Senior A futsal team won their maiden title at last Wednesday’s College Sport Wellington Regional Tournament at Ākau Tangi Sports Centre.
With wins on the day against long-established leading teams, Wellington East Girls’ College and Wellington Girls’ College, Marsden heads into next week’s NZSS Nationals at the same venue with growing confidence.
It was this commitment and motivation that saw them win all four games at the Regional Tournament, culminating in them beating WEGC 2-0 in their semi-final and then beating WGC in a penalty shootout in the tournament decider.
In their semi-final, Marsden were on-song early and established a 2-0 lead by halftime and then defended well throughout the second half. WGC beat Hutt Valley High School 2-1 in the other semi-final.
Marsden team captain and striker Sofia George explained an extremely tense finish at the end of the final that followed.
“It was 1-1 at fulltime so then we went into penalties and we won 5-4, so it was a nerve-wracking finish for us, and I didn’t think we were going to win the penalty shootout,” she said.
Sofia, the team’s striker and attacking lynchpin had also rolled her ankle in the last minutes of the game and was thinking she wouldn’t be able to partake.
But she regrouped and took the first kick for Marsden. Her teammates followed suit, and none missed.
The defining moment came from the most inexperienced player on court - goal-keeper Ruby O’Conner.
“Our goalie Ruby is a bit of a ring-in. She is a netball and handball player predominantly and she had only played a couple of games heading into this tournament.
“She had never been in a penalty shootout situation before, much less a final and occasion like this, so we had to rally behind her. We said to her - it’s okay, you are not expected to save the goal in this situation, the kicker is expected to find the back of the net.”
But Ruby did save WGC’s fifth kick and the youngest player Amelie McClintock shot the winning goal.
“Ruby saved the goal, and that’s what ultimately won us the game.”
It was the first time that Marsden have won the Senior tournament and the first time they had beaten both WGC and Wellington East on a full size court.
Earlier in the day, Marsden had also beaten Queen Margaret College 4-0 and Scots College 2-0.
The NZSS Senior Girls Futsal tournament over the upcoming Summer Tournament Week runs over two and a half days at the same venue.
The NZSS tournament is returning after a year off owing to Covid disruptions, with WEGC the defending champions and Marsden finishing mid-table amongst 24 competing schools in 2021.
Sofia played at nationals in 2021 and is one of four players in the current Senior group who have come through to win the CSW Regional tournament after winning the corresponding Junior Tournament together in 2020.
Sofia (year 13) and fellow striker Phoebe Gray (year 12) have also been coaching the team.
“We don’t have a coach, so Phoebe and I coach the team ourselves. This has worked out well and has been fun. It can also be beneficial having a coach who is playing on the court as well and it helps bring us together and stay focused when it gets close as it did in the final in this tournament.”
The team will have a coach for Nationals though, a previous coach, Denise Gumabay who has moved away but will be back in Wellington for this tournament.
Sofia is just one of two year 13 players in Marsden’s Senior futsal squad, with the nucleus of the group year 12s and a few younger.
Last week, Marsden’s Junior team, comprising year 9 and 10 players, were beaten Plate finalists, losing to Hutt Valley High School 2-1 in their final match of the day. WGC won the Junior Tournament.
Several players in Marsden’s Senior team also play in the school’s First XI football team. Last year they competed at the Grant Jarvis NZSS tournament in Palmerston North and finished fifth of 23 teams. Sofia was the Golden Boot winner, scoring 21 goals.
Sofia plays club football for Wellington United and last year was a member of the Capital Football U18 Girls’ squad.
Several other members of the squad also play a variety of other sports, such as netball, rowing, cricket and basketball.
The winning CSW Regional Tournament Marsden team was:
1. Ruby O’Conner (GK)
2. Sofia George
3. Phoebe Gray
4. Anika Humphries
5. Carley Matson
6. Amelie McClintock
7. Esme Olney-Boyd
8. Thea Olney-Boyd
9. Phoebe Solomon
10. Charlotte Stinson
11. Elizabeth Ulusele
College Sport Wellington Regional Futsal Tournament winners 2023:
On Monday night, Marsden beat QMC 4-1 to secure a third placed finish in the CSW Wellington Zone Girls Premier league competition.
WEGC beat WGC 2-1 in the final.
The Northern Zone and Hutt Zone finals are later this week.
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