Look out for the Howick College netball team at the NZSS Netball Nationals in Rotorua in the second week of the holidays.
The multi-talented group of young players finished fifth at the recent Upper North Island regional tournament to qualify for nationals for the first time.
The team is looking forward to going, said captain Lasalle Lefale. “This is the first time for our team and the first time for our school at Nationals and we are excited to be there.”
Captain Lasalle is also the only year 13 player in a youthful group going to Nationals. “I’m only 17 as well, as we have got a few year 12s and year 11s and one year 10 as well.”
Lasalle, who plays goal attack, goal shoot and wing attack, has been in the Premier team for three years, starting off when Howick College were in the B Grade.
Howick’s rise has been steady over the past five years. In 2013 they were 6th in the B Grade of the UNISS tournament, in 2014 they were 13th in the B grade, in 2015 they won B Grade to earn promotion, in 2016 they finished 10th in the A Grade and this year they rose to fifth.
The top six placed teams qualified from UNISS for nationals.
Going into the last day of the UNISS tournament Howick had to beat Hamilton Girls’ High School to secure their historic berth for Rotorua. They won that 42-23 “That was probably the most important game for us, so it was good to win well over them,” said Lasalle.
Howick College then beat another Hamilton school, St Paul’s, in the playoff for fifth and sixth, 32-21. “The day before that we lost to them so we had to play them again and we won.”
“A key game for us at the UNISS tournament was beating St Kent’s. We won by one [29-28] in our second round of pool games and they went on to win the tournament. That gave us confidence, especially for our young girls.”
Howick plays St Kent's again in their very first match at Nationals on Tuesday week, and are also meet Palmerston North Girls' High School late on day one.
Nanise Waqaira and Iva Livani were both selected in the 20-player UNISS tournament team afterwards.
Situated in nearby Pakuranga, St Kent’s are a rival school to Howick College. “Another school that we have good sporting battles against is One Tree Hill College.”
Howick also came fifth in the Auckland Premier competition this year. The team’s motto is ‘Up the Waka’, after the Howick College emblem.
Lasalle said the team has a strong bond and they band together well when the going gets tough. “Because we are close in ages, everyone is really close with each other and we are one big family.”
“A playing strength of our team is our height. We have got three giants in our team! We have got one in the shooting end and two tall defenders.”
Howick’s team is multi-talented. “Most of us play sevens, touch and volleyball as well. Basically everybody is playing other sports!”
The first week of the school holidays next week promises to be busy. As well as preparing for the netball Nationals, five members of the squad have a New Zealand schoolgirls rugby sevens trial on Friday.
Howick College originally had eight players out of 120 throughout the country for those rugby sevens trials. One has since injured herself while five of them are netball girls - captain Lasalle, Shalom Setu-Veve, Iva Livani, Teuila Sotutu and Jennifer-Rose Reu.
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