“We really wanted to keep our unbeaten record, but during the game it's not something you think about. It’s about performing the best we can and getting the outcome we deserve,” Louie Ferigo responds when asked if he was nervous at three quarter time in the National Secondary Schools Water Polo final yesterday.
Unbeaten Auckland and North Island champions, Sacred Heart College only led surprise finalists Westlake Boys’ High School 8-7. Sacred Heart had scored three unanswered goals in the first two minutes with Ferigo netting two of them.
Was sudden complacency a reason for Westlake’s come back?
“We weren’t complacent at all,” Ferigo retorts.
“We had only played Westlake once all season and that was in our second game. We knew they had been improving and had beaten some strong teams in the tournament like St Kents, Rangitoto and Rosmini,” he continued.
What was said at the break?
“Our coach, Kurt Goldsworthy, is experienced and has been in many finals. He told us to play our game and put away our opportunities. Westlake would be looking for counter opportunities so we had to keep our defence strong.” Ferigo reveals.
Sacred Heart didn’t concede in the last five minutes and pulled clear to win 12-7. Ferigo scored four goals in the decider and was named tournament MVP.
“I’ve always been smaller than most players so I’ve had to work really hard on defence. However my size allows me to move quickly around the pool, and a lot of the goals I score are counter goals because of my swimming,” Ferigo replies when asked why he believes he was named tournament MVP.
Who is the toughest player Ferigo has marked this season?
Rowan Brown from Rangitoto College. He’s got strong legs, speed and game awareness. His cross cage shot is hard to block,” Ferigo says.
Ferigo has been in the Sacred Heart Premier team for three years, but his association with the top side stretches back a lot longer.
“A lot of Sacred’s success comes from the investment in the water polo institute for Year 7 to 10 students. Most of the current team have all come through the institute. Were lucky to have had great coaches like Jonathan Ware, Matthew Lewis, Josh Campbell and now Kurt,” Ferigo explains.
National triumphs are an obvious peak for Ferigo, but winning the local league earlier this month was equally satisfying.
“Winning the Auckland final in front of many Sacred Heart supporters was awesome. The Auckland final was held during a break of play in the Fina World League tournament and the Fina Reps enjoyed witnessing the school spirit,” Ferigo enthuses.
Ferigo comes from keen aquatic family. His three older siblings all played water polo and Louis has coached younger teams at Sacred Heart. Earlier this year Louis was employed by Swimtastic as a swim instructor.
Next year is Ferigo’s final season at Sacred Heart. His goal is to defend the 2018 titles, but acknowledges with eight players departing it will take time to form a team with similar quality.
The National Secondary Schools Water Polo finals were held at Kilbirnie Pool in Wellington this afternoon.
The favourites in both the male and female competitions prevailed. Sacred Heart College, Auckland and Diocesan School for Girls, Auckland, completed the triple crown of secondary schools water polo by winning the Auckland, North Island and National titles in the same year.
In the Boys playoff for third and fourth, Rangitoto College beat Saint Kentigern College 8-5. Aquinas College beat Rosmini College 9-6 in the fifth versus sixth match.
In the Girls, Kristin School beat Rangitoto College 8-6 in the third versus fourth playoff and Mount Maunganui College A beat Carmel College 6-3 to finish fifth.
Western Springs won this year's Boys Division 2 title and Epsom Girls’ Grammar School won the Girls Division 2 title.
Premier Girls Final
“This is about who wants it more. Do you want it more?” A hoarse Angie Winstanley-Smith screamed at her Dio team at three-quarter time.
Defending champions St Cuthbert’s looked to be in Dio-Straits when trailing 4-1, but charged back to square proceedings with five minutes remaining.
Tournament MVP Shinae Carrington responded to her coaches plea when she flung the ball into the top right corner to make it 5-4 to Dio with 90 seconds left.
However St Cuthbert’s weren’t lacking in desire and dramatically levelled with six seconds to spare when Caitlin Mary Parker Allen beat the keeper from long range.
In the penalty shootout the first nine shooters were successful, leaving Dio with a 5-4 lead. Mary Parker Allen stepped forward and sought to repeat her regulation time heroics, but tragically missed to gift Dio the title. Winstanley-Smith was triumphantly tossed in the water to cool down.
At one stage the pool was bloody after a Dio player was clobbered in the face and claret gushed from her nose.
The long stoppage galvanised St Cuthbert's. Ellie Tomoana was exceptional and scored two goals to cancel out the two goals scored in the first period by Dio New Zealand representative Megan McDowall.
Dio were runners up to St Cuthbert’s in 2018.
Premier Boys Final
Sacred Heart College scored four unanswered goals in the last quarter to subdue a spirited challenge from surprise finalists Westlake Boys’ High School.
At the three quarter-mark the game was in the balance with Sacred Heart narrowly leading 8-7.
However quick goals by Corey Kellow and Hamish McAleese stung Westlake as Sacred Heart assumed full control and coasted to victory.
Sacred Heart started supremely rushing to a 3-0 lead within two minutes. Tournament MVP Louie Ferigo illustrated his obvious quality by scoring the first two goals.
Westlake rallied and drew level. Twins Liam and Corban-Wedlock-Aston both confused the Catholics defense.
Ferigo was a constant threat for Sacred Heart and added another two goals to his tally, but Korban Kite was flying high for Westlake and a personal hat-trick raised the prospects of an upset.
However Sacred Heart’s defence tightened in the last five minutes Westlake in desperation lost the attacking fluency that had been integral in their success throughout the tourney.
Sacred Heart was unbeaten for the entire season and completed the triple crown for the second consecutive year.
The National Secondary Schools Division 1 Water Polo championships are being held in Wellington this weekend, but expect schools from Auckland to dominate.
The last non-Auckland school to win the boys title was Rongotai College, Wellington, who triumphed in 2007. The last female winner outside the ‘City of Sails’ was Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt, in 2009.
There are 16 teams in the boy’s tournament and 14 in the girls. Nine of the 16 boy’s teams are from Auckland. The proportion of girl’s teams from Auckland is even greater with only two girl’s teams from outside New Zealand’s largest city involved.
Pool A: Sacred Heart College, St Bede’s College, St Peter’s College, King’s College.
Pool B: Rangitoto College, Palmerston North BHS, Tauranga BC, Westlake BHS.
Pool C: Rosmini College, St Patrick’s College, Wellington, Aquinas College, Auckland Grammar School.
Pool D: St Kentigern College, Mount Maunganui College, Mount Albert Grammar School, Hamilton BHS.
Sacred Heart College are the overwhelming favourites to win the title, having won the 2017 Nationals as well this year’s Auckland and North Island titles. Sacred Heart are undefeated in 2018.
St Bede’s College won the South Island title, but are the only South Island team in Wellington suggesting the quality of play in the South is a long way behind that of the North.
St Peter’s College and King’s College were middle of the road in a tough Auckland competition. King’s finished in the top five at Nationals in 2017.
Rangitoto College won the National title in 2012 and 2016 and were semi-finalists in Auckland. They should top Pool B - though their rivalry with Westlake is always keen.
Pool C appears to be the ‘group of death’ featuring 2015 National Champions, Auckland Grammar School and Aquinas College who have finished runners-up twice in the last four years.
Saint Kentigern College have gone mighty close to winning the Nationals in recent seasons and pushed Sacred Heart in the Auckland final recently. They will be favourites to top Pool D, but MAGS have been a top four Nationals team in the past three years.
Hamilton are vastly improved and stretched Sacred Heart in the quarter finals of the North Island championships while Mount Maunganui are a particularly strong defensive team.
Boys to Watch
Bae Fountain (Mount Maunganui College) - The goalie recently represented the New Zealand senior men’s team. Quick to dive and block in both directions, Fountain has won many matches for the Mount this season with his shot-stopping prowess.
Louie Ferigo (Sacred Heart College) - A prolific goal scorer, Ferigo is a top leader and a major weapon in Sacred Heart’s offense. Ferigo is a New Zealand age group rep.
Billy Simpson (St Kentigern College) - The centre forward is a very strong player with a powerful arm, quick stroke, noise for goal and instincts for putting others in scoring positions.
Pool A: Diocesan School A, St Kentigern College, Baradene College.
Pool B: St Cuthbert’s College A, Mount Maunganui A, St Mary’s College, Auckland.
Pool C: Kristin School, St Cuthbert’s College B, Carmel College, Wellington East.
Pool D: Rangitoto College, Mount Maunganui B, Westlake Girls’ High School, Diocesan School B.
Diocesan School for Girls are the 2018 Auckland champions, but haven’t won the National crown since 2008. St Cuthbert’s are the reigning National champions, losing the Auckland decider by one goal.
Westlake Girls’ High School won the National title three times in a row between 2014 and 2016, but didn’t enjoy a vintage Auckland season finishing fifth.
Rangitoto College were National winners four consecutive times before Westlake. Rangitoto haven’t beaten Dio or St Cuthbert’s this year, but did soundly beat Carmel 4-1 to finish third in Auckland.
It’s hard to see anything but a Dio against St Cuthbert’s decider
Girls to Watch
Bernadette Doyle (St Cuthbert’s) - St Cuthbert’s scored 82 goals in seven round-robin games in Auckland and Doyle was responsible for many of them. The left hander is a quick swimmer, good passer and played for the New Zealand senior women’s team at the 2018 Intercontinental Cup.
Bridget Layburn (Westlake Girls’) - Westlake’s prospects of winning yet another National title will largely depend on the fortunes of the outstanding goalie who recently earned her first cap for the New Zealand seniors.
Morgan McDowall (Diocesan) - The daughter of former All Black Steve McDowall is only Year 11, but has made a huge impression in her three years of playing the sport having already represented the New Zealand senior team. One of the quickest swimmers in Auckland, McDowall has a strong arm and sound grasp of tactics too.
The full draw is here: http://www.waterpolo.org.nz/Events/New-Zealand-Secondary-Senior-Schools-Champion
In June 2016, Ben Gardner returned home from school with a badly swollen knee. No strenuous physical activity or unusual symptoms had signalled this aliment could occur, but it was serious.
“I went to the doctor straight away and was diagnosed with Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Knee or OCD. Don’t ask me how to spell that, but basically the cartilage underneath my knee cap was separating,” the Year 12 student at Sacred Heart College, Auckland recalls.
A knee brace was attached and the prospects of resuming water polo were bleak.
“My rehabilitation took 18 months and has required four surgeries. It was tough,” Gardner complains.
Ben’s father Peter Gardner was one of the first New Zealand players to earn a water polo scholarship to a US university when he represented California State between 1988 and 1990.
Ben says dad’s support and expertise was essential in his recovery.
“Dad is always giving me tips on how to improve my game, but he also understands injuries. He had back and shoulder injuries while he was in the US and had to come home early. He knew exactly what I was going through,” he acclaims.
Gardner eventually returned to the water in October last year at the U16 club Nationals won by his Marist side. Gardner has regained full strength and has enjoyed a rapid ascent.
Last week Gardner played an integral role in Sacred Heart’s recent North Island Secondary School Water Polo Championships success.
Gardner scored two goals in the final against Rangitoto College, which Sacred Heart won by 8-6.
In fact, finding the back of net at the North Island Championships wasn’t an issue at all for the undefeated Sacred Heart outfit. In seven games, Sacred Heart outscored opponents 101-21.
“The score in the final was a fair reflection of the match. It was pretty close and we expect Rangitoto will be tough to beat at Nationals should we play them,” Gardner observes.
What about the other opposition?
“Some of the pool games were very easy. In the semi-finals we beat Saint Kenitgern College 7-3. They are good. We beat Hamilton Boys’ High School in the quarter finals. They have some quality players,” Gardner responds.
Sacred Heart boasts a stacked roster. Patrik Zatko was MVP at the North Island Championships. Harry Finnigan is captain and a New Zealand representative. Louie Ferigo and Bronson Larsen are both NZ Waterpolo representatives and currently reserves for the New Zealand Senior Men's teams second team, which is participating in the World League competition in Auckland this week.
How does Gardner fit alongside this talent?
“I’m like a point guard in basketball. On defence I play centre back and instruct guys where to be while closely marking an opposing player myself. On attack I play point which means I’m generally in the middle of the pool and try and get guys into good positions to score, while occasionally doing so myself,” Gardner answers.
Gardner’s younger sister Holly is also a keen player at Saint Kenitgern College.
Gardner is a keen photographer and has covered National Secondary Schools sevens, football and water polo to a high standard for College Sport Media.
Water Polo coming up:
The New Zealand Schoolboys and Schoolgirls Water Polo teams are both out to defend their Trans-Tasman titles this week in Canberra this week when their annual series gets underway this afternoon.
Both New Zealand teams won their annual three-test series against Australia in Auckland last December and both are going for a three-peat of titles this year.
Schedule and coverage:
Both Boys and Girls teams are in action later today-this evening (NZT).
For updates and scoring and results follow: www.facebook.com/nzwaterpolo/
Girls: Libby Alsemgeest (Hillcrest High School, Hamilton), Shinae Carrington (Diocesan School, Auckland), Bernadette Doyle (St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland), Grace Elisara (Mount Maunganui College, Tauranga), Ella Harford (St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland), Emmerson Houghton (Hillcrest High School, Hamilton), Kaitlin Howarth (Rangitoto College, Auckland), Julia Kayes (Mount Maunganui College, Tauranga), Bridget Layburn (Westlake Girls High School, Auckland), Gabriella McDonald (St Kentigern College, Auckland), Tai Nimo (St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland), Caitlin Mary Parker Allen (St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland), Ellie Tomoana (St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland) Non-Traveling Reserves: Clodagh Weir (Kristin School, Auckland), Charlie Hooke (Diocesan School, Auckland). Head Coach: Tim Chambers – Wellington. Asst. Coach/Manager: Sarah Chambers – Wellington. Asst. Coach: Natalie Seabourne – Auckland
Boys: Rowan Brown (Rangitoto College), James Catlin (Rosmini College), Calum de Jager (Auckland Grammar School), Matt Dell (Sacred Heart College), Ben Fleming (St. Kentigern College), Bae Fountain (Mount Maunganui College), Brandon Matthews (Long Bay College), Matt Morris (Rangitoto College), Nick Paterson (Macleans College), Josef Schuler (Aquinas College), Billy Simpson (St. Kentigern College), Michael Slessor-White (Rosmini College), Matt Stirling (St. Kentigern College) Non-Traveling Reserves: Caleb Brooke (King’s College), Daniel Cameron (St. Peter’s College), Amosa Gould (King’s College), Nick Hermans (Sacred Heart College). Head Coach: Rahiti Teokotai-White – Hamilton, Asst. Coach/Manager: Davor Carevic – Auckland, Asst. Coach/Manager: Chris Naylor - Wellington.
Rangitoto College defend Trans-Tasman Shield
Rangitoto College beat cross-town rivals Sacred Heart College in an all-New Zealand teams final in the annual Trans-Tasman Shield secondary schoolboys water polo tournament played in Melbourne last week.
Rangitoto College defeated Sacred Heart College 1 5-8 in the final to defend their title, winning all seven matches along the way. SHC led 2-1 at the end of the first quarter, but Rangitoto moved ahead to lead 5-3 at halftime and 10-6 at three-quarter time.
Both teams defeated Australian sides in their semi-finals. Rangitoto beat The Scots College from Sydney 10-8 and Sacred Heart overcame Sydney’s Newington College A 16-9, after drawing with them the previous day. Sacred Heart also won back the Chris Hayward Shield from Newington.
The tournament featured 16 teams, and included other New Zealand schools Westlake Boys’ High School, Auckland Grammar School, King’s College and Scots College
The four pool winners were Sacred Heart College, Newington A, Rangitoto and Xavier College from Melbourne.
NZ Water Polo have announced the following players who have been selected for the New Zealand Schoolgirls & Schoolboys teams to compete against Australia in the annual Trans-Tasman Test Series from December 18-21st in Canberra, Australia.
Libby Alsemgeest- Hillcrest High School, Hamilton
Shinae Carrington - Diocesan School, Auckland
Bernadette Doyle - St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland
Grace Elisara - Mount Maunganui College, Tauranga
Ella Harford - St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland
Emmerson Houghton - Hillcrest High School, Hamilton
Kaitlin Howarth - Rangitoto College, Auckland
Julia Kayes - Mount Maunganui College, Tauranga
Bridget Layburn - Westlake Girls High School, Auckland
Gabriella McDonald - St Kentigern College, Auckland
Tai Nimo - St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland
Caitlin Mary Parker Allen - St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland
Ellie Tomoana - St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland
Clodagh Weir - Kristin School, Auckland
Charlie Hooke - Diocesan School, Auckland
Head Coach: Tim Chambers – Wellington
Asst. Coach/Manager: Sarah Chambers – Wellington
Asst. Coach: Natalie Seabourne – Auckland
Rowan Brown - Rangitoto College
James Catlin - Rosmini College
Calum de Jager - Auckland Grammar School
Matt Dell - Sacred Heart College
Ben Fleming - St. Kentigern College
Bae Fountain - Mount Maunganui College
Brandon Matthews- Long Bay College
Matt Morris - Rangitoto College
Nick Paterson - Macleans College
Josef Schuler - Aquinas College
Billy Simpson - St. Kentigern College
Michael Slessor-White - Rosmini College
Matt Stirling - St. Kentigern College
Caleb Brooke – King’s College
Daniel Cameron - St. Peter’s College
Amosa Gould – King’s College
Nick Hermans - Sacred Heart College
Head Coach: Rahiti Teokotai-White – Hamilton
Asst. Coach/Manager: Davor Carevic - Auckland
Asst. Coach/Manager: Chris Naylor - Wellington
New Zealand is the defending champion in both series, winning in Auckland last year.
The New Zealand Schoolboys and New Zealand Schoolgirls have competed in an annual three-test series against Australia since 1982. The New Zealand Schoolboys have won the series ten times, and the New Zealand Schoolgirls eight, including the last three.
The teams have held the Trans-Tasman shields at the same time on four occasions: 2016, 2015, 2010, and 2004.
2015 was the first time that a New Zealand male team had won a series against Australia in Australian waters. The series are hosted alternatively in Australia and New Zealand.
First published on waterpolo.org.nz
Hillcrest High School’s Emmerson Houghton will be doing much of her schoolwork poolside and in foreign locations over the next few months.
Emmerson, Year 13, has been selected as one of two schoolgirls along with Bernadette Doyle from Auckland’s St Cuthbert’s College in the senior women’s New Zealand water polo team to play in the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary next month.
Then in September Emmerson, Bernadette and Emmerson’s older sister Brogan are off to Volos, Greece with the New Zealand team for the FINA World Women’s Junior Water Polo Championships.
The Senior New Zealand team flies out in a fortnight, and naturally Emmerson is excited and a little nervous about the trip. “We head overseas to Hungary for four weeks and play in a pre-tournament called the Vodafone Cup,” she said.
Emmerson was selected after a series of trial and training camp weekends and on National League form as well. “I’m just really excited to be going and to train and play alongside all the senior girls who have so much experience to pass on and offer me.”
New Zealand will play 2016 Olympic champions USA, leading side Spain and South Africa in the preliminary round of the senior World Championships from July 16-20.
This will be Emmerson’s first trip to Europe, having played for the New Zealand Youth team that finished 10th of 15 teams at the FINA Youth Championships in Auckland last December and also played for the NZSS team in their tri-series in Auckland against Australia and South Africa in which the New Zealand Schoolgirls beat Australia to claim the Trans-Tasman shield for the third consecutive year.
At the same time, Emmerson’s Hillcrest High School teammate Libby Alsemgeest will also be representing a New Zealand side. Libby, Year 11, is also heading overseas on her first trip overseas with a national team. “I’m heading to Sydney at the start of July with the Born 2000 Girls team and against the NSW state side and the possibility of some international sides as well. I’m the youngest in my team and really looking forward to the trip.”
Like Emmerson, Libby is also the only player from Hamilton/Waikato in her squad.
The trio play for the table-topping Waitakere Blue Diamonds in the National League, which involves regularly making the two-hour commute up to Auckland to train and play.
Its semi-finals and finals weekend this Saturday and Saturday and Waitakere are hoping to take the title off defending champions Marist.
Emmerson is a centre back and driver. She is the competition’s third highest goal scorer leading into this coming weekend’s National League finals series, with 18 goals in nine games to her name. Last December she scored four goals in New Zealand’s 15-6 win over Australia and found the back of the net twice more in their 14-6 win over them.
Libby is a centre forward. “So I am the opposite to Emmerson,” said Libby, “she marks me when we are training so that helps me a lot as well.”
Libby is also the youngest participant in this year’s Women’s National League this year.
The pair and Emmerson’s older sister Brogan, two years out of Hillcrest High School, are flying the flag for their school and for the Waikato, neither of which are hotbeds of New Zealand water polo.
What’s their background in water polo?
Said Emmerson: “I’m from a big family and my older brothers used to play at school and my older brother was in New Zealand teams and we trained together and we’ve always been at the pool and I just kind of carried on.”
Said Libby: “I started playing when I was Year 7 and have just continued on ever since. Emmerson and Brogan have helped me out a lot and we do quite a bit and we have always been part of Hillcrest teams together.”
Emmerson and Brogan are also Libby’s Waikato Girls U16 coaches.
Emmerson and Libby are also in the Waikato-BoP U18 representative team, with Libby playing in the upcoming nationals while Emmerson heads to Hungary with the New Zealand squad.
Both Emmerson and Libby also play netball, but being selected in two New Zealand teams means Emmerson pointed out that she has had to put netball on the backburner this winter, while Libby will be in the Hillcrest team playing in the Upper North Island netball tournament later in the year,” said Libby.
Both the Boys and Girls NZSS Water Polo trophies are winging their way to Auckland this evening after national title wins this afternoon to Sacred Heart College and St Cuthbert’s College respectively.
In contrasting finals, Sacred Hear overwhelmed Bay of Plenty’s Aquinas College 8-2 in the Boys final and St Cuthbert’s edged Auckland rivals Diocesan School for Girls 9-8 in the Girls decider that followed at Wellington’s Kilbirnie Pool.
In winning the national titles, both schools have won triple silverware in recent weeks, the North Island, Auckland and now National Championships.
For St Cuthbert’s, it was double relief on the tournament’s final day, after they had edged out Mount Maunganui College 9-7 in a penalty shootout in their morning’s semi-final. Auckland Dio had defeated Kristin School 3-1 in their semi-final.
In the bronze medal matches, Rangitoto College finished third in the Boys by beating St Kentigern Colege 7-5 and Mount Maunganui College defeated Kristin School to take third in the Girls competition.
Matt Dell (Sacred Heart) and Bernadette Doyle (St Cuthbert’s) were the tournament MVPs.
The Boys tournament team was: Bronson Larsen (Sacred Heart), Gabe Orchard (Aquinas), Rowan Brown (Rangitoto), Josef Schuler (Aquinas), Hamish Sullivan (Sacred Heart), Ben Fleming (Saint Kent’s).
The Girls tournament team was: Bridget Layburn (Westlake Girls’ High School), Shinae Carrington (Mount Maunganui), Julia Kayes (Mount Maunganui), Morgan McDowall (Auckland Dio), Tai Nimo (St Cuthbert’s) and Caitlin Mary Parker Allen (St Cuthbert’s).
Sacred Heart accounted for Aquinas College in the Boys Final after making a fast start and then creating too much defensive pressure throughout the contest.
Sacred Heart made an early statement, with first quarter goals to Patrick Zatko, Bronsen Larsen and Nick Hermans and they led 3-0 after the opening five minutes.
The long left arm of Hermans almost made it 4-0 on the quarter-time buzzer but his long-range effort was pushed just wide.
Needing to score first in the second quarter, Aquinas did so with Hamish Low passing to Kiahl Horan who was able to send the ball past the clutches of outstanding keeper Dell. However, Sacred Heart hit back immediately with a decisive goal to Larsen, advancing their lead to 4-1 at halftime.
Again, Aquinas scored after the break, Low pouncing on a defensive error in front of the goal and calmly sending a lob shot through to make it 4-2.
The bartender, Josh Retter, served up a goal in reply and Sacred Heart re-established their three-goal buffer at three-quarter time.
Sacred Heart then pulled away in the final five minute period, Louis Ferigo putting in a back hander to make it 6-2 and then defensive pressure leading to two more goals at the end to Nick Paterson and Harry Finnigan.
Meanwhile, the Girls final was a fourth quarter thriller after scores had been locked up at 7-7 at three-quarter time.
St Cuthbert’s started a frantic final quarter with a goal to MVP Bernadette Doyle, following an exclusion to Dio’s Maddy Gault, one of three in the match for Dio that were to ultimately prove costly. But Dio struck back with a goal to Izzy Avis after some nice deception play and it was all square at 8-8.
St Cuthbert’s Caitlin Mary Parker Allen combined with goal scorer Tai Nimo to put the winning shot in the back of the net with time counting down. With 15 seconds to play, animated Dio coach Angela Winstanley-Smith called a last-ditch time-out. It almost worked but Avis’s shot was blocked on fulltime and St Cuthbert’s could start celebrating.
Earlier, Dio had established a two-goal buffer early in the third quarter, Gault providing a good tip on to Morgan McDowall and then great defence by Alice Leonard and Eleanor Spillane creating a turnover and a goal to Avis.
There had been a flurry of scoring early, with both sides sending three goals each into the back of the net in the first quarter, which could have been more if not for a couple of great saves at either end of the pool. Defences tightened up in the second quarter and Dio took a 5-4 into halftime but couldn’t prevent a stronger finish by the team in green.
Sacred Heart College are one win away from completing an Auckland/North Island/National title water polo treble after defeating St. Kentigern College on penalties in the semi-finals at the National Secondary Schools Champions at Kilbirnie Pool in Wellington this afternoon.
Sacred Heart will face Aquinas College from Tauranga in the decider after Aquinas eliminated defending champions Rangitoto College.
For the second time in the last fortnight, Sacred Heart and St. Kent’s caused their supporters heart palpitations as they fought out a typically gripping struggle.
Josh Retter opened the scoring for Sacred Heart when goalie Matt Dell lobbed the ball three-quarters of the pool to locate Retter unmarked.
St. Kent’s however led for much of the match. Ben Fleming converted a holding penalty to make it 1-1 at the first break and Matt Stirling’s reverse shot in congestion gave St. Kent’s a 2-1 advantage midway through the second quarter – a lead they held for almost half the match.
With 37 seconds left Retter jostled a holding penalty and tied the scores, but Ben Simpson had a chance to win it for St. Kent’s, riffling the ball into the post.
All five shooters converted their penalties in the first round of the shootout, but cruelly Fleming sent a missile wide of the target with St. Kent’s sixth shot. That left Retter, aptly nicknamed ‘the bar tender,’ the chance to deliver the winning toast.
Aquinas College reversed an early deficit to defeat Rangitoto College 8-6. Rangitoto surged ahead 4-1 with Sam Groom scoring two impressive goals, but Aquinas pegged it back to 5-5 at halftime, before leaping ahead by three. Gabe Orchard scored two goals for Aquinas.
The girls semi-finals are tomorrow morning at Huia Pool in Lower Hutt and will also see three Auckland schools and a Bay of Plenty contender vying for a place in the afternoon’s final at Kilbirnie Pool.
This afternoon’s quarter-finals saw Pool A winner Saint Cuthbert’s College defeat Rangitoto College 5-4 and Pool B winner Auckland Diocesan beat Baradene College 5-2.
The other two quarter-finals resulted in Kristin School beating Westlake Girls’ High School 5-1 and Mount Maunganui College overcome Carmel College 4-2.
Tomorrow morning’s top four games will see Saint Cuthbert’s and Mount Maunganui College clash at 9.20am and Dio and Kristin School clash at 10.15am.
Sacred Heart College boast the most successful boys’ water polo program in New Zealand. The Senior A team has won the National title three times in the last seven years and are the defending Auckland Champions.
The winning attitude is contagious according to Matthew Dell who pays tribute to the water polo academy at the college.
“We have sports institutes for select codes and water polo is one of them. I trialled in year six and was lucky enough to get in. We train three times a week and really stress the competitive and preparation side of sport. The boys have been together for a long time now and that has helped us build a strong, winning culture,” he acclaims.
Dell concedes he isn’t “the best swimmer,” so was an obvious choice for goal keeper. Specific training has helped Dell became an elite in his position at age-group level.
“I am a pretty slow swimmer so while the other boys do laps I stay in goal and do reflex exercises and leg strengthening to improve my flexibility and shot stopping,” Dell explains.
Dell was a member of the Marist club team who won the Under-14 Nationals and has toured Australia and Hawaii at school earning a national call up – following in the footsteps of two former Sacred Heart goal keepers.
“We have a reputation for producing good goal keepers so that has forced me to work hard. I became a starter in Year 12 and my highlight so far has been winning the Auckland title last year. We beat King’s in the final at Diocesan School. They have a grandstand by the pool and it was packed by nearly the whole school. To win in front of so many people was pretty surreal.” Dell says.
Sacred Heart leads the Auckland competition in 2017. They have won all seven games and have scored the most goals (74) and conceded the least (25). The next month will define their season. The North Island Championships are followed by the Auckland finals and the Nationals in Wellington in April. Sacred Heart have some unfinished business from 2016.
“We lost to St. Kent’s in the semi-finals at Nationals last year. That was the most disappointing sporting moment of my life. It was a low scoring game and we panicked a bit. It was sad for the Year 13’s too leave on such a low note.” Dell laments.
Dell expects St. Kent’s to be fierce rivals again along with defending National Champions Rangitoto College and a small school in Tauranga.
“Aquinas College have a real strong side. We don’t know a lot about them, but their results have been exceptional. There is always a school in Wellington who contents, but apart from Aquinas I don’t think there are many schools who will compete with the Auckland sides.” Dell believes.
Waterpolo Key Dates
March 29 to April 2: North Island Championships, Auckland
April 9: Auckland Senior A Final
April 18-21: National Championships, Wellington
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