Dominant St Mary’s retain RSSL Netball title


Story courtesy of College Sport Media

A dominant and confident St Mary’s College retained their College Sport Wellington RSSL Division 1 Netball title on Monday night at the Akau Tangi Sports Centre with a 42-21 win over Sacred Heart College in the Final.

Not only completing an unbeaten season in Wellington school competitions, but St Mary’s also won their eighth straight Division 1 title – an outstanding achievement for the Thorndon school.

The 21-goal winning margin in the decider was mostly reflective of the run of play, with St Mary’s comfortably ahead throughout. Sacred Heart competed well at times and kept in touch over long periods, but St Mary’s were able to accelerate and lift a gear when required.

It was the champions’ group of Wellington U18 players who collectively led the way, Caitlin Lafaele at Goal Keep and 2023 NZSS player Phoneix Schwalger at Goal Attack and later Goal Shoot particularly strong. Charlotte White, who played three of the four quarters at centre, and wing attack Pierina Cusin-Tavite both helped drive the St Mary’s connections through court. White was particularly busy and accurate with her passing to her shooters.

Sacred Heart found themselves on the back foot from early on. They conceded a run of six turnovers in the opening several minutes and were down 5-0 early. They regrouped in the latter stages of the opening quarter, but St Mary’s led 12-5 after the first 10 minutes.

Sacred Heart started the second quarter well, but St Mary’s were able to finish the quarter with a run of five consecutive goals and St Mary’s led 21-10 at halftime. Starting St Mary’s Goal Shoot Sonik Lia-Russell was responsible for 17 of their first half goals.

St Mary’s made some changes at halftime, including that of Lia-Russell coming off and Schwalger moving to the primary shooter’s role. Schwalger would bring it home for St Mary’s by finishing with 20 goals to her name.

Sacred Heart had their best quarter in the third term, drawing the goal-count at 10-10. Goal attack Alyssa Aoina was busy, while wing defence Ella-Grace Churchward effected some handy turnovers as Sacred Heart looked good at times playing at a faster pace and being less hesitant and allowing the St Mary’s players to disrupt their possession.

The fourth quarter was messy at times as fatigue set in, but St Mary’s ultimately pulled clear and conceded just one further goals to make the final score 42-21.

Both teams have a short break before preparing for the Lower North Island Secondary Schools tournament over Winter Tournament Week, with five spots available from that for Nationals in October.

The St Mary’s College winning squad was: Kitana Bates, Teuila Bennis, Pierina Cusin-Tavite, Caitlin Lafaele, Fo’i Lemana, Sonik Lia-Russell, Maia Masina, Liana Saipani, Phoenix Schwalger, Te Arani Vulu, Charlotte White.

St Mary’s College Road to the Title: Beat Sacred Heart College 43-18, beat Paraparaumu College 38-22, beat Hutt Valley High School 35-24, beat Marsden 45-25, beat Wellington East Girls’ College 40-14, beat Wellington Girls’ College by default, beat Queen Margaret College 39-19, beat Sacred Heart College 42-22 (Final).


Whilst St Mary’s have a firm grip on the title, the RSSL Division 1 League remains competitive, as shown by the other playoff results tonight.

Wellington Girls’ College beat last year’s beaten finalists Queen Margaret College 42-40 in the 3 v 4 playoff, in a close game that was in the balance until the fourth quarter when WGC pulled ahead.

The 5 v 6 fixture between Hutt Valley High School and Marsden was also a tightly contested fixture, 30-30 at three quarter-time but Hutt Valley High finished strong in the final quarter winning 42-37.

Paraparaumu College pipped Wellington East Girls’ College 30-28 in the 7 v 8 playoff match.

The other Divisions Finals were both hotly contested with the leads changing throughout both games.

In the Division 2 Final, Scots College edged out Tawa College 37-35, while Naenae College beat Whitby Collegiate 35-32 in the Division 3 Final.


Article added: Wednesday 23 August 2023


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