THE YMCA will be no place for the faint-hearted tomorrow when YMP 1 take on Whangara Old Girls in the premier grade elimination semifinal at 12 noon.
The winners will keep their championship hopes alive while the losers will put away their bibs for another season.
“There’s no second chance, which adds to the pressure on the players,” stalwart Whangara coach Ronnie Martin told The Herald yesterday.
“Even if you win this game, to go on to win the grand final you have to back up with a win on Wednesday night in the second semifinal, and then back that up again with a win three days later in the final.
“We’ve never been in that position . . . it’s a long road but not impossible. Nga Hau e Wha have done it before (in 2010), so that’s the challenge for us.
“We’re rapt to be in the playoffs after struggling in the early round when we won only one game from nine.”
Whangara’s early season form was largely affected by players leaving the district and injuries.
“Thankfully some of the players have returned to the district and others have recovered from injuries, so we are a lot stronger and have more depth heading into the playoffs.”
Whangara got some benefit from the situation.
“We were training at Lytton High School and I saw two 14-year-olds who I felt could play premier netball — Kylie Whakataka (defender) and Ihipera Mackey (midcourter).
“I spoke to the people concerned at the school and the girls’ parents, and they agreed to them playing for us.
“Kylie will definitely start tomorrow and Ihipera gives us cover in the midcourt.”
Mackey came on for midcourt general Tracey Babbington-Maynard when the skipper was injured against Waikohu last weekend and showed her potential in a 63-42 win.
“We also have another new girl, Felicity Ieti, who will be playing in her first semifinals. The rest of the squad are experienced,” Martin said.
YMP won the teams’ first-round encounter and Whangara took the round two honours.
“This is the one that counts,” Martin said. “The other two games mean nothing.”
Martin’s squad has been boosted by the return of Casey Mullany.
“Casey has been working out of the district but when she comes back she plays for us, and gives us added depth.”
Whangara have a particularly strong midcourt in Babbington-Maynard, Melissa Mackey-Huriwai (centre) and Miriata Callaghan (wing defence) but their ace tomorrow could be goal shoot Nadia Taare.
Taare sank 40 goals from 45 attempts against Waikohu and if she gets enough ball to repeat that statistic tomorrow, it could end YMP’s hopes.
When all is said and done, it all comes down to the shooters — convert your chances and your team should win.
YMP defender Ingrid Brown and her co-coach Mere Kingi-Nepe (wing attack) know they have to stop Taare, but Brown said they would not be concentrating on one player.
“We have respect for whoever plays for Whangara,” said Brown. “We’ve had some great battles over the years.
“The thing with semifinals and finals is that it’s all about who turns up to play on the day.
“It’s like starting all over again — first game of the season — anything else you’ve done doesn’t really count.
“We’ve both won one game apiece so there are no favourites.
“All we want from our girls is to play smart, play with big hearts and have a belief in each other.
“The willpower to win is there, it’s a matter of putting it all together for 60 minutes.”