Impressive Medal Haul for Waikato U18s at 2021 National Championships
Waikato U18s delivered a great result for the region this weekend at the 2021 New Zealand U18 National Championships at Tamahere Park. Waikato A secured the gold medal in the Girls Tournament, with the Waikato Girls Development team in bronze position, while the Waikato U18 Boys team won one of their 3 matches against Auckland.
A total of 7 teams from Auckland, Wellington and Waikato participated in this year’s event, with 5 in the Girl’s Tournament and 2 in the Boy’s Tournament. Marina Samountry from New Zealand Women’s Lacrosse commented that she was thrilled with the high level of lacrosse on display over the weekend, and the skilled shown by the players.
For the first time, the U18 Championships were held in March rather than in September. It was hoped that the autumn date would fit better with school exams, and deliver more reliable weather. Certainly the new date was a success on the weather front, as the Waikato switched on two days of uninterrupted sunshine.
In the girls tournament, Waikato A emerged from the round robin matches unbeaten to secure their spot in the finals against Auckland A. The finals proved to be a game of two halves, with Waikato making a strong start for a 6-goal lead at half-time. Auckland regrouped in the second half to slow the Waikato attack and score a few of their own for a final score of 7 goals to 3.
Anri Kruger, Coach for the Waikato side, commented “The girls played so, so well and we are really proud of them. That is probably the best game that they played all tournament. We had a bit of an up and down system going on yesterday, and then today to come out and play out of their skins was just amazing to see.”
Auckland Head Coach Hilary Eyres observed “I think we are disappointed to come away in second. The Waikato team just came out firing! It’s hard to come back from a 6-goal deficit, but I think we really turned it on in the second half. There was a lot of really good team play across the whole tournament. I love that! We just keep looking for the growth and development of the players over a weekend.” Eyres added “It is really nice to play a great, competitive, aggressive team with smart lacrosse skills that really makes you have to think and adjust your play.”
Asked if the recent Auckland lockdown had affected preparations for Auckland Lacrosse “Again, we missed a couple of trainings. It was all kind of truncated and that impacts the players, impacts mentality and impacts ability to develop, but we are just grateful that we can play safely.”
In the play-off for third place, the Waikato Girls Development team took bronze after Wellington exited early to make the trip home. Auckland B stepped in to fill the gap and played a great final match.
Waikato Coach Charlotte Walker said “We had a really strong team and they came out here wanting third place, and we got third place. We came out here fighting for it!”
The Boy’s U18 Tournament was the best of three between the Auckland and Waikato U18 sides. In game 1, Auckland had a confident win by 7 goals to 5. In game 2, the Waikato side improved to force Auckland to a 7-all draw at full time. Auckland scored in golden goal to win the match by 8-7. In game 3, Auckland pulled ahead to a strong early lead of 7 goals to 2 at half-time. Waikato picked up the attack in the last two quarters and then held on to win by 9 goals to 8 in the most passionate match of the tournament.
Talking about two days of play, Waikato Head Coach Lucas Thom said “Unfortunately we lost the first one, they didn’t start off as well as we hoped, but then picked it up in the second half. Second game, went down to golden goal. And then the third game, I’m so proud of them in this one! Down 2-7 and then to come back to win it 9-8. It’s just heart and great to see!”
New Zealand U18 National Championships 2021
13-14th March 2021, Tamahere Park, Tamahere, Hamilton
1st Waikato A
2nd Auckland A
3rd Waikato Development
Player of the Tournament: Aishlyn Lawton