Waikato Lacrosse took out the New Zealand U15 National Lacrosse Championships for the second year running after a strong tournament at Tamahere Park in Hamilton at the weekend.
Waikato Gold were crowned overall champions after winning the finals by 12 goals to 9 to Waikato Red. In the play-off for third and fourth, the Auckland Blues prevailed over Waikato Black by 10 goals to 8.
Melissa Gratwicke, coach for Waikato Gold, commented “They [Waikato Gold] were really hungry and gritty, and they just fought for everything. They started out, got behind and didn’t have a great start, but managed to dig in, pull it back, and take on a good lead. We placed a big emphasis on our team values, what lacrosse means to us, and what kind of players we want to be and I think they really shone.”
Gratwicke, who has a full US lacrosse scholarship at Hartford University, also commented on how the U15 teams have developed. “I coached [for this tournament] 3 years ago in 2017, and the standard from then to now is just unreal. These girls are U15 and I am just lost for words. They are just so talented and they work really, really hard for it as well!”
For the Auckland teams, it was a tricky lead into the event with level 2 lockdown interrupting both the Auckland High School League and preparations for the U15 tournament.
Hilary Eyres, coach for the Auckland Blue team, commented “I’m just really thankful that we had a tournament! For Auckland, we were quite late to coordinate and publicise because we were in the middle of the local lockdown. We were concerned there was no way that we would be able to put teams together and trial and work together. So we are really thankful we had it in the Waikato this year, to have a little more leeway there and also some potential certainty that we could play!”
Commenting on her team at the tournament, Eyres added “For our A [Blue] team, I think they had great experience playing. I think a lot of them were really appreciative to get out and play lacrosse with their teammates. I think we definitely struggled with fitness overall without having had a school season and without training for long together. You could feel some disappointment from both the coaching side and the player side, as you knew there was more you could do probably! But, having said that, I think the girls felt really positive in building on skills every game and team play every game, and starting to make corrections and starting to grow together. We really saw that in the win against the [Waikato] Black team and then the third place finish.”
The lacrosse calendar has been full of uncertainty in 2020 because of COVID-19, including the recent cancellation of the NZ Secondary Schools Nationals. The NZ U15 National Tournament has been a rare bright spot in a difficult year, with a total of 9 teams taking part (6 in the girls’ tournament and 3 in the boys’ tournament).
Marina Samountry, Secretary for the New Zealand Women’s Lacrosse Association, observed “It was a great weekend of lacrosse! We were fortunate to have such fantastic weather and the opportunity to play full-stop! There was a really high level of play from these young girls – hard to believe they are under 15. It was great to see so many teams come down. Thanks as well to all the volunteers, and umpires.”
The New Zealand U15 National Lacrosse Championships runs annually and alternates between the Waikato and Auckland. The tournament will return to Auckland in 2021.
Written by: Harriet Lamb – Publicity – Waikato Lacrosse
New Zealand Lacrosse U15 National Championship 2020 Results
1st – Waikato Gold
2nd – Waikato Red
3rd – Auckland Blue
1st – Waikato Black
2nd – Waikato Gold
3rd – Auckland