The Tasman Tigers overcame a two-goal deficit and a parochial home crowd to claim their first national hockey title in Tauranga on Saturday.
At the New Zealand Association Tournament, they downed home side Tauranga/Bay of Plenty 4-2 in a see-sawing decider to bring the coveted Floyd Shield to the top of the south for the first time.
In recent years they have threatened to get their hands on the silverware, including an agonising shoot-out loss in last year’s final.
But they made no mistake this time, going through the tournament unbeaten, adding a pool play win over their final opponents to their victory in the ultimate match.
However, the final did not start as planned for the women from the top of the south, two green cards in the first quarter putting them on the back foot, along with an early goal from a penalty corner to Tauranga/BOP’s Taryn Moore.
Four minutes into the second quarter it got worse, Stacey MacDonald scoring the home side’s second, her side buoyed along by the vocal home supporters.
But there is plenty of fight in this Tigers side and they were soon on level terms, Mackenzie Hanrahan nailing their first after 26 minutes, then Pip Lunn slotting the equalizer three minutes later to lock it up at halftime.
Play went form end-to-end in the third quarter with no addition to the score, the game finely balanced.
The go-ahead goal came two minutes into the final period, scored by skipper Stacey Lloyd from a penalty corner, then Kate Morrow iced Tasman’s cake and gave them some breathing space with their fourth seven minutes later.
Lunn was Tasman’s top scorer over the course of the tournament with five goals, Jess Davidson and Hannah Mowat both notched four, Morrow scored three while Tanya Hawley and Alice Roughan bagged two apiece.
In pool play they beat Tasmania 5-3, Otago 4-0, Counties Manukau 4-1 then overcame Tauranga/BOP 2-0 in a penalty shoot-out after the scores were tied 2-2 after regulation time.
Having topped their group by a point from their hosts, they were drawn against North Harbour in the semifinals, prevailing 4-1, setting up a final date with the hosts.
Tasman manager Denise Lloyd described the winning feeling as one of relief, especially after Tasman had previously picked up two silvers and two bronzes in their quest for an elusive first national title, eight years after the amalgamated team was established.
“It was awesome, the girls were absolutely stoked,” said Lloyd, “the semifinal and final were both brilliant games of hockey.
“When you lose a final the way we did last year it gives you the hunger to win one, that’s for sure. They had to dig deep to claw back into the final.
“It was a brilliant week – the girls believed in the process and went with Jonesy’s coaching and stuck to the game plan – most of the time.”
Crucial to the side’s success was the “tight four in the engine room”, the experienced quartet of Hawley, Lloyd, Lunn and Hannah Climo, plus calm goalkeeper Carly Englefield, who excelled at shoot-out time.
The Tasman side comprised: Tanya Hawley, Stacey Lloyd, Pip Lunn, Mackenzie Hanrahan, Carly Englefield, Grace Davies, Ella Williams, Kate Morrow, Celia Watson, Alice Roughan, Hannah Climo, Yvonne Boyd, Alisha Lewis, Aimee Kersten, Jessica Davidson, Hannah Mowat, Samara Dalziel, Kate Kersten. Coach: Paul Jones. Manager: Denise Lloyd.
Meanwhile, the Canterbury Beavers secured their sixth national men’s association title with a 3-1 win North Harbour.
The Tasman men, who also played in Tauranga, had a tougher time of it, ending up in an unlucky ninth position, despite losing only one match during the tournament.
A first-up 2-1 loss to South Canterbury did the damage. They then beat Counties Manukau 6-0 and overcame Otago 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out after the scores were level 2-2 at full time.
Unfortunately, with less points awarded for shoot-out wins, they ended up third in their highly-competitive group, relegating them to the bottom section of the play-offs draw.
From there they registered three straight wins to finish on top of the lower section. They beat Taranaki 4-2, Southland 3-1 and NZ Defence Force 4-1.
Jesse Forsyth with eight field goals was their top scorer and finished equal top of the tournament standings. Pat O’Connor-Lea bagging four.