A gut-wrenching 4-1 loss to Auckland Football at Links Ave, Mount Maunganui on Sunday has ended WaiBOP Football's ASB Women's League campaign.
The two teams went into the final round knowing a win would secure either side the second Northern Conference semifinal spot and a trip to Christchurch this weekend to face Southern Conference winner Mainland Pride.
Both teams had chances in the first 45 minutes, with WaiBOP unable to convert any chances into goals.
Auckland's Rebecca Tegg continued her recent scoring form with a brace of goals on the way to the visitors' win, the first coming seconds before the interval. Hannah Kraakman extended the lead shortly after half time.
Although Jess Clark pulled the game back to 2-1, Auckland kicked clear late with Steph Skilton adding a third and Tegg grabbing her second eight minutes from time.
Auckland's win sees them in the semifinals for the first time since 2009.
WaiBOP Head Coach Peter Smith was disappointed, especially after the encouraging start his young charges had made in the league. "To have put ourselves in the position we did after the first three weeks and to let it slip in the manner we did was not the best," he said.
The result on Sunday sees WaiBOP finish the season with a two-wins, four losses record, with three of those four defeats coming in the last three rounds. Although Smith couldn't quite put his finger on why WaiBOP failed to kick on after their promising start, he did pinpoint the round four 1-2 loss to Northern-based NZF Under-17 as a turning point.
"That game knocked the stuffing out of us a wee bit. The players still had confidence in their ability and each other and continued to work hard at training and there was a good buzz in the squad, but that loss did take the wind out of our sails and it was tough then."
Losing left back Kylie Jens to an ACL injury in the round three win over Auckland and then goalkeeper Naomi-Beth Carter suffering a stress-fracture in the loss to the Under-17s were also setbacks.
WaiBOP did play better than they have the last couple of weeks but defensive frailties proved to be a problem. "The midfield controlled the ball for long periods and Kate Carlton, who played in a screening role, did well." Emma Baker and second half substitute Jess Clark also caught the eye.
Smith said the positives from the WaiBOP campaign were the number of quality young players involved in the squad and the development these young players received.
"Parents of the younger players have spoken to me about the effect the likes of Kate Carlton, Helen Collins and Kylie Jens have had on their daughters; they've inspired these young players, which is quite a powerful culture to create."
ASB Women's League Round 6 Results
Sunday, December 2
At Links Avenue, Mount Maunganui
Waikato-BOP 1 (Jess Clark 69')
Auckland 4 (Rebecca Tegg 45', 82'; Hannah Kraakman 48'; Steph Skilton 72')