Wanganui representative netball teams made a strong start in round one of the Wellington age group competition in Masterton at the weekend.
Wanganui's U17 side had their first outing at the Marjorie Jenden annual tournament and although they had only four players from last year's team, combined nicely on the court.
Coach Lisa Murphy was pleased with the team's first tournament which saw them finish third overall out of 11 teams, while U15 coach Parekura Muraahi was delighted to finish fifth in the grade, improving on last year's eighth.
Wanganui's U17's played Wellington Gold winning 33-17, Wairarapa 40-13, Nelson 26-23 and Kapati 29-19 on Saturday.
They then played Kapi Mana on Sunday morning in the last of the pool play, going down 28-22 in a physical game with a very vocal crowd supporting Kapi Mana.
This put Wanganui in the top four with Kapi Mana in their pool and Manawatu and Wellington Black in the other pool.
Wanganui then faced Wellington Black, who were unbeaten, in the semifinal.
The majority of the players in the champion side came from the successful Wellington East College team who got through to the semifinals of the College League and St Marys team who went to round two.
Murphy said her team played well in patches, but they needed to take care of the turnover ball they gained.
Wanganui went down 24-13 to Wellington Black, which meant they played Kapi Mana again for 3rd/4th placing as Kapi Mana lost to Manawatu in the other semifinal.
Having already played Kapi Mana, Wanganui went into the game more prepared for the vocal crowd and physicality of the game.
The team worked tirelessly together gaining some important turnover ball and capitalised by finishing off in the shooting circle winning 21-19.
Kelera Kuruyabaki was Wanganui's star with some great rebounds and intercepts which gained her a spot in the U17 tournament team.
The U17 team's next outing is Sunday, June 15 in Palmerston North at the Steffenson Cup tournament where Netball Wanganui has five other teams playing - U17 dev, U15, U15 dev, Y8 and Y7.
The U15 team started strongly with wins against Wellington Gold 25-23, Hawke's Bay Development 23-13 and Wairarapa 36-17.
The team's only loss of day one came at the hands of a well-oiled machine, defending champions Wellington Black, who went on to win the grade again.
Muraahi was optimistic about the team's 12-38 loss, noting that five of the Wellington Black squad are members of teams that played in the College Netball Competition from March to May with games televised as curtain-raisers to ANZ Netball matches.
"To compete against players with this level of experience is a huge step up for our girls," Muraahi said.
Day two saw the team lose their final game of pool play 26-30 in a tightly contested match against Nelson to finish third in Pool A.
A crossover semifinal against Pool B's fourth placed Hawke's Bay produced another close encounter that went Wanganui's way 23-19.
This set up an intense re-match against Wellington Gold in the finals play-off with Wanganui victorious 22-18 to finish fifth, a pleasing improvement on last year's eighth place.