The Hawkes Bay Under-17 netball team will play for ninth to 12th positions at the age-group nationals in Palmerston North today.
The Bay, who play North Otago at 9.20am, lost 42-25 to Howick Pakuranga in their top 16 cross-over match yesterday morning.
They started tentatively against a strong and aerial Howick Pakuranga but then found rhythm, with Liana Mikaele-Tu'u and Imke Kitchin converting in the goal circle, to be only down by two points after the first quarter.
Their opponents put the pressure on in the second quarter, limiting the Bay to one goal. Defensively the Bay worked well but couldn't break Howick Pakuranga's defence who dictated space.
Re-grouping after halftime, the Bay came back to take the third quarter 8-6 but Howick Pakuranga upped the tempo in the final quarter.
Defender Valentine Kahukura was a standout for the Bay, with Ashleigh Poi, Jaimee Tapine and Asher Grapes applying pressure outside the circle.
"While we are very disappointed to not be in the top eight, we'll regroup and come back strong to aim for ninth position," said Bay coach Lee-Anne Taylor.
"Howick put us under a lot of pressure with a swarming defensive style that we don't come up against in our region or zone. For some of our players this is their first experience of it and I know we'll be stronger for it," Taylor said.
The Bay bounced back in the afternoon to thump Eastern Waikato 51-30 in the quarter-final.
While it took a while to dominate the game, Janayah Lewis and Kitchin were unstoppable, helping the Bay to outscore them 7-1 and lead 14-7 at the break.
The Bay shut down their attacking options with Grapes and Tapine working ahead of Kahukura and Tabitha Coddington. Turnover ball was fed to Parris Petera and Grapes who linked well with their shooters for a 31-13 half time lead.
The injection of Mikaele-Tu'u and Maddison Kaye at goal attack and wing attack respectively in the final quarter saw the ball flow down the court to Kitchin who converted at 90 per cent range.
Assistant coach Rebecca Martin said: "It was great to see the cohesion on attack that was lacking in the previous game. Their ability to turn and have strong driving options improved our decision making."
Martin, a circle defence specialist coach, was proud of all players, especially Kahukura who not only covered her opponents but also hung out for intercepts.
"Valentine and our defensive circle have been very consistent and it's great to see them get the turnover ball for our team," she said.