Iona College have created double history in becoming the first Hawke's Bay secondary school to become the best senior schoolgirls' hockey team in New Zealand after winning their maiden crown.
The Arabella Sheild-captained Iona College side overwhelmed the Rileigh Knapp-skippered Napier Girls' High School 4-0 in the all-Bay Aon Federation Cup, run in tandem with the Marie Fry Trophy, final in Whangarei this afternoon.
Sobbing for joy, Sheild lauded NGHS and third-placed Christchurch Girls' High School for providing Iona stiff challenges in the past five years she was involved in the 32-team tourney.
The grinning captain also thanked her coaching and management staff for persevering with the Iona team and appreciating the purposeful lunchtime training and one-hour gym sessions on Monday nights which she had "hated" at the time but had now come to the realisation of its worth.
For Sheild it was the camaraderie with her teammates that had kept the fire burning in hockey.
"You guys have created a legacy to put Iona College on the map so you should all be proud of yourselves.
"An to the ones who are leaving, I love you guys so much and you are truly the best sisters ... and I'm going to miss you because you're the reason why I play hockey so thank you for making it a dream come true," said Sheild, wiping away tears as she walked off to applause from the three teams on the podium before hugging a couple of teammates and receiving the silverware.
The integrated school from Havelock North went up 3-0 in the space of 10 minutes before adding another goal at Kensington Hockey Turf to zap the energy out of NGHS who created their best chance to score when 3-0 down late in the game after Kaitlin Cotter slipped a pass through to sister Hannah but to no avail.
Iona College striker Olivia Shannon scored a hattrick of goals, the third one coming from a reverse-stick with four minutes left in the game, before dropping back to fullback to show her diverse skills to help shore up a formidable defence, with goal keeper Gabriella Luscombe, that frustrated NGHS.
Centre forward Bella Greig scored the remaining goal.
Hockey New Zealand had attempted to cover the game via livestreaming but fans, much to their despair, had encountered technical difficulties before catching snippets of the highlights.
However, NGHS team manager Conrad Knapp begged to differ on the livestream commentary team's assessment of the game, including a remark that their team "didn't deserve to be in the final".
"We didn't convert but they [Iona] certainly didn't overwhelm us," Knapp said.
He said NGHS admired Iona College's accomplishment and the victors were the better side but the losing finalists deserved better than what any media coverage suggested.
Iona had beaten Christchurch Girls' High 2-1 in their semifinal while NGHS had to toil a little harder in beating Villa Maria College (Christchurch ) in a "drop off" after the sides were locked 1-1 in regulation time.
A drop off is when teams lose a player from each side in predicted times until one scores.
The Bay schoolgirl teams had come through their four-team pools undefeated after three games and, while the result was a yawning one in the final and that drop-off semifinal may have had an impact on NGHS, the finalists showed the depth and strength of not only emerging hockey in the Bay but also the Central Districts catchment area.
Iona, who Jonathan Heaphy coaches with the assistance of Hallie Sullivan, had thrashed St Margaret's College 5-1 in their quarterfinal while NGHS beat Rangi Ruru Girls' School 2-0.
Shannon finished the tourney as the cup individual top goal scorer with 16 goals.
The 17-year-old boarder from Feilding, who has ambitions to become a Black Stick, is in the Central age-group team which retained their Vantage National U18 girls' (regional) tournament title in Dunedin in July. Cotter also among several other Bay players in the Central conquests with Shannon.
Rileigh Knapp congratulated Iona.
"We play you girls quite a lot at home so we kind of thought we'd make the game a lot closer but you girls have had an awesome season so you were quite outstanding out there," she said, echoing sentiments of Sheild that without the organisers' selflessness and sponsors' generosity there would be no competition.
"I can't wait to be back next year with all of you girls," the captain said, thanking the NGHS coaching and management stable.
Havelock North High School finished in 27th place.