With a solid season in their pockets and a win over their finals rivals, Rotorua Aces head into their women's Intercity Trophy hockey final knowing what works for them.
The Rotorua side will face their Bay of Plenty rivals Mount Maunganui - their first women's Intercity Trophy hockey final appearance - in a home final tomorrow. The two sides storm into the final after convincing wins over Hamilton sides last week. Mount Maunganui beat previously unbeaten Hamilton Old Girls' 5-2 while Aces thumped University 7-0.
The final will be played at Rotorua's Smallbone Park and Aces player, and former Black Stick, Lizzy Horlock says a home final is a massive asset.
"The output for these girls to travel is huge, so being at home is great. With the final, there has been no change to the approach. This group know each other well and they are well rehearsed in knowing what works for them," Horlock says.
The Aces have been solid throughout the season, with just two losses, and in the five games since the competition split in the first weekend of July, they have scored 22 goals and conceded just two.
Horlock says they have implemented a consistent message this season and their stinginess on defence has been a focus.
"It is about making sure we do the work off the ball, so when we have it the goals come easy. We try and keep it really simple and it is the hard work in between that gets us the goals. For our team, it is making sure every person in our team positively impacts on the game.
"We're doing a better job defending further up the field.
"There is a real development of play from back to front. The team is vibing at the moment. We know players are where they are going to be. There is that off the ball communication and there are a really good group of players that are turning up and wanting to play."
The last time both sides met may have resulted in a 2-1 win to Aces but Mount Maunganui coach Narayan Singh says his side is ready.
"They [Aces] are a different kettle of fish altogether. They play quite a different style to how we play. Last time we played them, we didn't back ourselves and were put under pressure. We have learned since then. They dictated how we were going to play. On Saturday we are going to make sure we show real intent to stick to our game plan," Singh says.
"The message is basically going to be that we have worked hard to create this opportunity and we have to go out and enjoy the way we play. We all work hard and we just have to make sure we settle the nerves."
Singh says their place in the final has come from a season of learning.
"We have maintained a fairly consistent performance, even when we were losing. We had a good core group and if we missed a couple we were not struggling. We did not have to bring in players too often."
Waikato Hockey Association chief executive Declan Wyndham-Smith is on the committee that runs the intercity competitions and says the women's final should be a good one to watch.
"At the top end of the competition it has been much more even this year. The top five women's teams were really even. The Mount are on the charge but the Aces take momentum into the final and they have a whole lot of talent and they play with an attacking flair. They will be very hard to beat at home."
The competition is three years into its current format and Wyndham-Smith says a lot of work has gone into it, with one of the highlights being the consistency of rules.
"It has been a competition in the past run by each association taking turns, and rules can change. The competition has definitely got a lot better.
"This year there has been a lot of goals scored and a lot of attacking hockey. It has been pretty exciting."
The men's final will also be played at Rotorua with Hamilton teams Collegians and University battle for the Intercity Cup.
"In the men's side, there were probably seven teams in contention throughout the season. The University team has around eight players that are originally from Bay of Plenty."
Intercity hockey finals:
When: Saturday, August 10.
Where: Smallbone Park, Rotorua.
Women's Intercity Trophy: Aces v Mount Maunganui - 2pm.
Men's Intercity Cup: Collegians v University - 3.30pm.