The Bay of Plenty women's squash team have earned their third consecutive national title.
The team included Tauranga players Lauren Clarke and Joanna Shanks, Rotorua's Alana Kairaoi, Camden Te Kani-McQueen and Taupo player Vicki Beker. Katikati's Katie Templeton travelled with the team and was supposed to play, but broke her hand the day before the tournament, which was held in Christchurch earlier this month.
After beating Eastern District 4-0 and Central District 3-1 in pool play, the Bay took on Auckland and were down 2-1, needing Clarke to win in straight sets to keep their title hopes alive. Clarke delivered and it set up a final showdown with Waikato. In the end it was Bay of Plenty who swept up, beating Waikato 4-0 to claim the title.
Team manager and coach Cheryl Te Kani-McQueen played on the winning Bay team in 1981, which prior to the current three-year run was the last time the Bay had won the title.
"We took the cup down, we wanted to take it home," Cheryl says.
"We did all our preparation, we did the little things like made sure we were at games early and stayed on top of our hydration.
"We have depth in the team and this year our top three players were A1 grade. It takes a lot of hard work to get to that level and then they have peaked at the right time."
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Amanda Landers-Murphy had played for the Bay the previous two years but was unable to play at this year's tournament.
"The girls have been training continuously. In the off season it is the fitness and then they get straight into their competitive season. They didn't take anybody for granted and every point counted.
"They were geeing each other up and saying things like 'one rally at a time'. You get players that you would not expect to win play a dream match and that is because they cheer each other on."
Clarke says it is great to play at the new eight-court Christchurch Squash Club and she thrived in the team environment.
"We have a good team that support each other really well. I felt like I played quite well, I play better when I am playing for someone other than myself. When you put that Bay shirt on that is what it is like.
"We do have a laugh and support each other, if you don't find the balance people feel like they have pressure on them. We have built on that a lot and one of the things is don't take it [feedback] personally, we are just there to help."
The Bay men's team also competed in Christchurch, placing fourth. Squash Bay of Plenty regional manager Marcus Niles says the women's team win is a fantastic achievement.
"It is the pinnacle of teams events and it is the kind of thing all the regions hang their hat on. It is a real pathway for our young players for that elite young players it is a really important part of it," Niles says.
"It was great to have nine districts there and the strength of women's squash is really good in this country."
Part of the pathway is the club Superchamps finals which will be held around the country from September 25.
"That is the pinnacle for most club players and all the inter-district players come through Superchamps. It steels them in team events for that level."
Bay of Plenty women's squash team:
Camden Te Kani-McQueen
Coach/manager: Cheryl Te Kani-McQueen