The Waitakere Blue Diamonds have won their first national women’s title since 1993, and their first-ever NZWPNL win, 8-7 over double defending champs Marist Magic.
The double defending champions Marist Magic were the first on the board in the final through Samantha Fraser, and she’d be the only player to score in the opening period.
Grace Tobin took a confident shot from the wing in six on five; catching the near post before the ball spiraled across the goal line for the Blue Diamonds’ first goal of the game. Marist Magic responded in the next possession; a one-two between Fraser and Emma Stoneman allowed Fraser to score her second goal of the final and head back into the lead 2-1.
Magic made the gap two when they earned a man-up, Snelgar drew a defender to the wing and Stoneman became free right in front of the cage, allowing her to pop the ball into the back of the net.
A poor pass allowed Laura Zuniga to head down the pool on a counter, lobbing the ball over Magic goalkeeper Jessica Milicich to keep in touch with the Magic leading by one.
With the clock winding down in the second quarter, Emma Stoneman had a counter attack and under time pressure got the ball away but hit the bar, then the rebound was collected by Ricci Ferigo in front of the cage and she pushed it past Blue Diamonds goalkeeper Chantelle Conroy for 4-2 at the half.
The Blue Diamonds dug deep in the third quarter, that started with a six-on-five goal to young gun Libby Alsemgeest in the middle after a pass in from Emmerson Houghton. They’d eventually score another three goals (Emmerson Houghton 2, Zuniga) to Magic’s two (Nicole Lewis, Tate Renata) to take the score to 6-6 heading into the last quarter.
A pivotal play in the final quarter saw Zuniga do it all by herself, intercepting a pass and, like she had done in the second quarter, lobbed it over Milicich to take the lead 7-6 with four minutes left on the clock.
Another crucial moment of the match was when Houghton was excluded, earning the Magic a six-on-five. Klein took a lob from the wing that rebounded off the crossbar and Ferigo got her fingers to it but couldn’t make it to the net, Klein lunged for the ball and was held by Zuniga and so Marist earned another kick out. A quick one-two between Nicole Lewis and Klein allowed her to skip the ball across the face of the net to draw level 7-7 with two minutes to play.
Down the other end, the Blue Diamonds showed their colours when Laura Zuniga pulled up and again lobbed Milicich to take the game-winning goal at 1:48.
Congratulations to Emmerson Houghton who was named MVP.
This story originally appeared on New Zealand Water Polo