The Canterbury United Futsal Pride were in Wellington from the 14th-16th February, defending their National SuperLeague Futsal title. This year, the squad of 14 consisted of four current Waimak United players; Sophie Williams, Madi Silcock, Macey Fraser, and Lily Fisher, along with 3 former North Canterbury players; Tahlia Herman-Watt, Hannah Hegarty, and Rebecca Lake, and the non-travelling reserve, Freya Lodge-Whitham was also a Waimak United player. An incredible feat for the district, which is also home to a lot of female football talent.
First up for the Pride, were last year's beaten finalist, Capital. The large and vocal home crowd were quickly silenced by the fast start by the Pride, with Williams and Herman-Watt scoring early goals. Capital did however get themselves back in the game, scoring one of their own. Serena Patel and Fraser scored a goal each, allowing the Pride to go into halftime with a healthy 4-1 lead. In the second period the Pride again started strongly with two goals to Britney Lee Nicholson. This forced Capital to go to the 5th man tactic, which was very successful for them, as they scored three goals consecutive goals, before Patel sealed the match, 7-4 for the Pride.
Their round two opponent was Central Futsal. The Pride were dominant throughout the match, winning 10-3. Goals to Nicholson (2), Herman Watt (2), Patel (2), Fraser, Lake, Williams, and Alyssa Whinham.
The first game of day two was against Waikato-Bay of Plenty, who had struggled on the first day. The Pride inflicted more pain getting up 6-0 by half time and reaching double figures to win 10-0, by the end of the match. Patel picked up a hattrick, with Fraser and Lake getting two a piece, Silcock and Frankie Morrow also found the back of the net for the first time in the tournament.
Next up for the Pride was Northern Futsal. The Pride continued their high scoring run winning 7-1. Goals to Fraser (2), Fisher, Whinham, Herman-Watt, and Nicola Dominikovich, along with an own goal.
The final match of the round robin, was against a Futsal Fern stacked Auckland team. The match was a dead rubber essentially with both sides already having qualified for the afternoon’s final. The Pride clearly wanted to go into the final with momentum and continued their high intensity, high pressing game, and took a three goal advantage early with goals to Dominikovich, Herman-Watt, and Fraser. Auckland pegged one back before halftime. In the second half Auckland continued to sit back defend, and the Pride finished off the match with a goal from Patel, to win 4-1.
The final saw the Pride continue with their risk and reward style of game, full of flare, and fast combinations, but it was Auckland who scored first. The Pride were able to find the back of the net before half time through Patel. In the second half, the intensity lifted again, although the Pride were suffering a little from a lack of clinical finishing, despite dominating the possession for long periods of time. They did score first in the second period with a goal to Nicholson and held a 2-1 lead for some time, before Auckland hit back with two goals of their own, as the match see sawed back to 3-2 and advantage Auckland. More pressure from the Canterbury girls forced an own goal, and the final was tied up 3-3, and the crowd sitting on edge. However it was Auckland who would find the winning goal, and take the title 4-3.
It was a tremendous exhibition of national level women’s futsal, and the Canterbury girls should be proud of their effort. Their style of futsal was very entertaining throughout the tournament. Patel also won the Golden Boot, and MVP of the tournament, demonstrating just how dominant they had been, despite falling at the final hurdle. No team has ever defended a title, and the Canterbury girls will no doubt be out to ensure Auckland don’t next year either.