The Challenge Matamata Swifts Ladies team has an unassailable lead at the top of the Waikato C division and have successfully ensured that they would be bringing silverware back to the club. With one game now left to play they are undefeated in the league, having drawn just one game, and are also in the semi-finals of the Waikato Plate which they are hoping to defend after their success in this competition in 2013.
After a run of 10 matches which had seen them with 9 wins and a draw, the Swift’s Ladies faced consecutive home matches against the only 2 teams who could overtake them at the top spot in the league. In the first match, against second placed Te Awamutu, they were also facing the only side who they had failed to beat in the first round (a 2-2 draw away from home). Matamata started the stronger and quickly put themselves ahead through goals to Sarah Coppard (who currently leads the goal scoring charts for the club) and Annemieke Verstraten (just 4 goals behind). Te Awamutu came back strongly in the second, pulling a goal back to make it a tense finish. The Swifts, however, held on to score a crucial victory.
This win meant that their next match against Melville (who had leapfrogged Te Awamutu into second place), gave the ladies a chance to secure promotion with a victory. It was a scrappy start from Matamata as injuries and other commitments meant that there was a significant reshuffle in the side. Melville dominated the opening 25 minutes and it was only in the later stages of the half that the home side began to gel.
With the scores still level and the first half under their belts, however, the Swift’s Ladies came out a lot stronger in the second half, playing the possession football that has typified their season this year. With possession came a host of opportunities and it was A. Verstraten who broke the deadlock with a goal midway through the half. It looked like this might open the dam, but just minutes an unlucky bounce in the box saw Melville awarded a penalty. However Ana Paterson in goal saved the spot kick to retain Matamata’s advantage and then produced a string of saves which belied the fact that this is her first year between the sticks.
The 1-0 victory was enough to ensure the Swift’s Ladies would take top spot in the league. This season they have played some excellent football having continued to improve after a tough but educational experience in the Waikato B league last year. The core of the side returned this year and with a few additions this team has had an incredibly successful season. Chloe Verstraten was given the captaincy this year and has performed admirably, while Gemma Sliz continued as player-manager and Jonathan Crook as long-suffering coach.
The Ladies team would also like to put out a massive thank you to all the club sponsors, but in particular to the team’s sponsor – Challenge Matamata. Challenge have always been a key supporter of Ladies football in Matamata and immediately put up their hand when there was talk of the side reforming last year. The Ladies are a young side and, amongst other support, Challenge help keep the club van rolling – a common site around town – vital for getting all the club’s sides to their away games.