IT may not be the grand final fairytale he was hoping for, but Orange Ex-Services coach Mitch Kennewell is more than satisfied with his side’s 2013 campaign.
The Orange outfit suffered a 3-nil loss to Lithgow Panthers in the Premier League final on Saturday, ending their season one game shy of the decider.
Instead, Panthers will travel to Bathurst to face St Pat’s, the side who defeated them 3-2 last weekend to earn the right to host the grand final.
While Kennewell is disappointed he won’t be travelling down the Mitchell Highway for a shot at the title, he can’t fault his squad’s effort.
“At certain stages the girls have had a pretty rough trot this year,” Kennewell said, pointing out player departures due to injury and pregnancy.
“There was also a change in coach when I came on the scene halfway through the season, which is not ideal either.
“But the girls have adapted well no matter what’s been thrown at them.
“They’ve played some great hockey and I’m really happy with their achievements.”
The mentor was so impressed by what he’s seen he’s predicting higher honours in the years ahead.
“We can beat any side in the competition,” he said, predicting a crack at premiership glory is on the cards for 2014.
“At times we’ve lacked consistency, but I’ve seen their best often enough to know it’s good enough to beat the best.”
Unfortunately for Ex-Services, it wasn’t on display in Lithgow on Saturday.
Conceding two goals in the first 15 minutes placed almost unbearable pressure on the Orange side, and the third and decisive strike just after the half-time interval all but buried their chances of progression.
Kennewell conceded his side weren’t at their best in the final.
“We just couldn’t get in the groove,” he said.
“We needed to play like we did last week [winning 2-1 against Bathurst Souths], but we were just a bit overwhelmed unfortunately.
“We didn’t really handle the pressure.”
The coach couldn’t split Panthers and St Pat’s in this Saturday’s decider, but believes Panthers’ recent drop in form and results may prove to be the wake up call the minor premiers needed.
LITHGOW PANTHERS 3 (Abby Wilson, Amanda Saladine, Breanna Pyne goals) def ORANGE EX-SERVICES 0.