Silver linings playbook: Gutsy Orange falls just short of state championship goal | Photos

Although her side fell just short of claiming the Hockey NSW Under 13s Girls’ Indoor State Championship, going down to a powerful Port Macquarie-Hastings outfit in the final, Orange coach Annie Pakinga couldn’t fault her troops’ effort.

Monday’s decider pitted division two’s only undefeated sides against one another and Port just proved too classy at Orange’s Sir Neville Howse Stadium, the north coast side securing a 3-1 victory and with it the gold medal.

Evie Wignall scored a double for the visitors while Maddie Drewitt was easily best on court, she found the back of the net too while Kelsie Whyte scored Orange’s lone goal.

“It’s disappointing to lose the final but I’m really proud of the girls, they’ve worked so hard and there’s no shame losing to that Port Macquarie-Hastings side,” Pakinga said.

“We went undefeated the whole way through so it was unfortunate we couldn’t get there in the last game, but the girls did everything they could and that’s all you can ever ask.”

There was plenty to like about the campaign despite the loss, Pakinga said. She’s sure the recent interest boom in the sport will continue now, while a number of the Orange side pressed their claims for state selection too.

None more so that Whyte.

Playing with Orange because her hometown of Lithgow didn’t enter a side, Whyte was outstanding for the entire tournament.

“She’s just unbelievable when she’s got the ball,” Pakinga said.

“Everyone played so well though, so we might have a few chances.”

Monday’s final started at a frenetic pace, Port enjoying the better of the opening exchanges.

The visitors blasted a chance across the face early, but Drewitt opened the scoring not long after from a corner.

The visitors’ defence was excellent, only affording Orange one genuine scoring opportunity in the opening half, which Kiana Pakinga sent just wide.

Wignall scored her first in the back end of the opening half, giving her side a 2-0 lead which it took into the break.

“At half-time I told the girls to try and slow it down, they were a bit rattled because Port had come out so fast, so strong and so hard,” Annie Pakinga said.

“We needed to concentrate on playing our game, which they did in the second half, they played really well it just wasn’t quite enough.”

Orange pegged one back early in the second half, through Whyte, before a Wignall shot from a fast break missed by mere centimetres.

She made no mistake a minute later, tapping in and giving Port an ultimately match-winning 3-1 lead.

“The girls travelled a long way to play here and we lose most of them next year so it’s a great result for them,” Port coach Rob Walker said.

“Undefeated the whole way, we did have to work hard for it but the girls just played so well as a group, we couldn’t be prouder.

“I couldn’t fault anybody, the whole team was fantastic from the goalkeeper right up the strikers.”

In the preliminary stages Orange defeated Tamworth (8-0), Sydney South (8-2), Dubbo (4-1), Grafton (7-0) and then Southern Highlands (4-0) in the semi-final.

Orange’s division three campaign also came to an end on Monday. Made up of predominantly under 12s players, Orange finished fifth in pool B with one win from its five games – that victory came against Southern Highlands (2-0).

The side drew 1-all with Parkes in the ninth-place play-off, and was beaten 2-1 by Southern Highlands after that in the 10th place consolation.

“I don’t think the scorelines reflected how the division three girls played, every time they took the court they improved so it’s a really awesome result there,” Pakinga said.

Orange will once again host the under 13s state titles in 2018.

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