There looks to be big things on the horizon for Orange High School after the Tegan Dray-coached side claimed a top four finish at this year’s NSW Combined High Schools Knockout for the second consecutive year.
The Hornets missed the state finals in 2016 but returned last year with a bang, finishing fourth despite boasting one of the younger sides in the final 16.
The Hornets were still on the younger side of the ledger this year, with just two year 12s, the returning players’ experience served them well as they once again finished fourth, winning through the pool stage and then the quarter-finals too.
“We only had two year 12s last year as well, you never know what’s going to happen year-to-year and whether the players will step up again but they certainly did this year, they always seem to,” Dray explained.
“It’s great to see the depth we’ve got too with our under 15s finishing ninth earlier in the year. These results do bode well but, as I said, you never know what’ll happen year-to-year. We’re stoked though, and there’s good signs for sure.”
After winning the Western region title, Orange High won five of seven games in the finals day’s group stage last week, finishing as the third ranked side across the two pools.
“We lost to The Hills Sports High and Elderslie as well, and that put us up against Terrigal (in the quarter-final) first thing the next day,” Dray explained.
The Hornets came from behind to win that game, flipping a four-goal deficit at the final break into a two-goal, 32-30 victory.
“It was a pretty tight game all the way through,” Dray said.
“We were down by four going into the last quarter then we pegged one back, it was just cool heads under pressure that got us through, when the final whistle went we a bit shell-shocked that we’d managed to get through to the top four again.”
Orange High faced The Hills again in the semi-final, but went down in a hard-fought affair before being beaten 28-24 by Elderslie in the third-place play-off.
“They had their chances for third but they’re still stoked with finishing fourth. It’s a bit of could’ve, should’ve, would’ve really, but it’s still a massive achievement. They put in a really solid performance, every one of them,” Dray explained.
Only Milika Tuinakauvadra and Mariah Robinson will finish their stints with Orange High after the fourth-place finish, and Dray commended the pair for the leadership roles they assumed during 2018.
“I’ve had both of them for a little while now so it is sad to see them finish up at Orange High, but they’ve been excellent role models for the younger players,” Dray said.
“That’s what it’s about from a team perspective, having such great relationships within the team and we’re really, really lucky they have such a strong bond because the stronger that is the better you play.
“It’s been really nice to have players from year eight all the way through to year 12, and see the way they’ve blossomed in that kind of environment because they do get so much out of it, that they can bring back here.
“It was an awesome way to finish off the season, I’m very happy.”