16 Feb 2017
With only three weeks left of competition in the Soffe Cup, clubs are putting their top teams on the court in in an attempt to acquire the best possible position for the semi finals.
Current leaders, Pukekura, travel down to Okaiawa/Manaia with probably their strongest line-up all season. The Pukekura women of Louise Waite, Nikayla Barnard, Kirsten Adam and Linda Reid shouldn't be troubled to pick up all of the singles and doubles matches against Carolyn Jackson, Lauren Mekalick, Georgia Jackson and Jaimee Baylis. Pukekura's men's line-up is equally strong but probably won't have it all their own way. Caleb Fleming takes on Hamish Mead in the No.1 spot and Fleming should have the victory. David Barnard plays Mark Laurence and Barnard will be looking to match his last result against Laurence of a three set victory. Andrew Hood takes on Terry Lee, making his debut for the season. Whilst Lee is higher ranked, his lack of recent match play may count against him. Sasha Milentijevic-Vague settles in at No.4 for Pukekura and will play Vince Baylis. These two are evenly matched but Baylis has experience and home court advantage to play in his favour. At the end of the day, expect Pukekura to come away from their trip south with a big win.
Competition runners-up, Huatoki, will be looking to bounce back from a loss to Pukekura last week when they travel a short distance to third-placed Oakura. In the men's matches, Huatoki again has the services of New Zealand's no.1 junior in Ajeet Rai, who will be untroubled against Jaime Simpson. Huatoki no.2 Jayden Harrison will play Oakura's Brady Simpson and Harrison should have the edge. Oakura should come back in the bottom half of the order with Graeme Mitchell and Matt Stringer too good for Alistair Nairn and Kristian Revfeim. Huatoki have a slighter weaker ladies line-up than normal but Oakura's line-up appears to be struggling even further. Huatoki's Tracey Old, Chris Wilson, Lorraine Heerdegen and Jae Wilson should overpower Anne Bridges, Ana Spurdle, Chris Davies and an unnamed fourth player. Huatoki should post a comfortable win to see them maintain second place on the table and assure a home semi-final.
Pihama have managed to gain fourth spot in the competition and they will be vigorously defending that spot when they have to travel to Rotokare. Pihama's strength is in their men's line-up of Jordan Fleming, Beauden Fleming, James Padilla and Patrick Stevenson and they have the added bonus of being able to drop the bottom two singles players and replace them with Grant Gopperth and Rob Haveswood for the doubles events. Rotokare will try to match them with Kyle Crowley, Shane Devlin, Buzz Campbell and Ben Fitzgibbons. Pihama's ladies line-up isn't as strong and consists of another Wanganui import in the form of Gabrielle Hiri together with Maree Gopperth, Grace Kelly and an as yet to be named fourth player. Rotokare will have regular's Chantelle Peters, Tania Atkinson, Brittaney Carr and Julie Foley and they will be hopeful rather than confident of picking up the majority of victories. Pihama's greater strength in the males should see them come out overall winners.