24 February 2010
Taranaki's premier tennis competition reaches its regular season conclusion this weekend. Fittingly the draw has designated the 1st placed team will play the 2nd placed team; the 3rd placed team will play the 4th placed team; and the 5th placed team will play the 6th placed team.
AWE Huatoki will host first placed Sanfords Manaia at the Huatoki courts in New Plymouth on Saturday. Unfortunately this match may not quite live up to all the expectations of a top of the table clash for the reason that neither side will be full-strength. Huatoki will be without their top man Jonathan Ussher, while Alice Caskey and Janice Taylor will also be absent from their regular team. For Manaia, two regular teenagers Maree Gopperth and Grace Kelly will also be representing Taranaki in the Junior Quadrangular tournament taking place over the weekend. Despite these setbacks one will still see a match with playoff intensity as there still remains plenty on the line for the winner.
The No.1 men's match looks set to be Amrit Rai against Cameron Koch. These players have never met before in singles although they have been team-mates this season in the Senior Taranaki rep team and so should provide for some frenetic action. The No. 2 men's match should see Huatokiís David Geange play either Jordan Fleming or Jason Mills.
In the women's singles, Huatoki's No.1 will likely play Taranakiís No.1 lady Nicole Koch. Chris Wilson will play either Ginny Death or Sarah Kelly in the No.2 women's match.
Manaia appear to have held up the better of the two sides in terms of availability for this tie, however Huatoki will be buoyed by their home court advantage. Whether this result will act as a precursor to what materialises in the playoffs later on is open to debate, but whoever wins this tie will not only secure top spot, ensuring a potential home final, but will also strike a not insignificant psychological blow.
Central Finance Rotokare will meet Hareb Deken Oakura at the Rotokare courts in New Plymouth on Saturday. Rotokare beat Oakura 9-7 away from home the last time the two sides met in horrendous conditions. This tie looks set to be even closer as the stakes are raised. Oakura sit in third place in 92 points, seven points behind Huatoki and thus can theoretically overtake them with a convincing victory on Saturday. Rotokare (87 points) on the other hand can overtake Oakura to move into third place with a victory margin of four matches or more.
The No.1 men's match will likely be Rotokare's Blair Crowley against Graham Mitchell- Mitchell will be the favourite in this tie. John Hardie Boys will play either Malcolm Elder or Blair Crowley in the No.2 men's match, with Hardie Boys also favoured.
Rotokare's captain Catherine Stevenson will play Sue Oldfield in the top ladies match which should be a feature of this tie. Stevenson won the last match between the pair in three close sets 3-6 6-3 7-6. Karen Cranston will likely play Becky Bruckner in the No.2 ladies match. Cranston won the previous match against Bruckner in straight sets and will be a tough assignment yet again for her Oakura nemesis.
Tariki Icon Sports Pukekura play host to Stumble Inn Waiwaka on Saturday. Although this match will be a dead rubber in regards to clamouring for top four spots, the two sides will meet again in two weeks to decide fifth and sixth place, so this tie will decide who gains home advantage for that match. The previous meeting between these two teams was rained out so there is still plenty on offer this weekend.
Pukekura will be without Callum Old this weekend due to his participation in the Junior Quadrangular, and so will be sweating on the availability of their top man Mike Fleming. If Fleming plays, he will meet Waiwaka's Mike Lace. Dennis Reid will then play David Lace at No.2 in the battle between two wily foxes.
Thereafter Pukekura will likely call upon Jamie Reid and Randall Croon to make up their four men as Meto Snegirev also looks to be unavailable. Reid and Croon will play either Simon Momich or Michael Lloyd and Ngana Nicholas.
Linda Reid will play Krystal Oakes in the top ladies match. Reid and Oakes have an even head-to-head record and should be another close match. Kirsten Adam will play Michelle Lace in the No. 2 match, where both players bring very consistent games to the fore. The remaining matches will likely see Pukekura's Donna Thorne and Jeanette Harding play against Jaydn Bruce and Melissa Wong respectively.