The 16s National Junior Teams event was held in Christchurch at the start of the month, and Otago player Ilana Goossens was one of the members of the Southern Team. Here is her report from the event:
The start of 2017 was very exciting. After many months of training, hard work and dedication, I was able to go to the 2017 16U age group nationals and was lucky to be selected to represent the Southern Team in the 16U National Teams Event held in Christchurch 2-10 January 2017.
It was absolutely incredible to see how well developed other boys and girls my age are in tennis. I could tell how much work had gone into their every stroke. The agility, strength and speed they had, was a definite eye-opener, not to mention the awesome fair play and good sportsmanship that was displayed on the court. Seeing players like these at tournaments is a very good motivator for us to keep working as hard as we can to achieve personal goals in tennis. I met many new people and made new friends through this experience and I will never regret taking this opportunity.
Only 2 Dunedin players tried their luck in the junior Nationals for 16U: Lachlan Kenneally and myself. We were joined by Zane Gray who played mixed doubles with me until he badly rolled his ankle. Having to face Gemma Cliff (S5) in the qualification proved a bit too hard, but the experience was awesome.
In the Tier 3 event (for those that did not qualify for the 32 Main Draw) I just missed out by 2 points in a tie breaker against the eventual winner, Vita McDouall. I made up for this by winning convincingly from another similar ranked player, Courtney Hunter, cheered on by Southern Team mates, Lachlan, Kimberley Heads (Southland) and George McAleer (South Canterbury).
On Friday 6 January, the other members of the Southern Team had arrived: Annabelle Alloo and Manawa Rakete-Shea . Our team was reduced to 3 girls and 3 boys due to injuries and late withdrawals. It was very disappointing that we were missing our best boys and girls players from the Southern Region; therefore Manawa and I had to play in the #1 positions for our team.
Even though we all played our best tennis ever, the only win during the event came from George McAleer. But the teams event was definitely the highlight of my time in Christchurch. I was given the opportunity to play against some of the best players in the country (S2s and S3s), which was an unforgettable experience. The team spirit from the Southern team was great and many of us pushed on through tougher matches with our heads held high, knowing we were there to learn. In addition we were able to build new friendships with people not only from our own team but also from other teams.
A very special thanks to our coach Libby Scott, manager Jenny Alloo, and our supporters on the sideline: the Heads family, the McAleer family, the Kenneally family and my dad, who were there to support, advise and give us some comfort and a smile when things didn’t go as we hoped for.
For most of us this was the first and the last chance to play the National Junior Teams Event and although we all gave our best and still ended last, in the end we all agreed that the experience to play at this level and learn so much in such a short time has proven to be priceless.