That is how Columba College coach Lauren Piebenga described her team’s season after they claimed fourth at the national secondary school championships in Auckland yesterday.
Columba lost 28-20 to St Mary’s College in the third and fourth playoff, but there was plenty to celebrate at the end of the week long tournament.
They became the first Otago team to finish in the top four, and the first from the Southern zone since 2007, and were one of only two South Island schools to make the top eight.
It capped off an incredible year for the Dunedin school, who won their first South Island secondary school title and won the Otago championships too.
"They certainly put their best foot forward in games this week against some pretty tough opposition," Piebenga said.
"It was a strong combination of 11 different players who really played with pride and determination from start to finish — just really proud of them as a group."
Columba finished the week with fours wins and three losses — two of which were to the eventual finalists — and fought hard against the North Island style.
The scores were tied with three minutes on the clock against champions Avondale and that performance gave them heart heading into their next game against Howick, who they beat 27-23.
"That gave us the belief that we could mix it with the big North Island teams, and taking that belief into the Howick game pushed us on to that top eight.
"We really found our flow when we played Howick.
"We certainly went in there as a bit of an underdog and took on the physical element of the game and came up with the win. That was a great one."
But Piebenga credited her team’s game strategy.
"We put together a fairly smart game and played to our strengths right across the whole court."
Avondale, former school of Silver Ferns shooting sensation Grace Nweke, were crowned champions after beating cross-town Auckland rivals Saint Kentigern 38-37 after mounting a comeback in the second half.
Shooter Priscilla Rasmussen — daughter of former netballer Rachel Rasmussen — starred, slotting 33 from 34 attempts for Avondale, winning their first title since 2002.
Howick (fifth), St Margaret’s (sixth), Mount Albert Grammar (seventh) and defending champions Hamilton Girls’ (eighth) rounded out the top eight.