During the weekend of May 9 & 10, Freezone Pandas joined a couple of other Freezone teams in the journey North to Newcastle for the second round of the SVNSW 2015 State Cup series. FZ Pandas were competing in the Men’s Division 2, and was made up up of both some old pandas and some new additions. Most of the team members had been busy training for a few weeks together on Wednesday nights at the Freezone squad training sessions.
It was with some nervous enthusiasm that the team arrived at the Newcastle basketball stadium just after lunch on the Saturday. We were able to see FZ Pistons play a great Div 1 game, and cheer FZ Phoenix in their games as well. There were 4 first timers in our team of 8 who were new to the State Cup experience. It was exciting to see 5 courts and many top teams in action for the rest of the afternoon before we eventually got to play our first matches of the day at 4pm and then 5pm. FZ Pandas competed strongly in both matches, against UTS & Newcastle. The scores may not have reflected a win, but FZ Pandas took it up to them, and forcing both teams to fight it out for the win. Mitch Mac was hitting strongly in the first match from the outside position, strongly supported by Mala as the Middle hitter and star blocker. Our setters Khit & Yumi were supplying the balls well in the second match to JM in the outside position and his athletic leaping was winning points and keeping the games alive. He was supported by the middle blocking and hitting of big Willy. We were able to keep the middle players refreshed by subbing in Cameron for both Mark and Willy.
It was a strong Division 2 with six teams competing in 2 pool and after a late finish of 615pm on the Saturday, it was time to find our accommodation and get some dinner at the Tillgerry RSL club. There was no chance for any late night drinking or fun, because it would be an early start on Sunday, as our first cross over matches were at 8am and 10am. In the first game FZ Pandas were able to almost take a game off of the Blue Bees team with a score of 23-25 in the first game. We had Offie now joining our team as setter, supported by Khit and Yumi in the universal position. There was some great defending from all players with Mitch Mac diving all over the court, and Mala blocking like a boss in the middle.
The second match started well, and FZ Pandas winning the first game 25-23, with JM & Mitch Mac attacking well from outside, supported by Mala and big Willy hitting well from the middle. The whole team defended well to keep the points alive. Unfortunately towards the end of this first game, we had to use an extraordinary sub, to replace Offie who was cut on the eyebrow after the net pole fell off after being hit. The second game didn’t start much better, with big Willy having to sub off for Cameron in the first 5 minutes after tearing a muscle in his upper arm when going for an outstretched dig. Offie was able to return as our libero player and the game play settled down into a regular rhythm. It was a close second game but the mojo of the first game was lost and in the final scores FZ Pandas lost this match on points count back.
In the end, it was a fun tournament, with some great game play from FZ Pandas across the weekend. We may not have come away with a medal, but we certainly showed some great team effort in the matches we played that made our opponents (mostly younger and fitter) dig deep in the matches that we played against them.