New Zealand 3x3 teams battle Oceania for a spot at the FISU University World Cup 3x3

New Zealand 3x3 teams battle Oceania for a spot at the FISU University World Cup 3x3

Four university 3x3 teams from New Zealand competed at the FISU Oceania 3x3 Continental Qualifying Tournament this week, attempting to qualify to represent the region at November’s FISU University World Cup 3x3 in Xiamen, China.

Men’s teams from the University of Canterbury and the University of Waikato along with women’s teams from Lincoln University and the University of Waikato travelled to the Sunshine Coast of Australia, where the qualifying tournament was held in conjunction with UniSport Australia’s 3x3 Nationals. Qualifying spots for the University World Cup are limited to one per gender, so our New Zealand teams would have to navigate 3 days of tough competition and defeat Australia's best to get through.

The men’s teams had a particularly tough first day of competition, playing six pool games in the space of seven hours. The women encountered four games on the first day and despite both teams dropping their first match, they handled the remainder well to stay in contention.

Day 2 began with three matches for the women and two for the men to complete pool play, with the New Zealand teams fighting for higher spots in the standings to avoid stronger opposition in the following rounds. The UC men and Waikato women positioned themselves best as they finished 2nd in their respective pools, with the Lincoln women in 3rd and Waikato men in 5th.

The last match of the day for all teams was the first knockout match of the tournament in the round of 16. The two women’s teams and the UC men dominated their opposition as the intensity and consequences were raised, but the University of Waikato men were knocked out of contention by the impressive Macquarie University.

Day 3 was short and sharp for the Waikato men, who won their three remaining finals classification matches to finish 9th overall. Te Maire van der Leden giving them more to cheer about by winning the men’s shootout competition.

The New Zealand women’s teams were unfortunately matched up against in each in the quarter final round – Waikato carrying strong form from the previous 2 days but Lincoln winning their last match-up in the grand final of the recent National Tertiary 3x3 Championship. The Waikato women came out firing, their stingy defence holding Lincoln to 7 points while they piled on 17 to take the win and head to the semi-finals.

Waiting for them was the University of Sydney, last year’s Oceania champions and representatives at the University World Cup. With three of those team members returning while also holding a significant size advantage, the Waikato women used their aggressive defence and crafty finishing to keep the scores close in the early exchanges. Sydney began playing to their advantages mid-way through the match however, their size and cohesiveness leading them to win 21-14 and later the grand finale to cap off an undefeated tournament.

The Lincoln women ended their week strong, defeating the University of Technology Sydney in the classification semi-final and then the University of Wollongong to finish in 5th. The Waikato women still had one challenge to face, matching up against Victoria University (Australia) for 3rd place. Once again, their defensive tenacity, strength and good shooting shone through as they won 21-14 to claim the bronze medal.

 

The University of Waikato’s Kayla Manuirirangi said the New Zealand teams were well-prepared for the level of competition they would be facing. “The National Tertiary 3x3 Championship was a great build-up for this Oceania tournament and I think the New Zealand teams competed hard and did really well”. Along with the results, she said they really enjoyed the spirit and camaraderie of the event; “Overall it was incredibly fun, the vibes were very chill which was cool for such a high-level competition – we had a blast.”

The UC men were the last of the New Zealand teams in contention, firstly upsetting the local crowd by defeating the University of the Sunshine Coast 21-13 in the quarter final. The semi-final against Macquarie University was a defensive slog, as both teams hit the foul penalty towards the end of the match. But it was UC that kept Macquarie at arm’s reach throughout, Zach Hannen dribbling out the final seconds to win 16-14.

The final was always going to be a huge challenge for UC, and they were up against the undefeated University of Sydney who were looking to defend their Oceania title after winning at AUT in 2023. The match was fitting of a final, UC showing their consistency as Adam Bayer hit a huge 2 midway through while Zach Hannen, Aidan Tonge and Noah Watson made acrobatic finishes around the rim. Late in the game Hannen showed why he was later selected finals MVP with a dagger 2 to take UC to 20 which was soon followed by a Watson layup off a give-and-go through Tonge which sparked wild celebrations within the New Zealand contingent.

“Coming into the final we revised the preparation we had been through as a group and turning that into actions and outcomes was key for us” noted Tonge after the victory. “After that 21st point was scored the relief and overwhelming sense of accomplishment was second to none. We know we are the best team in Oceania and will be heading to China to continue to grow and develop as a team and university.”

With the victory, the University of Canterbury men confirm their spot at the FISU University World Cup 3x3 in November. Stay tuned as we monitor their progress and as they prepare to compete against the best university teams in the world in China.

Special thanks goes out to UniSport Australia for their role in organising and managing the event, and to FISU Oceania for their oversight and contribution towards the New Zealand team’s participation.

Posted: Fri 05 Jul 2024

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