After weeks of preparation, the University of Waikato Futsal team are competing in the National University Futsal Championships this weekend.
The team finished third at last years inaugural event but this year there is a lot more at stake than just silverware and bragging rights, with the winning team receiving automatic qualification into the Word University Championships to be held in Brazil later this year.
With the dream of representing New Zealand in sight, the team have been training at UniRec for the past five weeks, doing everything to ensure they are well prepared before facing their national tertiary rivals.
Current UniRec member and Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar Brayden Lissington will lead the team at this weekends tournament. With a core group of Waikato Bay of Plenty representatives and his own international experience as a New Zealand Futsal While, he is confident that Waikato will field a really competitive team.
“Last year we had a good team that came third but we only had about two or three futsal specific players, whereas this year we have a core group of elite players that make up the majority of the team,” explained Brayden.
“If you compare this year’s team to last year’s side, we’re a lot more futsal specific. We have better knowledge, better tactics and visibly better technique, so we’ll be able to play a lot better come competition time.”
With no full-sized futsal courts in Hamilton, the UniRec sports hall was the best option for holding team training sessions.
“Training at UniRec has been great for our preparation,” said Brayden.
“The synthetic surface helps to prevent injury and also makes for a top notch futsal court. It has also been really convenient for our players... being based on-campus meant we could hold weekly training sessions without any of the lads having to miss class.”
The team will play tournament favourites Auckland University first up, followed by a second day-one game versus Victoria. Despite a challenging start, Brayden believes that if his team can grind out a result each game they can win the tournament.
“We’re one tournament away from Brazil. If we play like I know we can, the reward will be absolutely unreal.”
Good luck Waikato – we’ll be hanging out for the results!
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