NPL Preview: Women one win from Grand Final

There’s more finals excitement in store for our Academy Women, with the first team set to face SD Raiders FC for a place in the Grand Final. The Academy Men play their last game of the season away against Hills United FC.

With an action-packed weekend ahead, we caught up with Academy Director Ken Schembri who discussed reflected on the season and looked ahead to some finals success, for both the Men and Women’s teams.

Preliminary Finals: Central Coast Mariners Academy Women vs. SD Raiders FC

After an exciting 3-2 win over APIA Leichhardt Tigers last weekend, the Central Coast Academy Women have got only one more hurdle between them and the Grand Final – a high-stakes showdown against SD Raiders.

They’re the one team the Academy are yet to beat this season, and this weekend offers them the opportunity to finally defeat the Raiders in ultimate style. The winner will go through to the Grand Final against Sydney Olympic, but we will have to do it without Golden Boot Candace Phelan, who went down with an ankle injury last week.

Scans this week revealed that Phelan suffered ligament damage in her ankle and an osteochondral fracture of the talar dome.

Four of our five women’s teams claimed a semi-final win on the weekend. Reserve grade were unfortunately knocked out in a tight 1-0 loss, but finals hopes are still alive for the U14, U15 and U17 teams, who are only one win away from a Grand Final.

Academy Director, Ken Schembri praised the hard work of Dan Barrett and his coaching staff. 

“For the girls, we recruited Dan Barrett , so I’m not surprised that we automatically improved to be honest," Schembri said. "When you appoint a good head coach, it usually follows that better practices start.

"The staff that he’s educating have become likeminded, and we’ve got four out of five girls teams playing in the finals now - this is a great achievement," Schembri said. 

  • U17 vs. UNSW FC
  • U15 vs. Western NSW Mariners FC
  • U14 vs. Southern Branch FC                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             


Match Details
Sunday, 12 August 2018
NSW NPL 2 Preliminary Semi-Final
Match:
Central Coast Mariners’ Academy Women vs. SD Raiders FC
Venue: Valentine Sports Park
Kick-off: 4:15pm

Hills United FC vs. Central Coast Mariners’ Academy

As the men’s NPL 2 season draws to a close, the Mariners’ Academy are travelling to Blacktown for their final game of the season against Hills United FC.

It was a 3-2 victory for the Mariners’ Academy when these teams last met. The Academy are currently sitting third on the competition ladder and second on the Club Championship, and a win on Sunday against ninth-placed Hills United would round off a successful season for the Academy.

The U20s are set to finish the season on top of the ladder with an eight-point lead going into their final match, and the U18s are only one point behind first-place with a game in hand.

Academy Director Ken Schembri is hopeful that the Academy can create a positive finish for their 2018 season.

“We need to try and finish the year well, we haven’t got long to go. It would be nice to have a good finale,” Schembri said.

“All three of our senior mens teams are into the playoffs, the challenge now is building momentum into the playoffs.

“It won’t be easy on Sunday, we’re playing a decent club. I’m sure we’ll go ok – we're looking forward to the challenge ahead!” Schembri said.

Match Details
Sunday, 26 August 2018
NSW NPL 2 Round 26
Match:
Hills United FC vs. Central Coast Mariners’ Academy
Venue: Lily Homes Stadium, Blacktown
Kick-off: 3:00pm

This year, the Academy Women finished second on the Club Championship, and the Men look set to claim the same position, both narrowly missing out on promotion to the NPL1. Whilst second-place is nothing to be disappointed about, Schembri wants both squads to continue improving and climb to the top for next season.

 “We’ve had a reasonable year in the senior space for both the boys and girls, and we’ve got some improved practices going on in both of those spaces.” Schembri said. “Both appear to be finishing second in the club championship, which is good. It’s a shame we didn’t quite get there, but it shows that we’re getting closer to the standard that we need.”

The Mariners’ Academy have seen improved performances across the board, and Schembri knows it’s due in part to the dedicated coaching staff working to develop local Central Coast talent.

“The contribution of  Will [Vasquez] and Pete [Preston] should not be underestimated,” Schembri said.

The Academy Men have had several success stories from the past season to boast about, and Schembri was happy to name several players who have particularly impressed him.

“We’ve got limited resources to try and achieve big outcomes, but the fact that Peter Kekeris & Adam Pearce have made it through to the first team is great, and there’s several other boys that have also done well,” he said.

“That upward movement is the focus. We need to get a couple of players per year to be a part of the regular first team, for me, that is the focus for the boys.” he said.

“For the girls, it’s about getting more girls participating in the program and playing, and eventually getting us into NPL 1 so that we’re playing at the highest level. For the moment, we’re ticking boxes. We’re much better in the girls space than we were last year. In the boys, we’re certainly developing more competitive young footballers. 

“We’ve got a few boys who started off in the 18's and have made their way to first grade, and that’s what I like to see.” Schembri said. “Joey Jevtic is one of those, he started his first full game in first grade last weekend, but at the beginning of the year he was in the 18s, in one season he’s managed to go up two grades, which is great.

“There’s more like that: Matthew Hatch has done really well as a youngster who’s started in lower grades, Kyle Johnson has had a great year.” He said. “So, a lot of the young boys, who are the future of our club, have done really well in their first go in the senior team, so that puts us in a good place for next year I think,” Schembri said.