By PATRICIA KEAMO
SOUTHERN Conference winners Hekari United are gearing up for the Women’s National Soccer League quarterfinals which are scheduled for Saturday.
Hekari finished on the top of the ladder with 30 points after their round-10 fixture on Friday against rookies Bernice ended in their favor 11-1.
Team manager Vonnie Kapi Natto said the inclusion of their recruit players from Bougainville made a difference in the team, especially star striker Calista Maneo who ended national striker Marie Kaipu’s dominance and snatched the golden boot award with 37 goals.
“Calista is a very quiet person, but she really wants to achieve big things in football,” she told The National.
“She was just saying that she never thought she would be part of Hekari.
“I think the character and passion she had for the game, it encourages me.
“We thank the Good Lord above for the strength and energy although it was exhausting.
“But in the end, it was relieving to me.
“I’m very proud of that when I recruited our Bougainville girls, it was not a mistake.
“It was divine help because in here it was quite really hard to get our association girls to be part of the team.
“For Hekari, I’ve been building the girls a lot, some of them are mothers today and some of them are young coming with contributions from a few seniors like Georgina Bakani and Rumona Morris.
“It’s a great plus for the team, having Shalom and Serah Waida that I’ve picked from the Air Transport Squadron (settlement) – it’s a beautiful story.
“I’m very excited that we did it, but we have a rough road ahead with the quarterfinals. “We’ll meet the best of the provinces and that’s an exciting part.
“Not only that but if we make it through to the semifinals, it would be very exciting seeing this conference competition for women in the country.”
Meanwhile, Southern Conference runners-up National Capital District will be facing one of the conference winners from the Highlands, New Guinea Highlands or Northern on Saturday.
Port Moresby Strikers goalkeeper Leah Loi was awarded the golden glove award, having being recognised as the most improved goalkeeper in the conference.
Miriam Lanta-coached side Bernice were named as fair played team of the season for their efforts in the women’s premier competition.
The team are made up mainly of secondary school students along with the likes of Katherine Horris and Francesca Mandoni.
PNG Football Association general secretary Pius Letenge said the draws for the quarterfinals would be announced this week.
The winners of the quarterfinals will advance to the semifinals on June 4 while the losers bow out.
The grand final is scheduled for June 11 at a central location which will be announced this week.
By PATRICIA KEAMO