Wests Illawarra will face Albion Park in this year's men's Illawarra South Coast hockey grand final to relive the intense rivalry of the 1980s between these teams.
The Red Devils beat University 5-4 in a pulsating nine-goal thriller in the men's preliminary final at Unanderra last Sunday. Two goals down at the start, the Devils slowly clawed their way through the quarters with Jimmy Ridell, back from a broken finger, playing a pivotal role in midfield to steer his team to victory.
Wests coach David Rieck - a premiership-winner in 2004 - was happy with the win, saying there was a lot of motivation from last year's loss to the Students in the final.
"It was a hard-fought win coming from two down early," Rieck said.
"We won't be doing that against Park, but even if we are, we know we are capable of coming back."
The Students surprised the Devils, romping to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter with goals from Heath Ogilvie and Kyle Fahey, before Wests settled in the second quarter to level terms with goals from Abe Unicomb and Tom Dolby.
Two minutes into the second half, Jack Rowe put the Devils ahead 3-2 before Ogilvie equalised a minute later from a penalty corner. Wests then took control of the game with five minutes left to go in the third quarter when Ben Morrison and Ridell from a penalty corner rebound took the score to 5-3.
William Orth pulled one back for the Students in the fourth quarter when he finished a great move from Ogilvie on the right flank for a final 5-4 scoreline.
"Unfortunately, either side of halftime, we dropped our intensity for only a small period of time and Wests being a quality side they were able to capatilise," University coach Callum Mackay said.
In the women's preliminary final, University surprised Wests Illawarra winning 4-2 after three previous losses to them in the pool matches. They will now meet premiers Albion Park in a repeat of last year's grand final.
University coach Maddie Rosser was very happy with the win, especially after being beaten convincingly twice by Wests. She said it was always going to be a big ask to come away with the win.
"We have struggled all year to find consistency so it's nice that we have finally been able to put together some strong combinations," Rosser said.
The Students took a 2-0 lead in the first quarter with goals from Miri Maroney and Rosser before playing-coach Bianca Broadhurst made it 2-1 for Wests.
Kyah Gray then extended the lead to 3-1 for University at the break. Broadhurst reduced that deficit to 3-2, before Maroney made sure of the win scoring her second goal for the 4-2 win for the Students.
Broadhurst conceded to her team's defeat, crediting the Students before adding that it was a tough way to finish their season after playing some good hockey.
"We created chances but couldn't capitalise unlike University," she said. "It was a tough day."
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