A gold medal and a winning ratio in a division one competition headlined Avondale University’s push at the 2023 UniSport Nationals held from September 23 to 29.
The medal came in men’s basketball, with the Avondale Eagles scoring a one-point win—58-57—over Victoria University in the final. Liam Bennett starred in the last two plays of the game, dunking the ball off a missed lay up at one end then blocking a shot at the other. “He finished well,” said point guard and Eagles co-captain Ethan Matthes.
The team finished third in pool play then won four consecutive games. “We started playing for each other rather than for ourselves,” said Mr Matthes. “And we wanted to win.”
With five wins and two losses in the competition, the Eagles placed 13th out of 44 teams. The gold medal builds on the result from last year, when the team fell short in the final. Having a dedicated coach—former National Basketball League player Terry Johnson—helped. “Terry’s personable, fun to be with and commands respect,” said Mr Matthes. “He makes you want to play harder.”
The mixed touch football team began pool play with two big wins, including a 12-0 game against The University of Sydney, and, later in the competition, crossed for 13 tries against the University of Southern Queensland. But a loss to local rivals The University of Newcastle in the quarters halted its run to the division one finals. With six wins, three losses and a tie, the team placed seventh out of 10 teams.
Members of other Eagles teams supported the basketballers in the final, showing the strength of the team’s spirit. “Because we’re a smaller university, we’re a lot more connected,” said co-captain Tahliana Tikoicina.
Avondale shared a sense of that spirit as every Eagles team prayed over its opposing team after every game. The students from other teams respect the tradition, said Ms Tikoicina. “We tell them we’re a Christian university and that we’d like to pray for them, their experience in the rest of the competition and their studies.”
A team of 57 from Avondale travelled to the Gold Coast for the competition. UniSport Nationals sees 6000 students from 42 higher education providers across Australia competing in 31 sports.