FOR years Kildare Catholic had turned up for the Tracey Gunson Shield final as underdogs.
But after ending a run of three straight finals losses last year, the side was expected to defend their title and stood up to the pressure with a 24-16 win over The Riverina Anglican College on Wednesday.
An 8-3 first quarter set up the win for Kildare, with centre and player of the match Phoebe Wallace pulling the strings.
However TRAC, playing their first final in nine years, closed to within four goals with five minutes left and could have made Kildare nervous had they managed to capitalise on a couple of turnovers.
The result was especially sweet for year 12 students Ella McFarlane, Lilly McFarlane, Asha Murphy and Phoebe's sister Claire, who exit the competition on a high.
Celebrations had a more subdued feel with no crowd on hand to watch the decider due to COVID regulations.
"It didn't feel like a final because no one's watching," Phoebe Wallace said.
"It was close and they came back in the second half a little bit. We knew TRAC and Mater Dei were going to be tough."
Kildare coach Jackie Byrne said she was unsure beforehand how her team would handle being strong favourites.
"Being the underdog is usually the easiest way to go into a game. Winning it last year and having a very similar team we probably were expected to win which put pressure on us, and I wasn't sure how we'd handle it," Byrne said.
"We had an excellent start and it was good to see the girls come out really strong, which set the game up for us.
"In the last quarter they got really close and to be honest I don't think the scoreboard reflected how close the game was, it was a really tight contest for four quarters.
"Our girls may have started to cruise a little bit and once TRAC made that little comeback, they got their act together.
"It's unfortunate we couldn't have spectators, but we understand why."
TRAC coach Meegan Johnson said a slow start and inability to take their fourth quarter chances was the difference.
"We were slow to start and that cost us, we chased for most of the game. There was a couple of really good opportunities we had in the last quarter and we turned the ball over," she said.
"We've been working with the girls coming up and we weren't even in the competitive side of the draw a few years ago, so it's still an impressive effort and we're very proud of them."
Mater Dei Catholic College won the third place playoff against Wagga Wagga High School 42-30.