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Young White Sox squad take away lessons, experience from tough Asia Pacific Cup

The White Sox are keeping positive after a rough campaign at this year's Asia Pacific Cup in Sydney, believing the experiences the young squad gained at the tournament to be vital for the team's future.

The New Zealand women's softball team finished last out of seven teams at the international tournament in Sydney yesterday after they failed to pick up a win in seven matches.

But infielder Mereana Makea said simply being at the tournament was a huge step for many members of the team.

"My goal for the tournament was to gain experience against some of the best teams in the world," she told 1 NEWS.

"This team is a young team, so getting these chances are special."

The White Sox were depleted of experience for the tournament with a a core group of American-based players such as infielders Ellie Cooper, Hailey Breakwell and Mikayla Werahiko and pitchers Courtney Gettins, Nyree White and Taylor-Paige Stewart all absent.

In their place, coach Kevin Gettins named five debutants in his 15-strong squad for the tournament, which featured top-10 nations such as Japan (world no.2), Chinese Taipei (6), Australia (7), China (8), and Italy (9). New Zealand is currently ranked 11th.

White Sox batter Lara Andrews swings at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup.
White Sox batter Lara Andrews swings at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

Makea said she and her teammates weren't just learning from their own experiences, but from the world-class talent on display, too.

"Just being able to watch players from other teams in things like their fielding - they have a different approach, a different style."

Catcher Zoe Tolhopf said a goal for her personally was to embrace the opportunity.

"We don't get to play these teams all the time," Tolhopf said.

"You have to take it pitch by pitch, living in the moment and feeding off it and each other."

The team were buoyed by experienced veterans Lara Andrews, who captains the side, and Jennifer Feret-Brear at the tournament. They also welcomed back Hutt Valley player Ashley Johnston, who made her debut for the team 11 years ago but has featured rarely since.

White Sox pitcher Jennifer Feret-Brear delivers a pitch at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup.
White Sox pitcher Jennifer Feret-Brear delivers a pitch at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

"It was a very proud moment for me being able to put the fern back on after so many years," Johnston said.

"It was very overwhelming."

Manager Aroha Metcalf added there was a different energy to the team with such a variance in experience amongst players in the squad.

"The coaches are confident. There's a different vibe with everyone," she said.

"The goal isn't just to bleed new players but to be competitive and consistent."

White Sox players celebrate with captain Lara Andrews (9) after her home run against Australia at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup.
White Sox players celebrate with captain Lara Andrews (9) after her home run against Australia at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

The White Sox have seven months to use their learnings before they attempt to qualifying for next year's Olympics at the Asia-Oceania qualifier in Shanghai from September 24-29.

They'll compete against Australia, Chinese Taipei, China and the Philippines (world no.13), with only one team earning a ticket to Tokyo.

White Sox catcher Zoe Tolhopf slides into second base against China at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup.
White Sox catcher Zoe Tolhopf slides into second base against China at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup. Source: 1 NEWS