Watch gritty Ipswich team live in state league final
PREPARING to start a new job in Adelaide, dependable Ipswich Force basketballer Rachel Mate has plenty to play for in Sunday's quarter-final.
She has enjoyed her four seasons with Force, being one of the pivotal players always ready to step up.
Having lined up in all of Ipswich's 11 Queensland State League (QSL) games, Mate hopes the sixth-placed Ipswich team can progress a step further by beating third-placed Brisbane Capitals on Sunday.
The 4pm quarter-final at Auchenflower is being livestreamed on the QT website, along with the 6pm men's match that follows between Brisbane Capitals and Logan Thunder.
After an underprepared Force side lost their opening QSL encounter 72-65 to the Capitals, Mate knows her team has made massive strides this season.
"We have really come together in the last few weeks,'' she said. "It's been a really good season.
"We've had some bumps. We've had people out with injury and weddings and things like that but it's been really good.
"We are now where we are ready to play them (Capitals) and really give them a run for their money.''
Mate has particularly enjoyed working with Ipswich's young brigade including Catherine Macgregor.
"She has stepped up a whole lot this year,'' Mate said, also impressed with progress of players like Iris Cubit, Tiayana Sing and Claudia Ott.
"Just the younger players to really have a go and contribute.
"Seeing them do so well and being able to contribute at this level is something that's been great about the QSL.''
Regular state league player Mate said this year's new-look format had provided a different type of competition without the American imports.
"Playing in a league where it's all just Australians makes it doubly exciting because we all know each other and they are people we've played against,'' she said.
"That's been really good . . . and I think it's also given an opportunity to younger players to shine and show what they are made of.
"Across the board, the young players have come out and done really well.''
As for her form, Mate has been content being a major supporter with co-captains Amy Lewis and Georgia Ralph.
"I've been really happy with how I've played this year,'' she said, having averaged 15 points a game and produced 24 point efforts against Rip City and RedCity Roar.
Last weekend's game high performance against Roar secured Force the final playoff spot.
"To me, not having American imports has allowed me to step up and play more important roles in the team,'' she said.
Although enjoying her time with Ipswich Force, Mate is off to Adelaide in the new year to start a Department of Defence research job.
She hopes to play in the NBL1 Central competition, the equivalent of the inaugural NBL1 North state competition that was rescheduled for next year due to COVID.
Mate graduates at University of Queensland at the end of the year, having studied psychology for four years during her time with the Force program.
Although having a good relationship with former Force head coach Brad George, Mate said current mentor Terry Lindeberg had been positive to work with.
"Terry is a coach that I've known because I played junior basketball with Brisbane,'' she said.
"I used to play against Terry's teams and Terry is really the kind of coach that has his players' backs and I was looking forward to getting to play with Terry.
"And also I got to play with Georgia and Amy and Catherine. That was something I was keen to do as well.''
After finishing second, the Ipswich Force men have a weekend off before preparing for next Friday night's semi-final at their home court.
QSL Division 1 women's quarter-final: Sunday (4pm) - Ipswich Force v Brisbane Capitals at Auchenflower Stadium. Match being livestreamed at: qt.com.au