Five clubs will be represented in the 2016 Victorian Netball League Grand Finals following the completion of the Preliminary Finals at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Wednesday night.
The City West Falcons advanced to their third consecutive Championship Grand Final after recording a dominant 66-46 victory against the DC North East Blaze.
After a slow start, the Falcons found their groove mid-way through the opening quarter and never looked back.
They now face a tough challenge against the Melbourne University Lightning in the Grand Final.
Falcons Head Coach Marg Lind described the victory as a “big relief” post-match.
“Obviously there is a bit of pressure but it feels really good [to know we’ve made it],” Lind said.
“We played well tonight, I think Blaze did all they could and had a dip of everything in terms of positional changes. They were unlucky with the injury [sustained last week to Kaitlyn Black] and that really hurt them, but it is what it is and you take your opportunities.”
Off the back of some inspired defensive stops by Goal Keeper Ramayer Gourley, the Boroondara Express are through to the Division One Grand Final, defeating the Blaze 45-41.
Little separated the two sides in their Preliminary Final clash, with the teams going goal-for-goal across the four quarters.
Shae Gee continued her excellent season in attack, shooting 26 from 30 at an impressive 87 per cent.
“It feels unbelievable, every girl and coach is amazing to play with and it has been a great season so hopefully we top it off with a Grand Final win,” Gee said.
The Express will play the Falcons on the Division One Grand Final.
Finally, the Blaze bounced back from losses in the Championship and Division One Preliminary Finals to secure their place in the 19/Under Grand Final with a six-goal win against the Falcons.
Fifteen-year-old Abbey Ellis received special praise from Blaze Head Coach Katie Upton following the match after another standout performance in Goal Attack.
“Abby was a standout tonight, she has grown each week and given herself the opportunity to be in the starting seven,” Upton said.
The Blaze now face a challenge against the Geelong Cougars, who have 18 wins and a draw from their 19 matches this year.
That draw was against the Blaze and Upton is confident of ending their undefeated streak in the all-important Grand Final game.
“Last time we actually had more of the ball, it was just a matter of converting. I think we proved tonight that we are capable of converting under pressure, so I think that extra week of finals could possibly play to our advantage.”
The Victorian Netball League Championship, Division One and 19/Under Grand Finals will be held at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Saturday 27 August 2016.
VNL Preliminary Finals results
City West Falcons 66 def 46 DC North East Blaze
Boroondara Express 45 def 41 DC North East Blaze
DC North East Blaze 46 def 40 City West Falcons
VNL Grand Final fixtures
Melbourne University Lightning v City West Falcons
Division One, 6pm
City West Falcons v Boroondara Express
Geelong Cougars v DC North East Blaze
Photo credit: David Callow