JUST when you thought the Victorian Netball League’s Championship division couldn’t get any more enthralling, Round 11 happened.
Only two games separates teams from third to ninth on the table after an exciting round of matches that saw two top-four sides beaten and a number of finals hopefuls make their move.
After a four-game slump between rounds four and seven, Geelong Cougars secured a third win from their past four games by downing DC North East Blaze 47-40.
Blaze led throughout the first half but Geelong grabbed the initiative in the third quarter, scoring 13 goals to seven and another 13 in the final quarter to put the result in the bank.
Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels climbed to third on the ladder after knocking off second-placed Boroondara Genesis in a 36-goal turnaround on the first time the two sides met.
With Ariels goal shooter Mikaela Vaughan netting 30 goals from 41 attempts in her first full game at Championship level and match MVP Gabrielle Sinclair scoring 33 from 42 at goal attack, the weight of numbers was too great for Genesis, who got good output from Melbourne Vixens goaler Erin Hoare (34 from 30) but could do little to stop Ariels’ attacking line.
Monash University Storm registered their fifth win of the season despite a stern test against Fed Uni Ballarat Pride.
Pride generated a glut of opportunities in the first quarter, putting up 25 shots but scoring on just 15 of them, before Storm found their groove after half-time and put the game away, 60-44.
Pride’s coaches said the team’s focus on sticking with its opponents for longer was beginning to bear fruit, while a couple of veterans with a rivaly dating back more than a decade provided plenty of highlights.
“Teamwork was the mantra tonight, with play reflecting the intensity at training and the determination to be competitive for more of the game,” they said.
“Joh Curran (Storm) and Cindy Daniel (Pride – 25 from 34) had a tight contest, 10 years after their last outing against each other in the Athlete’s Foot Cup Grand Final in 2004, representing Dela and Eureka netball clubs.”
Way out in front of the competition are City West Falcons, who remain undefeated and never looked troubled in a 59-44 win over Peninsula Waves.
For once it wasn’t Falcons’ young and talented defensive end that captured the umpires’ votes, with goaler Julia Woolley (23 from 29) and centre Maggie Lind recognised for their efforts.
Southern Saints inflicted VU Western Lightning’s fourth loss in a row as they joined three other teams on five wins after a dominant display on court five.
Melbourne Vixens defender Amy Steel again provided a massive headache for her opposition and was named best on court for the second week in a row as Saints opened up a 10-goal half-time lead and went on to win 52-39.
A determined defensive effort was the catalyst for Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels’ biggest result of the season in Division 1 – a six-goal win over their conquerors from last year’s grand final, Boroondara Genesis.
Hit hard by injury and illness, Ariels relied on defenders Jamie Clark and Kate Eddy to repel Boroondara’s persistent attack in a match in which the margin was never more than a couple of goals.
Level at half-time and leading by just two goals at the final break, Ariels rallied in the fourth quarter to score 11 goals to seven and seal a 36-30 win. Clark took the three votes, while Genesis goal defence Tamara Luke was instrumental in keeping her team in the game.
Peninsula Waves were poised to inflict City West Falcons’ first loss of the season before a final-quarter fadeout cost them the win and a spot in the top four.
Waves coach Meagan Dell said the loss of goal keeper Kara Hargave to injury in the second quarter hurt their chances badly, with Falcons behind for the most of the game but coming home with a head of steam to score 14 goals to four in the final quarter and post a 50-40 win.
“The girls did well to adapt and hold off a surging City West and we were in a good position, being level at three-quarter time,” Dell said.
“In the end the experience of City West’s veterans Jacinta Todd and Tracey Brereton gained back the control.”
Monash University Central stamped their authority on their Round 11 game against Fed Uni Ballarat Pride in the first quarter before coasting to a 55-38 win.
Storm opened up a 16-7 lead in the opening 15 minutes and were never headed, maintaining their advantage throughout the second and third quarters before adding another 16 goals to 10 in the last.
Pride goalers Deanne Tuppen (21 from 31) and Chelsea Ross (17 from 21) fought hard but were kept in check by Monash goal defence Dannielle Carstens, who grabbed the three votes.
Southern Saints remains the only team within striking distance of league leaders City West Falcons after defeating VU Western Lightning 47-31.
Chloe Curran (29 from 34) was in imperious form under the post for Saints as they dealt with an early Lightning challenge and then made their move in the second half, scoring 28 goals to 14.
Geelong Cougars won consecutive matches for the first time this season with a wire-to-wire 19-goal win against DC North East Blaze.
Cougars won every quarter bar the last – which they drew – as their remarkable 10-game run of wins followed by losses ended with a 51-32 victory inspired by centre Sarah Breed (three votes) and goal shooter Ruby Horton (38 from 40).
19 AND UNDER
FED Uni Ballarat Pride is on the winner’s list for the first time this season in the VNL 19 and Under division after taking a huge scalp in dramatic fashion in Round 11.
The previously winless Pride looked set for another defeat, trailing second-placed Monash University Storm by nine goals at three-quarter time. But after Storm swung changes that left only three of their starting seven players on court, the floodgates opened for Ballarat and they piled on 17 goals to four in the final quarter to snatch an unforgettable four-goal win, 46-42.
Hayler Fidler shone at goal shooter for Pride, scoring 37 goals from 40 attempts, while Ballarat’s coaches singled out Madison Gay for her consistent and controlled game at centre.
VU Western Lightning’s remarkable mid-season surge continued against Southern Saints in a two-goal win that carried them to just goal percentage outside the top four.
No more than three goals separated the two teams at any of the breaks, with Lightning holding the edge heading into the last quarter. But with match MVP Monica Wellington keeping the Saints goalers quiet, seven goals was enough in the final 15 minutes as Lightning held on to post their fifth win in a row, 38-36.
Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels got their season back on track with a 57-48 victory over Boroondara Genesis.
Having lost their previous three matches to fall from the top of the table to seventh, Ariels fired in the first quarter to take an 18-6 lead.
Genesis brought Abby Healy into goal shooter and chipped away at the deficit over the next three quarters, but with Ariels tall Samantha Gooden shooting a massive 43 goals from 45 attempts and Victoria Starling providing ample supply from wing attack, the task was too great.
Geelong Cougars sit alone at the top of the 19 and Under table after easily accounting for DC North East Blaze.
Blaze hung with the league leaders in the first half, trailing by just two goals at quarter-time and five at the long break, before Geelong clicked into gear and secured another decisive result, with 18 final-quarter goals completing the 53-35 win.
Peninsula Waves were eyeing an upset against City West Falcons but couldn’t sustain their competitive first-half effort.
Waves led 13-10 at quarter-time but Falcons grabbed a one-goal advantage at half-time, before goal shooter Kayla Mallett (40 from 49) helped City West pour in 18 goals in the third quarter to put the match beyong Peninsula’s reach.
Victoria Honner got the nod from the umpires for her game at goal defence as Falcons cruised home, 57-41.