THE pressure is palpable in the Victorian Netball League’s Championship division, with Round 13 results putting five teams within one game of fourth place with just five rounds remaining.
Southern Saints created a three-way tie for fourth spot on the ladder after defeating Monash University Storm with an impressive second-half blitz.
Saints led 23-21 at half-time but rocketed clear after introducing Elizabeth Nicol (22 from 24) at goal shooter, outscoring Monash 31-18 in the second half to secure a 54-39 win.
Goal attack Teagan Collins (17 from 21)was named best on court. The win saw Saints move onto six wins, equal with Storm and fourth-placed Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels, who received a reality check at the hands of City West Falcons.
Falcons underlined their Championship dominance, beating Ariels by 26 goals in a dazzling 60-minute display.
City West opened up a 14-goal lead by half-time and scored an even 35 goals in each half, with centre courters Clare Moylan and Chloe Watson running rife in the 70-44 blowout.
VU Western Lightning kept their finals hopes alive while making the equation extremely difficult for Geelong Cougars with a thrilling one-goal victory on Cougars’ home court.
Cougars coach Gerard Murphy said his team didn’t take its opportunities in the first half, with “costly errors” allowing Lightning to take a 27-25 lead into half-time.
The teams traded goals in the third and fourth quarters, with Lightning goal shooter Kate Thompson leading the way with 40 goals from 47 attempts and allowing her team to maintain its slender lead.
Lightning held a two-goal lead in the dying moments of the game until Geelong wing defence Noni McClure pulled in an intercept that allowed her team to again cut the margin to one, but they were unable to convert their centre pass and Lightning hung on to capture the four points.
Boroondara Genesis overcame a slow start to deny DC North East Blaze a place in the top four.
Blaze took full toll early in the match as defensive duo Mary Livesey and Micaela Wilson held Genesis shooter Emma Ryde-Coad to just two first-quarter goals and led their team to an 11-9 lead.
But the game opened up for Boroondara in the second quarter and by three-quarter time they had skipped out to a nine-goal advantage before going on to win 41-33.
A 19-goal second quarter launched Peninsula Waves to a big 24-goal win over Fed Uni Ballarat Pride.
Pride were competitive early and trailed by just goals at quarter-time but were powerless to stop match MVP Madeline Morrison, who nailed 13 goals in the second quarter and 42 from 48 attempts for the match in the 60-36 victory.
GEELONG Cougars have one foot in finals after handing VU Western Lightning their fourth consecutive loss in VNL’s Division 1.
With Ruby Horton breaking the rare 50-goal barrier after netting a staggering 50 goals from 52 attempts, Lightning were never in the hunt, trailing by 10 goals at quarter-time and eventually going down 63-44.
Cougars coach Sascha Velduis said the comprehensive win was the result of every player making a contribution.
“Solid full-court defence allowed our attacking end opportunities to dominate, with all attacking players having a major influence on the match,” Velduis said.
“The girls are now looking forward to a clash with top-of-the-table City West Falcons on Wednesday night.”
Peninsula is the only team likely to dislodge Geelong in the run towards finals, after beating Fed Uni Ballarat Pride 46-28 to remain just one game behind.
Waves slowly carved out a lead over the first three quarters before running away with the match in the fourth as goal shooter Megan Rosser netted 11 final-quarter goals to earn MVP honours, while Rania Waller won plaudits for her efforts at the defensive end.
Southern Saints endured a rollercoaster ride against Monash University Storm before prevailing to almost certainly end Storm’s finals chances.
Saints led by seven goals at quarter-time, despite star goal defence Ashleigh Hardy being called up to the club’s Championship team, but Storm introduced Victorian 21 and Under goal shooter Ramayer Gourley into the game and chipped away at the deficit, reducing it to just one goal at the final change.
But with Tarryn Munro controlling the midcourt and Chloe Curran shooting 34 from 46 for the match, Saints dug deep to score 13 goals to seven in the final quarter and wrap up a 46-39 home win.
Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels gave City West Falcons a tough time in the first quarter before fading as the league leaders waltzed to a sixth consecutive win.
Almost perfect shooting from both teams saw the first-quarter score tied at 13-13, but Falcons tightened their grip on the match in the remaining three quarters, outscoring their opposition 43-22 to secure a 56-35 result.
Boroondara Genesis kept DC North East Blaze at arm’s length in a 51-38 win at their home stadium.
19 AND UNDER
THE Victorian Netball League’s 19 and Under division was turned on its head in Round 13, with three of the top four teams suffering losses.
VU Western Lightning had the unenviable assignment of travelling to Geelong Cougars’ home court, but they staked their claim for a potential finals berth by holding the league leaders to their lowest score of the season and recording a stunning 37-28 upset.
Lightning laid the foundation for the victory by restricting Geelong to just five goals in the first and third quarters, with Mardi Cunningham among the MVP votes for her performance at goal keeper, while wing attack Carly Harrison was named best on court.
Geelong coach Jill Leader said her team struggled to recover after a slow start.
“The attack end just couldn’t get themselves together and threw away too many opportunities,” Leader said.
“It was pleasing to see that we kept VU to under 40, which showed our defensive efforts were definitely rewarded.”
Monash University was another highly-rated casualty, with the second-placed Storm trumped by Southern Saints.
Storm led by a small margin at every change but couldn’t withstand a final-quarter Saints charge as Saints scoring 11 goals to six to complete a 41-39 upset and return to the top four.
Saints coach Jacqui Toy lauded the “top shelf defensive effort” from Zoe Lay, Danielle Cameron and Alice Ditchfield as the key to the win.
DC North East Blaze strung consecutive wins together for the first time this season in a one-goal nailbiter against Boroondara Genesis.
Blaze led for most of the game and were five goals up at three-quarter time but Genesis came home with a wet sail, scoring 14 goals to 10 in the final quarter to almost snatch the four points.
Outstanding accuracy from Blaze goal attack Tahnysha Salanoa (25 from 26) proved the difference, with Blaze putting up seven fewer shots but still prevailing 40-39.
Third-placed City West Falcons pushed Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels out of the top four with a win on their Altona home court, but they needed the full four quarters to do it.
Falcons stormed out the blocks and led 10-3 halfway through the first quarter, but Ariels limited the damage eight goals at half-time before narrowing the gap to four goals at three-quarter time.
Errors cost Ariels early in the final quarter, with the lead quickly ballooning to eight goals and allowing Falcons to ease to an important 51-43 win.
Fed Uni Ballarat Pride continued to be a late-season menace to the teams above, drawing 35-35 against Peninsula Waves in a game that was Pride’s for the taking.
Pride raced to a 12-6 lead at quarter-time but Waves ate into that advantage in the second term before Pride again moved six goals clear in the third.
A centre court shuffle did the trick for Waves in the final quarter, with Carly Russo’s fresh legs at center combining well with wing attack Nikola Jackson, but they came up just short and split the points.