ANY doubt about who is the favourite for this year’s Victorian Netball League Championship division title was erased when unbeaten City West Falcons beat second-placed Boroondara Genesis in Round 16.
Genesis were forced to reshuffle their attacking line, with goal shooting options Emma Ryde-Coad and Melbourne Vixen Erin Hoare both unavailable, and battled to contain goal shooting sisters Kathleen Knott (30 goals from 33 attempts) and Julia Woolley (17 from 19) at the other end.
Falcons were up 15-11 at quarter-time and boosted their lead to seven goals at the long break before putting the result beyond doubt with a 12-9 third quarter.
The win put City West just two games away from a perfect season and guaranteed they will finish on top of the Championship ladder.
VU Western Lightning made a last-ditch bid for a finals spot by beating fourth-placed Peninsula Waves 50-45.
Waves kept the match tight until half-time, when Lightning turned a one-goal lead into eight as goal shooter Sophie Gunn (37 from 44) helped her team grab control and take a winning advantage into the final quarter.
For Lightning to make finals they’ll need to rely on Waves losing in Round 17 to Monash University Storm, who were 10 goals too good for DC North East Blaze.
Storm slowly built a winning score over the first three quarters, with goal shooter Stacey Northey doing the bulk of the damage with 27 goals from 33 attempts, before Blaze kept the margin respectable by winning the last quarter 14-10 to go down 43-53.
Also now all but out of finals contention are Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels, who were outclassed 58-42 in a must-win clash against Southern Saints.
Missing regular starting centre court players Shannon Eagland and Kelsey Browne through injury, Ariels had no answer to a Saints team that provided plenty of opportunities to goalers Elizabeth Nicol (41 from 42) and Rahni Samason (17 from 19), who missed just three goals between them for the entire match.
The win shored up a top-four finish for Saints.
PENINSULA Waves dealt their own finals chances a heavy blow with a disappointing 42-31 loss against eighth-placed VU Western Lightning in VNL’s Division 1.
Needing a win to move into the top four, Waves looked the goods early and took a 13-10 lead in the first quarter. But Lightning turned things around in the second to take a four-goal lead before restricting Waves to just four goals in the third quarter.
Due to their poor percentage, Waves will now rely on Geelong Cougars losing at least two of their three remaining games in order to reach the post-season, with Cougars yet to play their Round 16 game and due to take on bottom-placed Fed Uni Ballarat Pride this weekend.
Southern Saints ensured they’ll receive a finals double chance by beating Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels 53-36 in a match that was far closer than the first time the teams met.
Saints led 10-0 and 20-4 in the first quarter when the teams played in Round 3, before going on to win by 40 goals, but they didn’t have it all their own way the second time around.
They led 12-11 at quarter time before moving six goals clear at the half. With Chloe Curran (32 from 35) continuing to apply scoring pressure and goal defence Ashleigh Hardy limiting Ariels’ supply at the other end, Saints eased away in the third quarter and ensured they’ll remain above Boroondara Genesis, who were outgunned 57-42 by City West Falcons.
Falcons set the tone with a 15-8 first quarter and repelled most of what Genesis threw at them, extending their lead to 11 goals at half-time and again putting their mark on the contest in a 15-11 final quarter.
Darcy Saunders (Falcons) and Jessica Jones (Genesis) posted identical stats of 30 goals from 37 attempts, while Falcons tall Georgia Berry had 15 from 16 in the second half.
Monash University Storm recorded consecutive wins for the first time this season, defeating DC North East Blaze 50-30.
Blaze put up a fight early and trailed 8-11 at quarter-time but it was all Storm after that, with 15 goals in both the second and third quarters more than enough to consign Blaze to a fourth straight loss.
19 AND UNDER
GEELONG Cougars will need to win their Round 16 away game this weekend to maintain their place in the top four, after VU Western Lightning won their ninth match out of their last 10 to steal fourth spot.
Lightning waited until the second quarter to put Peninsula Waves under the pump but did it emphatically, scoring 15 goals to six and piling on another 15 in the third quarter to lay the foundation for their 53-35 win.
Shooting pair Shelby Strong and Kailah-Mae Keepen again shared the load, with Strong scoring 22 from 28 and Keepen 31 from 29.
Southern Saints effectively ended Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels’ finals chances after winning an enthralling contest in which the lead continued changing hands right up until the final minutes.
Saints led by as many as six goals in the third quarter before Ariels narrowed the gap to two and then took a two-goal lead of their own early in the final quarter.
A serious knee injury to Ariels goal keeper Monique Clark with seven minutes to go further added to the drama and Saints were again able to hit the front and hang on to win 45-43.
Saints coach Jacqui Toy said her young team was able to remain calm when the match was on the line.
“Saints showed great composure to get in front and stay there in the last four minutes, controlling the ball for the last minute,” Toy said.
City West Falcons maintained hope of again finishing on top of the 19 and Under ladder after a big 29-goal win against Boroondara Genesis.
Falcons bookended the match with 17-goal and 20-goal quarters and gave all 12 players valuable court time, with goal shooter Kayla Mallett shooting a perfect 27 from 27 in just two quarters of netball.
Falcons trail Monash University Storm by one win but have superior percentage and could sneak ahead if Storm lose one of their remaining games.
That loss came perilously close to materialising against DC North East Blaze on Wednesday night, with ninth-placed Blaze leading Storm at half-time and the scores tied at three-quarter time before Storm prevailed 43-40.
Blaze rallied after falling behind 7-10 at the first break, taking a two-goal lead after 30 minutes and then closing the gap in the third quarter.
Storm struggled for accuracy in the final quarter, shooting 11 goals from 23 attempts, but did enough at the defensive end to ensure they took the four points.
NOTE: Fed Uni Ballarat Pride and Geelong Cougars will play their Round 16 games on Saturday, June 1 from 12.30pm at Wendouree Sports and Events Centre.