THE battle for the last finals spot in the Victorian Netball League’s Championship division will come down to the final round of the season after Peninsula Waves suffered a shock one-goal defeat against Monash University Storm in Round 17.
In a crucial game for Waves they failed to fire in the first quarter, trailing 15-6 before introducing Sarah Hosking at centre and reducing the margin to just two goals at half-time.
Storm again pulled away in the third after a complete goaling line change that saw Shae Gee (nine goals from 16 attempts) and former Queensland Firebird Candice Adams (eight from 11) enter the fray, but their six-goal advantage quickly evaporated in the last quarter.
A superb Waves defensive effort that held Monash to just three final-quarter goals saw them give themselves every chance of victory, but they came up one goal short.
The loss leaves them half a game clear of VU Western Lightning but facing a daunting Round 18 assignment against undefeated league leaders City West Falcons.
Lightning will take on Storm next week and can claim fourth place if Waves are unsuccessful, having completed part of the equation this week by beating Geelong Cougars convincingly.
Lightning welcomed back star defender Brooke Thompson and promptly racked up their biggest score of the season, setting the tone with an 18-10 first quarter and rolling on from there to complete the 68-41 demolition.
Kate Thompson shone at goal shooter for VU, breaking the 50-goal barrier with 51 goals from 55 attempts, while goal attack Sophie Barr missed just one of her 18 shots on goal.
Falcons found themselves in unfamiliar territory when Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels got the jump on them in a big way.
With regular goal shooter Kathleen Knott sidelined, Falcons struggled in attack in the opening quarter, while also struggling to contain an Ariels attack end led by Melbourne Vixen Caitlin Strachan, as the underdogs opened up a 20-11 lead.
But Falcons reduced that margin to two goals at half-time and put their foot down in the second half, scoring 34 goals to 19 to wrap up a 62-49 win, with goalers Alice Teague-Neeld (35 from 37) and Julia Woolley (27 from 28) giving away nothing.
Third-placed Southern Saints shored up their finals position and received a confidence boost by downing second-placed Boroondara Genesis 45-40.
Saints led at every break and by as much as seven at three-quarter time and Genesis couldn’t close the gap in the final quarter as Saints extended their winning streak to five games.
DC North East Blaze had a field day against Fed Uni Ballarat Pride, coming within a whisker of a 50-goal win in a match that was all but over at quarter-time.
Blaze scored 25 goals to six in the opening 15 minutes alone, with shooter Simone Nalder (43 from 47 overall) netting a flawless 21 from 21, and though Pride were competitive after quarter-time, Blaze continued to pour in goals. Pride elevated Victorian 19 and Under representative Katharine Dicker and the young goaler impressed with 30 goals from 39 attempts.
THE finals picture is all but set in VNL’s Division 1, with the top four teams unable to be unseated with one round remaining in the season.
Ladder leaders City West Falcons remain on top but were staring down their second defeat in three weeks before a second-half fightback against Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels.
Falcons trailed by a goal at quarter-time and three at half-time but hit back hard in the third quarter, scoring 13 goals to six and another 13 to eight in the final quarter to seal a 43-34 victory.
Falcons need a win in Round 18 to seal the minor premiership, with Southern Saints just half a game behind after beating third-placed Boroondara Genesis in a late season arm wrestle.
Genesis had the edge early and opened up a five-goal lead by half-time. They stayed in front by three at the final change, but Saints came hard late and with Chloe Curran (31 from 36) and Georgina Cuthbertson (10 from 13) missing just one of their 17 final-quarter attempts, they ran Genesis down to win 42-38.
Geelong Cougars look like heading into finals with some momentum after a sixth win from their last eight games, this time against VU Western Lightning.
Lightning hung with the fourth-placed Cougars in a high-scoring affair, but with Geelong shooter Ruby Horton nailing 47 goals from 53 attempts, the task was too great and Cougars were able to keep them at arm’s length and win 61-55.
The battle between two sides at the bottom of the Division 1 table went the way of DC North East Blaze, who were too good for Fed Uni Ballarat Pride.
Blaze chalked up their fourth win of the season with the 44-33 result and consigned Pride to a fourteenth consecutive loss.
Monash University Storm will be wondering what might have been after their inspired end to the season, downing Peninsula Waves 43-27 for their third win in a row and swapping spots with Waves to move to fifth on the ladder.
A mid-season run of six losses in seven games crippled Storm’s finals chances, but they pulled off a 26-goal turnaround on the first time they played Waves, turning a five-goal third quarter advantage into a 16-goal win. Tayla Shannon was the pick of the goalers with 14 goals from 18 attempts – including 11 in the final quarter – after coming on at half-time.
19 AND UNDER
EVERY one the top four teams is in the running for a finals double chance heading into the last round of the VNL 19 and Under season in one of the tightest finishes on record.
Monash University Storm sit one game clear atop the ladder after dispatching Peninsula Waves 48-35 in Round 17, having set up the win in the first three quarters. Natalie Billings again provided a formidable target in the Storm attacking end, netting 31 goals from 38 attempts.
Storm will take on fifth-placed VU Western Lightning in the final round, and while they can’t miss finals they can be overtaken by both City West Falcons and Geelong Cougars, who both have a superior percentage and take on lower-ranked sides.
Cougars ended Lightning’s finals hopes and their four-game winning streak in a three-goal thriller that wasn’t decided until the final minutes.
Lightning looked like causing an upset when they marched to a 16-6 quarter-time lead, but Cougars narrowed the gap to three goals at half-time before squaring the game at 32-32 at the final change.
Cougars goal shooter Mary Waldron’s nine goals from nine attempts were the difference in the last quarter, with Lightning held to six goals as their finals chances slipped away, while Cougars can still finish in the top two if Falcons or Storm lose in Round 18.
Falcons were too consistent in their 52-30 win over Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels.
Ariels led in the opening minutes but Falcons quickly seized control, racing to a 13-8 quarter-time lead and extending it in every quarter despite Ariels swinging changes at both ends of the court.
Falcons goal defence Victoria Honner was instrumental in the win, while goal shooter Amelia Brock came off the bench in the second quarter and shot 19 from 24 for the match.
A top two finish isn’t out of the question for fourth-placed Southern Saints, either, after they beat Boroondara Genesis 61-38 for their fifth win a row.
Saints could rise to second on the ladder if both Falcons and Cougars lose in the final round, after they dismantled Genesis in a four-quarter performance.
Saints coach Jacqui Toy said her players “smashed it out from the first whistle to the last” and were looking forward to playing finals after finishing in the bottom two for the last three years.
“This new young group of athletes let the competition know they are keen to be finals contenders in 2014,” Toy said after the win.
Fed Uni Ballarat Pride will have more positives to take from their second half of the season after beating DC North East Blaze 49-36 for their second win of the year.
Pride took full toll of some early dominance, scorching to a 15-3 quarter-time lead and never letting Blaze get close, with Ballarat goal shooter Hayley Fidler netting 29 goals from 40 attempts. Grace Thomas impressed at goal shooter for Blaze with 21 from 24 after being subbed into the game at quarter-time.