WAS this the best round of games in Victorian Netball League history?
With seven out of 15 matches decided by four goals or less, every club was on the edge of its seat in a remarkably tight night at the State Netball Hockey Centre.
The gulf between undefeated teams City West Falcons and Boroondara Genesis and the rest of the Championship division has widened, with both downing their closest rivals in round five.
Genesis beat VU Western Lightning 44-40 in a close one after looking like they might run away with the result at half-time.
Lightning trailed by eight goals but dragged it back to three at three-quarter time before Boroondara steadied, with Ashlee Howard (21 goals from 24 attempts) prominent at goal attack.
Falcons made light work of Geelong Cougars, who dropped out of the top four after a heavy 60-41 loss.
Cougars matched the league leaders in the first and third quarters but a six-goal run in the second and another run late in the last five minutes of the game blew out the scoreline.
Geelong goal keeper Keisha Guilmartin kept up the pressure on Falcons goal shooter Kathleen Knott, but Knott’s experience told over four quarters and she finished with figures of 37 from 44.
Falcons goal keeper Emily Mannix and defensive partner Casey Price were named best on court.
Peninsula Waves strung two wins together for the first time this season, beating Southern Saints 37-30.
Despite Waves’ goalers shooting at just 55 per cent, the consistent delivery from wing attack Jessica Cox provided headaches for Saints’ defensive line.
At the other end, Peninsula defenders Christina Vickery and Jessica Maher kept their opposition to 24 fewer shots, including 35 shots to just 16 in the second half.
DC North East Blaze took until the fourth quarter to shake Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels, with Blaze finally adding a second win after their victory over Waves in round one.
Blaze led by three goals at both quarter and half-time and extended it to four in the third quarter but released the shackles in the final 15 minutes, winning 51-40 despite some eye-catching defensive work from Ariels wing defence Lauren Close, who had a rolling battle with Blaze wing attack Bronwyn Taylor.
Simone Nalder impressed under the post, scoring 33 of her 37 attempts for the winning side.
Monash University Storm had no trouble accounting for Fed Uni Ballarat Pride, who are the only Championship side without a win after a 68-40 defeat.
Most of the damage was done in a 21-goal third quarter for Monash, who now sit just outside the top four, while Pride were left to lament some poor decision-making and a lack of precision at key points throughout the contest.
VU Western Lightning has done what only one other team has been able to do in the last two seasons, beating Boroondara Genesis in a one-goal win that will give hope to the rest of the Division 1 competition.
Genesis, whose last loss came in round 14 last year, led by two goals at three-quarter time but their early missed shots came back to haunt them as Lightning raced home to a 39-38 victory.
Lightning goalers Rebecca Scott (25 goals from 24 attempts), Ella Bertacchini (13 from 15) and Monika Dimovski (two from three) shot at an incredible 91 per cent combined, putting up nine shots less than their opposition but still doing enough to win.
VU’s Madeline Stewart got the nod from the umpires for her game at goal defence.
One goal was also the margin in DC North East Blaze’s thriller against Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels.
Both teams led at different points throughout the match but no more than a goal separated them at any of the breaks, with Blaze hanging on 38-37 in a tense final few minutes to chalk up their first win of the season.
Ariels could have stolen a draw after rebounding out of defence with less than 20 seconds left in the game, but a controversial obstruction decision saw the ball held up in the centre third as the clock ran out.
One bad five-minute lapse in the third quarter cost Geelong Cougars dearly against City West Falcons.
The teams were tied at both quarter-time and half-time, but the introduction of Darcy Saunders (14 from 17) in the third quarter helped Falcons to a seven-goal lead, which they extended to 44-36 by game’s end, despite some strong defence from Nikki Cooke and Ainsleigh Corrigan.
Falcons now move to top spot on the Division 1 ladder and will next week take on second-placed Boroondara Genesis in the match of the round.
Fed Uni Ballarat Pride hung tough for three quarters against Monash University Storm before falling away to lose 58-38.
Storm had the bulk of the opportunities in the first half but led by just five, with Ballarat goal keeper Lilly Walsh giving Monash and Victorian 19 and Under goal shooter Ashlee Porter (12 from 26) a difficult time.
Porter was switched for Ramayer Gourley (21 from 24) at half-time and the move paid off as Storm built their lead and recorded their third win of the season.
Southern Saints made it four wins from their opening five games with an easy 47-32 result against Peninsula Waves.
Waves couldn’t make a dent in their early deficit as Saints’ defensive line kept their opposition to exactly 32 goals for the third time this season.
Saints goal shooter Elizabeth Nicol’s 30 goals from 33 attempts went a long way to ensuring the win and earned her MVP honours.
19 AND UNDER
THE best Victorian Netball League action in round five came in the 19 and Under division, where four out of the five matches were astonishingly close.
No more than four goals separated the teams in those four contests, with City West Falcons getting an almighty fright in the last quarter against Geelong Cougars.
With the game seemingly in the can at 34-22 at three-quarter time, Geelong turned on the jets in the last quarter and got within three goals at the final whistle, doing down 40-37.
Falcons shooter Amelia Brock’s 26 goals from 35 attempts proved decisive, despite City West throwing up 15 more shots overall but struggling to make them count, while Geelong wing attack Demi Grant and goal attack Mary Waldron were at the front of the Cougars fightback.
Boroondara Genesis won a seesawing clash with VU Western Lightning as both teams’ form fluctuated wildly throughout the match.
Lightning led 21-16 at half-time but scored just three goals to Genesis’ 14 in the third quarter to flip the match around.
VU rediscovered their first-half form to challenge for the win in the final quarter, with Kailah-Mae Keepen (33 from 41) netting a perfect 11 from 11 for the quarter, but Genesis did just enough to hang on, 37-35.
Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels turned a seven-goal half-time deficit into a four-goal win against DC North East Blaze.
Blaze’s speed of ball was impressive in the first half, with playmaker Maddison Wallmeyer a handful at wing attack as they opened up a 22-15 lead and looked set for their first win of the season.
Ariels pushed hard in the third quarter after putting Alexandra Joyce into the game at centre and narrowing the gap to a single goal at the last change, before pulling clear and withstanding a couple of Blaze surges in the dying minutes to win 43-39.
Samantha Gooden shot 20 from 22 for Ariels in an unfamiliar position at goal attack, while Madeleine Toohey was solid in defence.
Peninsula Waves ended Southern Saints’ three-game undefeated streak in another tight tussle that only swung Waves’ way in the final quarter.
Saints were in front in the first three quarters but ran out of gas, with goal shooter Alex Maher (22 from 35) held to just one goal in the final quarter as Waves ran over the top to win 39-36.
Kayla Brown led Waves’ defensive effort with a number of crucial intercepts, and also forced a Saints’ goal attack change at half-time, with Sarah Hetherington (two from six) struggling to have an impact.
Monash University Storm was the only team to enjoy a comfortable win, beating UB Ballarat Pride 43-31 and handing them a fifth consecutive loss.
Storm set the tone in the first quarter, leading 13-6 and slowly building their advantage before some positional changes and a solid showing from Pride goal defence Amy Starzer pegged a couple of goals back late in the game.