The Melbourne Vixens have come unstuck to a blistering NSW Swifts side and were unable to combat their winning full-court defence. Despite returning to John Cain Arena in front of a Vixens-filled home crowd, the team could not counteract their slow start in the first quarter.
Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Jo Weston were busy in defence early, attempting to get their hands over every ball, yet the 12-goal difference at quarter time presented another fierce challenge for the unsettled Vixens side.
Unable to adjust to the intensity of the Swifts dynamic drives and polished systems, head coach Simone McKinnis OAM attempted several options to overcome the disheartening display that was unfolding out on court.
“I thought we’d had good prep, I thought they were in a good mind space, but Swifts are a very good team, and they were hot right from the word ‘go’. We had spoken to about that first quarter and how strong Swifts can be in that first quarter, so we just didn’t match that intensity or bring the intent and purpose into what we were doing,” McKinnis said.
“We were struggling to get that depth and ball movement in the attack end, we were just looking for a different dynamic between Hannah and Kate and being able to work that ball short and sharp, and with a bit of speed on the ball to circle edge.
“You’re always looking for something that is going to bring that spark out there on court, because we were quite flat, so we needed some urgency.
Star shooter Mwai Kumwenda left nothing in the tank from the get-go, embracing the Vixens fight back mentality they had heading into the game. But it was the final quarter that Kumwenda truly stole the show, bombing six super shots in the final five minutes to get the hopeful crowd up on their feet and effectively carrying the Vixens towards an 8-goal winning final quarter.
“Great to be shooting two pointers, but where was it in the first quarter? That’s my question for the whole group. There was some good ball work, a bit of spark, working it short and sharp and working it onto the circle edge, but we just needed that want for the ball from the start.
“We don’t have a set rule around the super shot. If it feels right, and if it’s more natural, but we were obviously in a position today where we wanted some two pointers. There were some nice shots in the end. But as I said, it’s that want for the ball, and it was missing from the start.
While the Vixens’ ever-reliable captain Kate Moloney lead fearlessly from both wing attack and centre across the full 60-minutes, it was Allie Smith and Hannah Mundy who had to work hard against a renowned Swifts defence. Space was difficult to find, but Smith brought a burst of energy in the second half to keep the Vixens in the game.
“That last quarter was a great quarter, it was 23-15, but that has to be coming from the start of the game, not the end when it’s all over.
“I think Allie came into the middle and did a really great job. She was certainly doing what we had asked of her – working that ball short and sharp…there’s that little bit of finesse and feed and placement of the ball into the circle, but I thought she was great and we worked the ball much smarter in the attack end.
Ruby Barkmeyer transitioned with Kaylia Stanton on numerous occasions throughout the game and did well to find Kumwenda when she was on target against a soaring Nissan Player of the Match, Sarah Klau.
“I think [Ruby] finished the game really strongly, and I was pleased to see that. But we also have to be able to put those shots up as well because the pressure can’t just be all on one shooter, we need two shooters on court who are going to be a threat at the shot.
While it is easy to pinpoint where the Vixens went wrong today, McKinnis was quick to defend the outstanding performance from the Swifts and the way they handled themselves out on court.
“We had too many basic errors and Swifts are a team that will make you pay doubly every time with those basic errors.
“I can’t take anything away from Swifts, I think they’re very good, they showed that last week against the Fever and they’re on top of the table. They are going to be there right at the end and they did super well today.
“We were poor, and just poor in basic execution and poor in that mind set and taking hold of the game and getting in the contest right from the word go.
Finishing with 5 deflections and 2 gained balls, Weston’s defence was commendable today, similarly to an in-form Dehaney who is pulling out all stops this season.
“KD certainly did some really good stuff, and it is exciting to see when she gets that touch on the ball. But it’s being able to do that consistently from start to finish, not just her but all of us across the board.
The Vixens will head into round 11 with a back-to-basics mentality, a want for the ball attitude and the confidence to take risks in attack and convert gained balls into super shots.