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Match Report | Lightning vs Vixens

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1 month ago

The Melbourne Vixens have consolidated their position atop the Super Netball ladder, claiming a two-goal win over the Sunshine Coast Lightning at UniSC Arena on Kabi Kabi Country on Saturday night.

Despite the loss of in-form goal keeper Rudi Ellis, the Vixens delivered a full-court defensive effort to outlast a potent Lightning attack in a frantic finish.

Q1 | Lightning 17–18 Vixens

Jo Weston and Emily Mannix started in the defensive circle together for the first time since Round 6, after Ellis fell just short of recovering from an ankle injury sustained in Monday’s derby win. The pair’s grinding defence gave them few statistical wins, but the doubt within the Cara Koenen-Steph Fretwell shooting circle was evident. The Lightning attack appeared hesitant on the feed as replacement player Sharni Lambden (1 intercept, 3 deflections) relished the opportunity in wing defence – her two early deflections and arms over pressure causing discomfort for Liz Watson (25 goal assists, 41 feeds), but not enough to widen the lead.

Q2 | Lightning 32–35 Vixens

After a strong first quarter forced Ash Ervin to the bench, Sophie Garbin (37 goals at 90%) looked unsettled against new goal keeper Courtney Bruce – the Diamonds defender stayed off the body and held the open space to create a slightly disjointed Vixens attack. In a game of inches, Kate Moloney and Hannah Mundy adjusted their play through the midcourt, opting for short and sharp movements to cut off the floating Lightning defenders. Suddenly feeling the pressure, Lightning switched their goal circle in the last five minutes, pairing Reilley Batcheldor with Fretwell to eat up the lead with three super shots, but a determined Vixens defence held them to a three-goal deficit at half time.

Q3 | Lightning 50–53 Vixens

The Vixens started the second half in scintillating form – Weston (3 gains) and Lambden finding early deflections thanks to the side's trademark tagging pressure. Their dominance allowed the Vixens midcourt to relax into the game, finding space even in the desperate moments. A series of stunning long-range Vixens feeds forced Bruce to the bench in favour of the towering Ervin (8 deflections) who returned with immediate impact. The visitors pushed the lead out to nine before a series of Lightning super shots closed the gap.

Q4 | Lightning 61–63 Vixens

The niggling battle between Weston and Fretwell continued in the fourth, with the goal attack finding space after Watson wiggled her way out of Lambden’s smothering defence. Feeling the energy from the raucous home crowd, Lightning surged ahead with timely gains from Ervin off the back of a Garbin offensive contact. After three quarters of Kiera Austin’s cruisy dominance in goals (22 goals at 76%, 13 goal assists), she appeared hesitant to drive to front position – enough of a wobble for the Vixens to give Lightning the turnovers they needed for another onslaught. The final 90 seconds was a major test for the Vixens, but the cool heads of Moloney (27 feeds, two deflections) and Mundy (18 goal assists, 31 feeds) prevailed, and they were key to keeping the ball in Vixens hands.

THE NUMBERS

  • 109: Player of the match Kate Moloney amassed 109 Nissan Net Points in centre after 27 feeds, five pickups and just one turnover. Her slick hands and cool head were paramount in securing the Vixens’ win, especially in the frantic final moments.
  • 3: The Vixens took just three intercepts across the match, and although it may not be a flashy stat, it’s testament to the grinding full court defence and team-first mentality that secured the win. Tagging may not rack up the Nissan Net Points, but the dogged efforts of Jo ‘Peston’ Weston were crucial in shutting down Steph Fretwell and securing the win.

THE COACH SAYS

Head coach Simone McKinnis commended her side’s persistence in a game where Lightning kept fighting back.

“From start to finish it was just a super intense, high-quality game. Even going into that last quarter, we were 4-0 up and then Lightning came back again and they did that all game. So it was a tough, tough game and I think it was a pretty high-quality game as well.”

McKinnis was overall happy with the Vixens’ composure in the dying minutes.

“Lightning were coming back and they were always quite capable of coming back. They’ve got some great experienced players out there on court that have been in those situations many times. And there were times when it got a little erratic, but in particular moments we did control the space and control our game.”

NEXT UP

The Vixens return home to face the NSW Swifts at John Cain Arena on Sunday 23 June, with the Sargeant-McKinnis Cup on the line.

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