The Melbourne Vixens have come unstuck against a steady Sunshine Coast Lightning side this afternoon, as the fight back in the final quarter was not enough to overcome the pressure of the away side.
While the Vixens fearlessly fought to the finish, pulling out all stops in the final quarter, the rush of momentum and support from the crowd could not get them across the line. The electrifying force provided by the Vixens in the final minutes will be the way they will look to start the beginning of their clash with the Swifts next week.
Head coach Simone McKinnis OAM was disappointed by the lack of power in the first half, but was pleased they were able to kick into gear towards the end of the game.
“I’d like to see that sort of intensity, work rate, hunger and fight for the full game. If we can show what we showed in that last half and particularly that last quarter, I’d be much happier,” McKinnis said.
Kaylia Stanton looked cool, calm and collected as she ran out comfortably in goal attack, providing plenty of pressure in defence. With hands over everything in Lightning’s transition, Stanton collected three deflections for her team.
The combination between Mwai Kumwenda and Hannah Mundy continues to grow, with Mundy releasing the ball with ease to her dynamic goal shooter. The confidence of Mundy has only increased since the season opener, allowing her to take on the game with strength to assist her captain Kate Moloney in hitting the top of the goal circle.
“It took us a little while to adjust at that centre pass … and creating some space and working for each other, but particularly in that third and second half we opened that up much better.
“It’s about the timing, it’s about the way the ball’s brought down from both the defence and attack end, it’s about the way everybody presents and the timing and reading of the play and making that move – that is what it comes down to.
While the contest is always tough against the Lightning, the Vixens brought the heat across the court, with Kadie-Ann Dehaney plucking two intercepts and three gained balls in defence as she started in goal keeper, supported by Emily Mannix who came on late but finished with a game changing save in the final quarter – with the goal post coming off second best.
Jo Weston continued her fine form with four gained balls and four deflections in defence, but also provided plenty of attacking assistance, receiving 12 centre passes to switch things up.
“KD has been training very well, she’s had a great week this week and she’s got great height. Then, we’ve got Emily who offers something different.
“Just at times you’ve got to put something different out there and try and change it up. Koenen was presenting quite well and I don’t think we were always contesting that ball that she was getting, so we needed a bit more pressure on that first ball and dictate the move back in.”
The goaling circle is beginning to blend nicely, with Ruby Barkmeyer channelling her inner Tegan Philip, swooping the top of the goal circle and feeding to Kumwenda like a well-oiled team. Her strong drives opened the court up and allowed a swift transition into the ring, yet it was her risk-taking and super shot aggression that had the fans on their feet in the second half of the game.
“Ruby grew as the game went on, we started to let the ball go much better and we started to have a bit more variety in the options that we were providing for the thrower, so it was better letting it go.”
Kumwenda provided plenty of magic moments, particularly when the game was up for the taking – showing her class with quick hands on the baseline and strong takes in the contest. Shooting at 100% for the game, excluding just the one super shot miss, Kumwenda was doing everything to will the team back into contention.
With 19 general turnovers in the first half, McKinnis was far from impressed with her team’s efforts at the beginning of the game.
“Quite terrible and not acceptable, and I did say that at half time that it has to change – it’s well below our standards and we’ve got to work hard to get to the standards we want.
“We need to work on cutting out those turnovers and just build on the intensity, work rate, ball skills and ball movement that we had in the final quarter and second half. You need that from the start.
“The better you read the play, the better the timing and the more easily we’re able to let that ball go and create it for each other.
Captain Kate Moloney once again put her body on the line for her team, physically contesting with Lightning’s Mahalia Cassidy at every opportunity and taking several hits to win the ball. When her signature ‘cmon’ roar was heard from the stands, the crowd knew we were in for a thrilling finish.
The Vixens will travel to Sydney next week to take on the NSW Swifts at Ken Rosewall Arena. They will battle it out for the Sargeant-McKinnis cup on Sunday, 16 May at 1pm – you can watch it live on Channel 9.
Tickets for rounds 4 and 6 at John Cain Arena will go on sale for members tomorrow, and the general public on Wednesday. More information can be found here.