The Melbourne Vixens snapped a three-game losing streak with a season-defining 63-54 win over the Ascot Park Southern Steel at Hisense Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Without a win since their Round 3 triumph over the Kia Magic, a sharp Vixens outfit resisted several advances from the visitors through the match to run out the match in comfortable style.
The victory sees the Vixens hold third spot on the Australian Conference ladder ahead by 14 goals of the NSW Swifts sitting equal on eight points.
Highlighting full court defence as a major emphasis for her side throughout the week, Vixens captain Bianca Chatfield set the tone early with an intercept in the opening seconds of the match.
But despite securing an early possession break, the home side was left to rue poor handling and wayward passing as the Steel turned the game in their favour amid a scrappy first quarter.
Steel's giant target Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (37 from 41) was nigh unstoppable as partner-crime Te Paea Selby-Rickit (17 from 21) and mid courter Shannon Francois utilised the height advantage over Vixens' goal keeper Geva Mentor with high, deep feeds.
A late goal to Tegan Philip (22 from 25) on the stroke of the quarter time whistle proved important, as the Vixens kept the deficit to just two goals.
Back-and-forth play dominated the opening moments of the second quarter, as errant passing continued to derail any Vixens' opportunity of cutting into the lead.
It took some anticipating defence from Kate Moloney to force multiple turnovers and break the ice for the Vixens who piled on eight straight goals – and 21 for the quarter – to turn a two-goal deficit into a six-goal buffer either side of a Steel time out. Match MVP Karyn Bailey (41 from 49) would then close out the half with the Vixens holding their comfortable lead.
Coach Simone McKinnis made the surprising move to bench Chatfield in favour of Jo Weston, but the move paid dividends with the young defender forcing two turnovers through deflections as well as rare defensive rebound amid the tall Steel goal circle.
Steel coach showed her own hand by withdrawing wing attack Gina Crampton and goal keeper Storm Purvis to the bench, while bringing Francis and Wendy Frew forward a spot and adding defenders Stacey Peeters.
The move would prove vital late in the quarter, as the visitors closed the gap to three goals heading into the final change.
McKinnis' trail of Weston lasted just 15 minutes as she reintroduced Chatfield, as the Vixens kept a charging Steel at arm's length.
It took a clean deflection on the goal circle's edge from the Vixens captain to open the floodgates for the home side, who piled on 15 goals to 9 in a cruisy final quarter.
Despite the best efforts of in-form Steel defender Pheonix Karaka and an impressive shooting performance from Fowler-Reid, the Vixens claimed the all-important win.
Post-match coach McKinnis said her side's ability to bury the opposition was the resounding positive.
“I'm really pleased. It was always going to be hard work,” McKinnis said.
“It's one of those games. With a target like Fowler-Reid, they can score quite quickly.
“Our focus was on maintain our intensity, focus and concentration for a full game, which I thought, overall, was the best we had done for the year to be honest.”
Bailey also paid testament to permanent Vixens replacement player Kelsey Browne (17 assists), who backed up last week's half-game with a full and impressive 60-minute performance.
“Kelsey brings this enthusiasm and spark, they (she and sister Madi Robinson) actually have quite a similar playing style,” Bailey said.
“She steps on court and doesn't have any fear. She lets go of that ball, and as a goaler, that gives me great confidence to know that she's going to put that ball in that she trusts that I'm going to get it.
“Kelsey's such an exciting young player, I'm really loving playing with her.”
The Vixens play their final match of their three-game home stretch against the Maitland Tactix in an ANZAC Round blockbuster.
MATCH RESULT: Melbourne Vixens 63 defeated Ascot Park Southern Steel 54
Vixens Shooting Statistics
Karyn Bailey 41/49 (84%)
Tegan Philip 22/25 (93%)
Steel Shooting Statistics
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid 37/41 (90%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 17/21 (81%)
Chemist Warehouse Match MVP: Karyn Bailey (Vixens)
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