Glorious sunshine provided the perfect backdrop for the players to perform in the fourth round of the 2022 Steeline Bendigo Bank Limestone Coast Football Association Senior Women’s season last weekend.
Three competitive games were played across two sun-soaked days of action across the region where Millicent United kicked its campaign into gear in a big way.
After two defeats, and a fighting draw with Gambier Centrals, Millicent had a great chance to score its first win in its home clash with Naracoorte.
The raw nature of the Naracoorte team puts it on the back foot on most occasions, but to make life harder the inexperienced players entered this road trip to McLaughlin Park without any recent match practice after Covid wiped out the previous round’s clash with Blue Lake.
Millicent also had its personnel troubles with three players missing which brought a smaller scale pitch into play.
With limited numbers and space, both teams struggled to find the pace, energy and hunger to take the upper hand.
Play was slow early as they became acquainted with the unfamiliar surroundings until Millicent broke the game open and did not look back.
The hosts became an unstoppable force and bombarded the Naracoorte defensive structure to score three goals before half time.
The late assault in the first half galvanised the hosts and they used the extra confidence to play with greater freedom and skill after the main break.
The Millicent United team could not be stopped on its way to collecting a much-needed 5-0 win.
Darcey Allen was the biggest threat scoring two goals, while Hayley Fatchen, Emma Lang and Lana Shepherd also got into the act.
The closest contest occurred at Webb Street where Apollo showed it can compete with the best by taking the fight up to Blue Lake.
The blue and white have been one of the big improvers in 2022 by pushing International to the edge in the opening round before recording wins over Centrals and Naracoorte.
But with illness causing personnel changes, Apollo was braced for one of its biggest challenges of the season against Blue Lake.
The Rangers were desperate for a kick after missing out on the action last week and were committed to getting their season back on track by rising from fourth on the ladder.
The team led by Aimee Brooks was also missing several key players following the two-week break, but showed no signs of weakness during a dominant opening.
The visitors pounced on any loose ball and controlled possession to lock the ball in their half.
Blue Lake’s fast start restricted the home side to all out defence and goalkeeper Ange McDonough stood tall amid the assault, pulling off a number of impressive saves to keep the scoreboard locked at 0-0.
However, the Rangers’ press eventually proved too overwhelming and a long-range strike from Jasmine White slammed into the net.
Despite Blue Lake being rewarded for dominating the first half, Apollo managed to break through the line and create a chance against the run of play.
In another reflection of the greater depth at Webb Street in 2022, Evie Thompson popped up from nowhere and made a dash for the goals.
In her first game of senior women’s soccer Thompson stole the show by creating a brilliant individual goal out of nothing to level the scoreboard just before half time.
The equaliser pumped up Apollo at the break and the home side pressed hard when play resumed through Bella Calderwood, Nop Pha Rad and Zoe Brooksby.
But the likes of Lauren Frost and Aidene Parr, Blue Lake also did not back down as the exciting contest became an arm wrestle that was difficult to judge.
All eyes were on the wing as Chelsea Frost and Paris Ackland went toe to toe for the visitors and hosts respectively in a gripping one on one battle.
Both players had their moments, but Frost had the last laugh when the experience of Blue Lake showed.
The Rangers cut through Apollo’s defence with a nice through ball which was completed by youngster Brooke Gilbert.
The big play put Blue Lake back in front and the visitors were able to defend the lead until the final whistle even through the blue and white kept on fighting.
Heavyweights Gambier Centrals and International came face to face at MGA Park.
Despite playing on their home pitch for the first time in 2022 and welcoming back co-captains Kiah Connelly and Wanita Robinson, the Lions were unable to find their stride early and paid the price.
Inter only needed 15 minutes to score two goals and assert their dominance on the contest.
Both of these big blows came from the boot of Ella Doody, who continued her golden form by scoring a field goal and a penalty.
She was strongly supported by April Hockey and Satu Aumo, who set up many chances.
Although Centrals managed to regroup from the poor start with Rose Irakoze, Isla Dickson, Bronwyn Mitchell and Olivia Gwilym making some promising runs, the hosts could not make any inroads and Inter continued its perfect start to 2022.