Saints stand up to pressure

WEST GAMBIER V MILLICENT

It’s hard to imagine there has been a more competitive, more attractive opening quarter of netball in the first three rounds as West Gambier and Millicent went toe to toe in a quality 15 minutes that saw the scores tied at 19 apiece at the first break.

Both sides welcomed back key players – West with Tara Bryant playing her first game due to State basketball commitments and Nikeisha Facey returned from being sidelined in round two due to illness, while Lisa Duldig showed no ill effects from the calf injury sustained in round one to be back on court for the Saints.

The free flowing opening quarter clearly saw a focus on defensive pressure from both teams and scoring became a little less easy in the second as Millicent created just enough turnover ball to work its way to a seven goal half time lead.

Hannah Nitschke and Kimmi Tincknell started to close down space, especially for Sarah Ritter who had dominated the opening quarter scoring, while the move of Duldig to wing defence and Lucy Denton to centre also helped the Saints’ cause as Duldig shut down the drive to the circle for the West mid court and created a few critical turnover opportunities.

Fortunately for the Roos, Facey and Amy Cram were also getting some critical touches to keep the home side in touch. The start of the third quarter was when the scoreboard damage was done as Millicent went on a scoring spree, while keeping West scoreless, and the seven goal lead was quickly double figures.

Paige Nitschke started to find the circle’s edge, Denton was also starting to deliver some quality ball while Tabatha Sanderson also started to loom large as the young mid court and experienced goaler Demi Verbena started to generate the speed of ball expected of the Saints when in full flight.

The lead was 13 by the final chance and 16 at the final whistle as West again rallied through the defensive pressure of Cram, Facey and Jade Ritter. Lisa McGregor put in her usual work rate, while Ritter finished accurately to ensure every opportunity counted for her team and when Carlee Ransom was able to conjure a strong drive she hit the circle hard and fed the ball with accuracy.

Both teams would have walked away with valuable lessons learned – Millicent realised it can fight hard when locked in a goal for goal contest despite having no Donna Denton or Hayley Dunn and West Gambier had their pre-season hopes confirmed – when they have their full side they are a competitive unit that will only improve as they develop team chemistry.

SOUTH GAMBIER V NORTH GAMBIER

After a strong performance against West Gambier, South Gambier was looking to put in a strong Anzac Day showing against North Gambier and the first quarter was the goal for goal contest the crowd had come to see.

Imogen Walker was dominating the attack end for the Demons with her strong takes and accurate finishing, while patience was the name of the game for the Tigers as Ellen Brown, Brianna Walters and Alycia Close moved the ball carefully to find gun shooter Caroline Davey in space.

Some late turnover efforts from Maddie Whaites and Mel Renko saw North sneak out to a three goal quarter time lead. In a bid to quell the influence of Walker, Renko moved to goal defence and in tandem with Whaites, it suddenly seemed a lot tougher to get the ball into the Walker-Lara Munro shooting combination and that also affected some of the shooting accuracy, while North started to move the ball more seamlessly through court to find Davey.

The other X factor in the Tigers taking control was the work of Brianna Walters, who not surprisingly walked away with the Shirley Underwood Medal. Walters not only used her pace to great effect but also hunted down some important loose balls and every time she had ball in hand she found a team mate.

The margin blew out to double figures by the main break and while the injection of Grace Edwards into the game caused the North defenders some headaches as her height became a factor under the post, the Demons made too many errors as Whaites, Renko and Walters continued to create turnover ball which was scored with great frequency by North.

Walker also exited the clash, giving the Demons a chance to work on combinations without the rarely available university student, and the sister act of Zoe and Alyssa Duncan had to work overtime to find the circle’s edge and deliver the ball to Munro and Edwards.

Give the frequency with which the ball kept entering the Tigers’ attacking goal third, the defensive combination of Brandi Bouchier and Renee Pluckhahn battled manfully so often coming close to forcing a held ball and making Close and Davey earn every scoring opportunity.

Pluckhahn was also critical in transition with her strong driving in what was her best outing for new club thus far. But in the end, the class and experience of the Tigers won the day by 25 goals with Shirley Underwood Medallist Walters and Renko having the most influence on the contest, with Whaites and Davey also having a big say in the final result.

EAST GAMBIER V CASTERTON SANDFORD

East Gambier continues to flex its muscles, cementing its top ranking in the A Grade competition with a comprehensive victory over an inexperienced Casterton Sandford line-up.

The Cats welcomed back Scarlett Jarrad and she gave some serious bite to the mid court, driving hard and providing leadership for her younger team mates against the star studded Bulldogs.

Rising star Chelsey Galpin also made a guest appearance for Casterton Sandford, playing in goals and on the attacking wing, with Charlotte Rice joining the game at quarter time and playing alongside the in form Tori Broomby in goals, who was again the Cats’ best.

As they have in the previous two rounds, the Bulldogs got off to a flyer, giving goalers Amryn Bosko and Tenille Gray plenty of scoring opportunities which they finished with great accuracy. At the other end of the court, Lisa Fyfe and Bo Creek were denying space and time to the Cats, turning the ball over regularly.

Kate Dempsey entered the clash for the final quarter and will earn a starting gig this weekend, with regular wing attack Tarsh McCallum away for work.

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