One week after losing the minor-premiership to International, Blue Lake United responded in the best way possible by knocking over its arch-rival in the qualifying final and marching into the inaugural Steeline Limestone Coast Football Association Senior women’s decider.
Despite being backed by a home crowd at Casadio Park, Inter could not stop the red and black from steamrolling to a 2-1 thrilling win in extra time.
After neither side could find the back of the net during 90 minutes of tough football, the game exploded in extra time.
With a direct ticket to the decider there for the taking, the rivals used all their energy, but United showed what it is made of by stepping up under pressure.
Lauren Frost’s long-range free kick into the top-left corner got the ball rolling in the second period of extra time, while Allie Fennell stuck out her left boot to consolidate the lead.
Although Ella Doody found the back of the net at the death, the black and blue ran out of time.
It was a huge turnaround from seven days earlier when Inter travelled to Malseed Park and sent a statement winning 3-0.
Blue Lake United coach Sean Fulton said the final-round defeat to Inter left his girls incredibly determined to fire back to form and jump into the decider.
“I think the loss galvanized us,” he said.
“We thought Inter was the biggest improver of the season and the loss gave us a look at the way they operate and exploit some of their weaknesses.
“We went in with a different formation and managed to hold the midfield which was critical.
“The girls just play for each other and the shirt.
“Our theme this week was to play for the team and that is what they did.”
Although no one made an impact on the scoreboard in regulation time, the battle for possession was on for young and old as the likes of Tess Andrews and Florencia Llambi locked horns with Chelsea Frost and Adele Wilkinson.
Fulton said a 0-0 scoreline was an accurate representation of the battle on display.
“It was a really tight game and Inter never gave up,” he said.
“There was nothing between the two teams and it was an arm wrestle the whole way through.
“Both teams had opportunities to score, but both defenses were really strong.
“It was a really bruising, physical game, so we are lucky to get the week off because a lot of the girls are a bit sore.”
With two weeks to prepare for the biggest game of the year, Fulton is happy with how his team’s pursuit of glory is tracking.
“We are confident, but know the job is not done yet,” he said.
“To go straight into the grand final after that loss gives the girls a huge amount of belief.
“We have set small goals throughout the year, the first was to make the top four which we did and now we have the ultimate one to aim for.
“The girls are confident without being over the top.
“It has been a bit of rebuild year, but luckily we have some experienced campaigners, so we will keep a lid on it, but it is pretty incredible to make the grand final.
“We will keep working hard with our heads down to make sure we hit that grand final with as solid game plan as we can.”
Blue Lake will face one of International and Gambier Centrals after the latter stormed home against Millicent.
In the cut-throat elimination final at Webb Street, Centrals were initially taken aback by a hungry Millicent side searching for an upset.
A couple of early goals for Letitia Izzo and Emma Lang put the travelling team in the box seat to do something special.
But it did not take long for the Lions to find their stride when a bust from Skye Robertson down the left wing put her side back in front.
Gambier Centrals did not look back from there and controlled the remainder of the fixture.
Despite Millicent being still in the hunt down 3-2 at half time, the visitors could not sustain the challenge when play resumed.
The Lions were flying in the second half and kicked three more goals to runaway to a 6-2 win.
Janaye Donaldson, Olivia Gwilym and Wanita Robinson added their names to the scoresheet.
Centrals will now fight for a grand final berth on home turf against Inter this weekend, while Millicent pack its bags following a spirited season.