By: Suncorp Super Netball
This 2023 season, the first quarter has been the Sunshine Coast Lightning’s best, and the fourth being the Melbourne Vixens’, considering the stakes of this game, you would expect that pattern to continue. However, this game showed both teams doing the opposite, and despite a strong finish from the Lightning, it was not enough.
It was a very dominant start from the Vixens, particularly on defence. The combination of Emily Mannix and Jo Weston proved to be a nightmare for Lighting goalers Steph Wood and Cara Koenen. Mannix was getting hand to the ball and not allowing the ball to even get into the shooting circle, her ability to read the pass causing headaches for the Lightning midcourt. They continued to throw the ball away, struggling under the Vixen’s pressure.
The second quarter showed plenty of improvement for the Lightning, largely due to some serious shuffling of players on the court. Although they didn’t make a dent in the margin, the change in energy was immediate from the Lightning, with Ava Black providing some much-needed defensive intensity. Despite this lift in applied pressure from the Lightning, their inability to capitalize after winning the ball proved to be very detrimental. In saying that, they were able to win the second quarter and prevent the Vixens’ lead from building.
The Lightning continued to look promising in the second half, slowly changing the momentum of the game. The combination of Wood and Koenen grew in confidence and stating to look a lot more comfortable. Their partnership flourished at the beginning of the third.
It may have been Mannix in the first quarter who was troubling the Lightning, but late in the game, it was Weston who stood up and maintained that doubt in the Lighting players’ minds when passing the ball.
The Lightning was finally able to capitalize off won balls and Wood nailed two important super shots to keep her team within reach.
The fourth quarter is where things really started to heat up, the Lightning carried all the momentum and did everything they could to not just stay in the game but to win.
Slowly but surely, the Lightning edged closer, and the margin was the lowest it had been all game. Koenen was the main target for her team, and she didn’t let them down. Suddenly it was a tie game, and it was the Vixens feeling the pressure. Wood had been biding her time and with the final five minutes being the power five, she was in her element, and she showed just how clutch she could be. An incredible intercept from Karla Pretorius, allowed the Lightning to go down the other end and put themselves in the lead for the first time in the game.
Unfortunately for the Lightning, it was Kiera Austin who hit yet another game-winning super shot after the final buzzer and put her team up by one.