By: AAP, Damien Stannard
Cara Koenen has led the Sunshine Coast Lightning into the Super Netball top four with a 69-62 triumph over the NSW Swifts.
Sunshine Coast Lightning’s resurrection as a Super Netball premiership force has gained momentum with a 69-62 win over defending champions NSW Swifts at Ken Rosewall Arena.
After stumbling in the opening two rounds, Lightning is once again roaring after consecutive victories against the previous two champions, having overcome Melbourne Vixens last week.
With Steph Wood uncharacteristically quiet on Saturday, Lightning needed spark from elsewhere.
They found it from goal shooter Cara Koenen (48 goals at 98 per cent), defender Tara Hinchliffe and teenager Reilley Batcheldor, who produced a stunning nine-minute third-term blitz .
“It was a bit ugly at times from us,” Koenen said.
“We hadn’t won two consecutive games yet so this was a crucial one for us.”
A brave performance from defender Sarah Klau aside, the Swifts could not win enough ball in the second half to supply shooters Helen Housby and Sophie Fawns.
It was a fascinating strategic battle between two of the competition’s youngest and brightest coaches – the Swifts’ two-time premiership mentor Briony Akle and Lightning and National Under-21 boss Kylee Byrne.
Akle initially tried to create a height mismatch by using Klau at goal defence, but it backfired when Lightning seized a six-goal lead late in the first quarter.
Klau looked out of sorts trying to track Lightning skipper Wood as the Swifts’ defence failed to slow the visitors’ slick ball movement.
Byrne used almost every resource available to her in the second half to pump energy into her side.
She made a whopping nine changes in the third quarter and the one that worked most effectively was the injection of Batcheldor.
The rookie shot a perfect seven-from-seven for the term, including four booming two-point super goals.