Sunshine Coast Lightning have accepted the challenge of a testing run home if they are to keep their unblemished finals qualification record intact.
Saturday night’s 51-44 Suncorp Super Netball loss to the Adelaide Thunderbirds meant Lightning must win at least five of their remaining six matches to extend their sequence of five consecutive finals appearances.
Three of those closing games are at USC Stadium, including the next two assignments against West Coast Fever and the NSW Swifts.
“We’re up for it,” Lightning Coach Kylee Byrne said as she promised increasing scrutiny on the attackers at training over the coming week.
“We need to make sure that when we have a ball we finish on it. We’ll put them under a bit of pressure this week to finish and deliver under pressure.”
Sunshine Coast sits just outside the top four on three wins.
With the Queensland Firebirds, GIANTS Netball, Collingwood Magpies, Thunderbirds and Swifts so close on the ladder, Lightning can not afford any more slips.
“Every week’s a final,” Byrne said.
It was goal-for-goal for much of the first quarter. Tara Hinchliffe harassed the Thunderbirds attackers and Kate Walsh’s long, praying mantis arms shot to full extension for a series of deflections and blocks.
Shots just would not drop for the Lightning who had Cara Koenen back in the line-up after missing Round 7 due to COVID-19.
The visitors took a 13-10 edge at the first break and extended their lead in the second quarter before Sunshine Coast staged a fightback.
Byrne mixed up her team, with Koenen given a chance at goal attack and Annie Miller enjoyed a strong second half cameo at wing attack.
But the margin was always going to be difficult to peg back and, despite winning the final term, Sunshine Coast ran out of time.
Defenders Walsh, Tara Hinchliffe and Mahalia Cassidy were again the Lightning’s backbone and caused “a lot of chaos”, according to Byrne.
“The amount of ball we turned over … they did everything they possibly could to keep us in that game,” the coach said.
“I couldn’t be happier with the effort that they put in.”