The composure of Sunshine Coast Lightning shooters Cara Koenen and Steph Wood has helped snuff out the final-quarter comeback of defending Super Netball premiers Melbourne Vixens to maintain their side’s unbeaten start to the season.
The pair contributed a combined 53 points on 52-of-60 shooting in the 56-51 victory and showed great composure in the final quarter as the Vixens mounted an unlikely comeback.
Trailing by 10 going into the last quarter, the Vixens seemed out of the contest but showing the grit that led them to a drought-breaking title last year, they fought back in front of a strong crowd at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena.
Goalshooter Mwai Kumwenda led the revival, with nine of her 25 goals – including two super shots – coming in the final term, with her desperation helping cut the deficit to just six, with more than 12 minutes remaining on the clock.
Kumwenda was everywhere in the final term – sinking goals, picking up rebounds and throwing her body around the court while pumping up her teammates and the vocal Melbourne crowd.
The Lightning had subbed Koenen out of the game briefly to bring Peace Proscovia into the match but coach Kylee Byrne brought the Diamonds ace back in the final minutes, with the change ensuring the Lightning did not concede the turnover ball the Vixens desperately needed to steal the win.
Lightning skipper Karla Pretorius played a captain’s knock, constantly getting her hand to ball to disrupt the efforts of Melbourne’s shooters.
The South African finished with two intercepts, five deflections and three pick-ups as the Vixens struggled to bed down their new attack line.
Maddy McAuliffe, who was also outstanding in defence, conceded her side had tired in the final term but said their experience showed.
“I think our attack end stayed really composed during (their fightback) and defensively we were able to pick up some really important balls and start getting some rebounds,” McAuliffe said.
“We missed a few at the start of the last quarter but we definitely came good at the end.”
The Vixens’ defensive end was reliable as always, even with Kadie-Ann Dehaney winning a start at goalkeeper over Diamonds squad member Emily Mannix, and while the new elements of their attack line struggled early, there were encouraging signs from young guns Ruby Barkmeyer and Hannah Mundy.
Defender Jo Weston said the Vixens were disappointed despite the fightback.
“But the girls showed some really good fight, especially in the second part of that game,” she said.
“We’ve got a lot of fresh faces out there and new combinations, so we’ll be working on that at training but under the immense pressure of a talented team like the Lightning, we’ve got to learn to be more consistent than that.”
SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 56 (Koenen 42, Wood 11, Proscovia 3) def MELBOURNE VIXENS 51 (Kumwenda 27, Barkmeyer 13, Stanton 11).
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