GIANTS Netball’s undefeated start to Suncorp Super Netball has come to an end after a near-faultless performance by the Melbourne Vixens at Hisense Arena tonight, Saturday 25 March.
While an entertaining contest, the Vixens were in the driver’s seat for much of the 60 minutes which forced GIANTS into chase mode for the entire game, finishing with a 59-51 victory to the hosts.
Head Coach Julie Fitzgerald said the GIANTS’ inability to convert on possession gained proved to be costly, along with a “beautiful” Vixens game.
“Our turnover conversion rate was nowhere near the standard we need or expect, and it proved the difference tonight,” she said.
“The Vixens played beautifully tonight, I really can’t fault their performance. Ultimately we didn’t do enough with the possession we worked hard to get, and that’s always going to hurt you. But it’s things we can work on, which we will do.”
It was the first game the GIANTS contested without Captain Kimberlee Green, and Fitzgerald admitted the attacking line was a “work in progress”.
“With Kim’s absence we knew we wouldn’t be able to fix it overnight; she’s one-of-a-kind and we will continue to re-jig our attacking combinations in her absence. It’s a work in progress, but I’m happy with our work so far and we will continue to build that over the next few weeks.”
If anyone doubted the contest they were in for, the opening minute cast aside all uncertainties with both sides putting on an incredible athletic display. The GIANTS were able to open the scoring through Susan Pettitt thanks to strong defence, but it was the Vixens who first found momentum.
While the GIANTS at times struggled to find connections, the Vixens were fluid in their cross-court movement which left the visitors in chase mode – both on court, and the scoreboard. GIANTS Centre Serena Guthrie did her best to lift her side, claiming two intercepts and three deflections just in the first half.
The Vixens continued their strong start into the second quarter, pushing out their lead by as many as five goals. But a strong purple patch halfway through the quarter saw the visitors put up six unanswered goals to take back the lead to set up a thrilling run into half-time.
However the GIANTS were still guilty of wasting opportunities which resulted in the Vixens taking back the lead, going into the big break with a two goal advantage.
Neither coach opted to make changes for the second half, with the GIANTS starting off strongly to once again even the scoreboard thanks to back-to-back Jo Harten goals within the first two minutes. But again the effort couldn’t be sustained as the Vixens mounted the pressure on to take back the lead.
There were moments of magic for the GIANTS, particularly between shooting duo Harten and Pettitt and the athleticism of Guthrie, but the Vixens were clearly up for the challenge – maintaining their control on play and the scoreboard, taking a four goal buffer into the final quarter.
With 15 minutes to switch around their fortunes, Fitzgerald made wholesale changes to her front-end by bringing on Kristina Brice to Goal Shooter, moving Harten out to Goal Attack and Pettitt to the wing; all with one aim in mind – to shorten the scoreboard deficit.
Unfortunately it did little to whittle the will of the Vixens who still had something left in the tank. With their midcourt delivering great ball into MVP Mwai Kumwenda, the hosts were able to run away to an eight goal victory.
MVP: Mwai Kumwenda (Vixens)
GIANTS | Q1: 11 – Q2: 25 (14) – Q3: 38 (13) – Q4: 51
VIXENS | Q1: 15 – Q2: 27 (12) – Q3: 42 (15) – Q4: 59
GIANTS: 46/57 @ 81%
J. Harten: 26/33 @ 79%
S. Pettitt: 16/20 @ 80%
K. Brice: 4/4 @ 100%
VIXENS: 51/61 @ 84%
M. Kumwenda: 28/31 @ 90%
T. Philip: 23/30 @ 77%
GIANTS | GS Jo Harten (VC), GA Susan Pettitt, WA Taylah Davies, C Serena Guthrie, WD Jamie-Lee Price, GD Bec Bulley, GK Sam Poolman
VIXENS | GS Mwai Kumwenda, GA Tegan Philip, WA Liz Watson, C Kate Moloney (C), WD Chloe Watson, GD Jo Weston, GK Emily Mannix
GIANTS | Q4: GA Kristina Brice, GA Harten, WA Pettitt.