Vixens edge Firebirds on home soil in pre-season match 2
Much like the first day’s play, the opening minutes of game two was goal-for-goal. Both Firebird, Romelda Aiken, and Vixen, Emma Ryde, had their eyes in early, the latter visibly relishing her time on court with broad smiles after each successful shot. Towards the middle of the quarter, things came undone for the home side, with flow being cut off by stifling Vixens defence. Firebirds were caught behind by the Vixens’ blinding speed, and precision passes. However, momentum began to swing back for the home side off the back of a trademark specky intercept from captain, Gabi Simpson.
The second quarter saw a changeup for both teams with the Vixens opting to put Jo Weston on at wing defence and introduce Kadie-Ann Dehaney at goalkeeper. After a quiet first quarter, the Firebirds chose to rest Gretel Tippett and introduce Amy Somerville in at goal attack. The home side also brought on Tara Hinchcliffe for Kimberely Jenner. The substitutions had little impact for either side as neither was able to break the centre pass. However, the Firebirds trademark tenacity eventually come through with a few turnovers bringing the game to within two goals with six minutes to go in the half.
Romelda Aiken showed that she is changing up her gameplay by coming out of the circle more to create space for her shooting partner. On one such occasion, she was caught up at the transverse line taking a high-pass with two Vixens defenders also contesting the ball in the air. Unfortunately for the Vixens, Emily Mannix came off worse in the tussle, coping a hard blow to the head which saw her taken from the court for the remainder of the game. The encounter must have put fire in the bellies of the Vixens players, as they came out of the medical time-out fighting and went on to extend their lead to eight at half-time.
The Firebirds opted for a moving circle in the third term with Gretel Tippett coming back on at goal attack and Amy Somerville moving to goal shooter. Maddie Hinchcliffe, who was brought on during the medical time-out in the second term, also retained the centre bib for the Firebirds. The #twinchliffe combination seemed fruitful, with the flow between ends much improved for the home side. Caitlyn Nevins also seemed much more relaxed in her usual position of wing attack and was able to let the ball go with ease. At the other end, Liz Watson and Tegan Philip were schooling the crowd on how effectively a wing attack can set a screen for a goal attack. The Firebirds won the quarter by two, which left them with six goals to chase down in the final term.
The Firebirds only made one change for the final term: bringing Romelda Aiken back on. The visitors also opted to swap their shooters, bringing Emma Ryde back on in lieu of Mwai Kumwenda, who was having an unusually quiet game. Despite the final score, the Firebirds defence was stifling for much of the final term. However, the Vixens showed patience by playing the ball around until space was created for a secure feed to the shooters. Caitlyn Nevins was like an energiser bunny for the home side, chasing down any loose ball, finding space and driving hard for passes. But the effort was for nought, with the Vixens running away with an 11-goal win.
Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke said the side needed to improve consistency and intensity as they head over to Perth to take on the West Coast Fever this weekend.
“The takeaways from these two games is we struggled to be consistent. We also need to be harder at the ball. I think that is still coming. Playing two games back-to-back is a really tough gig. Yesterday’s match play was quality. Today’s was a drop-off and you saw that in the sloppiness on the court,” Jencke said.
“I think both teams fought it out hard against one another. We trained for that, but we have to be better at it.”
Final Score: Melbourne Vixens 62 def Lorna Jane Queensland Firebirds 51
Katrina Nissen – Freelance writer
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