Hawks Netball’s 19/Under team has pulled off its most audacious win of the season, defeating ladder leaders Melbourne Uni Lightning by a single goal in a thrilling Victorian Netball League encounter.
The Hawks weathered a second-half fightback by the Lightning, who came into the game two points clear of teams placed second to fourth, and six points clear of the Hawks in fifth, in what is the tightest 19/Under competition the league has seen for some time.
A tight first quarter saw the teams exchange turnovers as they battled to settle into the game, but the Hawks had the better of the latter stages to open up a 15-13 lead.
The Hawks surged again in the second quarter, turning the screws on their centre pass defence while at the other end goal shooter Eliza Molino and goal attack Keeley Burgmann continued to connect, scoring a game-high 17 goals for the quarter to take a five-goal advantage into half-time.
But Lightning flipped the script in the third quarter, limiting the Hawks’ depth in the goal third and capitalising at the other to erase the entire five-goal deficit within 15 minutes, squaring the ledger at 44-44 heading into the fourth.
The final quarter was one of the best in any division all season, with enormous pressure from both sides as they fought to put their noses in front.
The Hawks edged clear by as many as three after forcing a number of held ball decisions against their oppisiton, only for Lightning to hit back and tie the scores again. The Hawks kicked ahead by two with 30 seconds remaining in the game when Burgmann netted a clutch mid-range goal, only for Lightning to score within five seconds at the other end through goal shooter Coco Smith.
But with Hawks midcourters Simona Di Filippo and Kaila Swindell content to play the ball between themselves and their defensive teammates, eating up the final 20 seconds, it was enough to see Hawks hang on for a memorable victory.
The result sees Hawks just half a game behind a four-way tie for the top four positions on the VNL ladder, with a Round 13 assignment against 10th-placed Boroondara presenting a good chance to sneak back into finals calculations.
The Hawks’ Division 1 team scored a season-best 36-goal victory against Melbourne Uni Lightning, firmly cementing themselves in the top four after 12 rounds.
Having defeated Geelong Cougars on Sunday to move a game clear in second spot, the Hawks were on fire early against Lightning, preying on loose balls and converting strongly at the other end to open up an 18-6 lead by quarter-time.
It was more of the same in the second quarter as goalers Dom Taylor (43 goals from 48 attempts), Hannah Keane (13 from 16) and Monique Lenehan-Moustafa (14 from 17) added another 18 goals, while in defence Sally Deller, Chloe Duke, Sasha Witts and Abi Inglis continued to get their hands on it, holding their opposition to seven goals for the quarter.
The Hawks held their momentum despite positional changes in the third quarter, pouring in another 19 goals, before running out 70-34 winners.
Keane said it was an important performance after the emotional high of the Geelong game.
“We really backed ourselves up this week following our Round 11 win against Cougars,” Keane said, before paying tribute to the entire team’s commitment to defend across the full 60 minutes.
“The defensive pressure all the way down the court was incredible from start to finish. All of the girls stepped up and played their roles individually and as a team.”
Keane, playing her first season in Division 1 after being elevated from 19/Under at the end of 2021, said the team was continuing to improve with each performance.
“We’re constantly building as a team and getting better and better each week,” she said
The Hawks play sixth-placed Boroondara Express on Wednesday evening.
The close results just keen on coming for Hawks Netball’s Championship division team, with Wednesday night yielding their fifth loss of five goals or less from the first 12 rounds.
The Hawks put a scare through third-placed Melbourne Uni Lightning, trailing by seven goals at three-quarter time before slashing the margin to just two midway through the final term.
But with a comeback victory on the cards the Hawks couldn’t quite find their next gear, with Lightning steadying to win 56-51.
Hawks wing defence Kelsey Buxton said the team has the talent to beat top-four teams but needed to find a way to finish off those close games.
“To be so close on so many occasions, it definitely starts to hurt,” she said.
“We have a fantastic group with everything we need to walk away from these games as winners but it just hasn’t been falling our way.”
“I feel we are definitely a team that feeds off one another’s energy. It only takes one player on court to get an inspiring intercept, a courageous drive or an impressive goal and you can honestly see our energy as a team lift and our game completely turn around.”