Vixens keep their title hopes alive with strong showing
Melbourne Vixens have stormed into the preliminary final after turning the tables on cross-town rivals Collingwood on the most crucial stage with a commanding 13-goal win in their sudden-death semi-final.
In the first all-Melbourne Super Netball final, the Vixens snapped a late-season form slump in emphatic fashion to score a 62-49 victory at the State Netball Hockey Centre.
The Vixens booked themselves a showdown against the New South Wales Swifts in the preliminary final in Sydney on Sunday, with the winner to play dual title winners Sunshine Coast Lighting in the grand final.
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The Vixens have lost both their games against the Swifts team this season.
They had then same record facing the Magpies this season, but they avenged last week's 11-goal loss to break a three-game losing streak to keep their maiden Super Netball championship hopes alive.
But there was a scare for the Vixens when star goal defence Jo Weston appeared to hurt herself taking an intercept midway through the third quarter. After being assessed by medical staff at a time out, however, she was able to play out the match.
The Vixens were fuelled by a standout midcourt performance from captain Kate Moloney in centre, while goal attack Tegan Philp (29 goals from 36 attempts) was also a standout alongside a more assertive Caitlin Thwaites (29/33).
Magpies goal shooter Shimona Nelson topscored for the game (42 from 46), but the Vixens' defence made delivery into the circle much tougher this week.
The Magpies had stormed into the Super Netball finals on the back of three straight wins to close out the regular season, stealing the last spot in the top four from the Giants with their final-round win over the Vixens last week.
It had been a less than encouraging finish to the home-and-away season for the Vixens, who suffered three straight losses, which were all against the three other finalists.
The connection in the Vixens' attack had been shaky in recent weeks, but Philip and Thwaites started on an offensive mission. The Vixens' strategy was clear early on with Thwaites coming out of the circle at every opportunity to allow Philip space to drive to the ring.
It worked. In a far more aggressive start than last week's performance against the Magpies, the Vixens made a statement early as they established a 20-9 lead at quarter-time.
Philip was explosive and didn't miss a goal in the first quarter, while Thwaites was steady and confident under the ring after being shaded by the dangerous Geva Mentor last week.
Ash Brazill has been a revelation in centre in the past month for the Magpies - named best on court in the past three games - but her influence was quelled by Moloney in the opening half.
The Vixens defensive pairing of Weston and Emily Mannix also restricted the impact of Magpies goal attack Nat Medhurst (7/9), while keeping the aerial threat of Nelson in check as they extended their lead to 15 goals at the halftime break.
As the Vixens' lead pushed out to 17 goals in the third quarter, Magpies made a change to their midcourt, bringing on Melissa Bragg at wing defence in place of Kim Ravaillion, but the move was short-lived.