By Jordan Witte
After several weeks of frustration, the Metro Jets U17-1 squad has finally broken through for its first win of the season, downing Northern Panthers 23-13 on Tuesday night.
The Jets led from start to finish in a dominant display. It was a win built off the back of supreme, stifling defense, from pillar to post.
Senior goalkeeper Zoe Usher had perhaps the best game of her junior career, blunting multiple Panthers attacks; Nat Williams continued to improve, leading drives from defense; and Bela Hartman notched an extraordinary 12 interceptions across four quarters, well and truly taking control of the game.
The Jets built their lead solidly, outscoring the Panthers in three of four quarters. Goal attack Chanel Romeo and goal shooter Alix Colafella combined superbly in the first quarter, at one stage extending the lead to three goals.
The Panthers would not go quietly, and it took two desperate defensive efforts from Usher to keep them from tying the game at the first break, with the Jets heading to the huddle with a two-goal lead.
Coaches Jordan Witte and Kim Dooley, impressed with the display, opted to leave the girls in their positions, which paid off almost immediately, as wing attack Darja Bilyanska and centre Lucy Beath combined to spark a five-goal unanswered run.
Pre-game, Witte had urged Colafella and Romeo to move the ball inside the goal circle, not taking the first shot available to them and always searching for a better option.
The result was emphatic, with both attacking players recording 6 assists. The unselfish play kept the Panthers defenders guessing, and created easy shots for both goalers.
The lead increased by two at the main break, with the heat taking its toll on both sides. Beath and Bilyanska were swapped, while Hartman moved back to goal defense.
It was more of the same for the Jets, who put the foot down in the premiership quarter. Hartman and Williams took the ball away at will, while Bilyanska and Beath patiently picked their way through a scrambling Panthers defense time and time again.
With a ten-goal lead at three-quarter time, the bulk of the work was done. Witte and Dooley urged a strong finish, but with no rotations and a sapping heat affecting the players, the last quarter was merely a formality, as both teams struggled to score.
It wouldn’t matter, as the Jets walked off the court winners for the first time in 2017.
Post-game, the coaches were ecstatic with the result.
“That’s how we want you to play,” said Witte. “Aggressive, hard, fast and tough. That effort will get the job done every week.”
“You were tired in the last quarter, but that’s to be expected when you put in the work in the first three quarters. You built a lead and put them away early.”
The win takes the Jets to 1-2 on the season, with a crucial match-up against Penola Saints to come on the 28th of February.