By Jordan Witte
The U17-3 Metro Jets have fallen just short of their first win of the season, going down to Airport Saints by three goals, 15-18, on Tuesday night.
Tied at 15-15 at three quarter time, it was a former Jet who broke Metro hearts.
Chiara di Filippo, who played for Metro for several years, departed the club to play with friends at Airport Saints after last season.
The midcourter had four crucial intercepts in the last quarter as the young Jets tired, with Sara Abate, Ella Buck and Reese Willder unable to hold back a surging Saints attacking third.
It was Abate who held the squad together for the majority of the night. The springy goal defense attacked the contest with trademark aggression, guessing correctly on a number of passes.
Maddy Usher impressed in her second game at U17 level, while Georgia Padden’s confidence soared from last week, with positive movement and involvement in the game.
In a low scoring match, it was important for the Jets to make their opportunities count.
As with their more senior counterparts, the youngest Jets squad started brightly. Holly Pugliese moved with the purpose of a far older goaler, directing Padden and holding for lob passes.
Willder, in her 17s debut, snagged three intercepts in the first quarter, with her presence making Saints attackers think twice about passing in her direction.
Neither team could make a dent in the other’s lead, with the Jets momentarily taking a three-goal lead early in the third quarter, before the Saints dragged it back.
Isabel Leraci and Pauline Genreau played outstanding defence, settling back in the court to clog up the Saints space. Genreau in particular played a more than handy role on Di Filippo, as the dangerous wing attack threatened to take the game away from the Jets.
With the scores tied at three-quarter time, coach Jordan Witte implored his players for a massive last-quarter effort.
Despite the squad’s best intentions, and some brilliant defensive efforts from Abate, Willder, Buck and Usher, the team fell away late, as Di Filippo seized on lob passes time and time again.
Pugliese and Padden shot at 80% in the last quarter, sinking the majority of their opportunities, while Genreau and Leraci finished off their midcourt work strongly.
Ultimately, it wasn’t enough, as the Saints took advantage of older bodies and more experienced heads to win narrowly.
Witte praised the increased effort and improvement from his team, highlighting the contribution of the players still eligible for U15s level.
“From last week to this week, your game as a team has improved so much,” the coach said.
“The movement from the goalers. The drives from the midcourt. Reese, Maddy, Ella, Sara, all fantastic in defense. We’re so close, and I have no doubt that there is a very, very good team standing in front of me here. We just have to go that little bit harder for that little bit longer.”
With the loss, the 17-3s fall to 0-3 on the season, still searching for their first win. They will next play BNC Jacquars on the 28th of February.