by Jordan Witte
The Metro Jets U17-3 squad has suffered its second loss to Airport Saints in three weeks, fading late to suffer a three goal loss on Tuesday night.
The Jets met the Saints two rounds ago, losing 15-18, and due to a fixturing quirk, the tams clashed again on Tuesday night, in stifling hot conditions.
With just seven players available due to Isabel Leraci’s finger injury, and Reese Willder’s illness, the Jets impressed early, with the relationship between Georgia Padden and Holly Pugliese buoyed by both goalers’ participation in Sunday’s VCNA tournament.
After being cut apart by the Saints’ ex-Jet Chiara di Filippo in the first match-up’s last quarter, the Jets’ coaching staff focused on stopping the midcourter’s endurance and passing ability.
A rotating cast of defensive-minded Jets midcourters was employed to stop both di Filippo & her fellow Saints’ drive through the centre of the court. Maddy Usher, Sara Abate and Ella Buck each played their part, cutting off centre passes and driving hard offensively to punish Saints mistakes.
In stark contrast to the first match-up, Tuesday night’s game was far more open, with both teams opening up the court and scoring freely. For every punch thrown by Padden & Pugliese, the Saints had a response, with the margin never pushing past three goals in either team’s favour.
With the heat playing its part, and the Jets coming off the court at each break tomato-red, the war of attrition continued deep into the second half. Amelia Fortunaso-McKay, who made her U17s debut after also attending the VCNA tournament, acquitted herself magnificently in goalkeeper, playing four quarters and notching up several intercepts as the Saints pressed forward.
After getting a baptism of fire during the VCNA tournament, team vice-captain Pauline Genreau continued her good form, playing four quarters in wing attack and assisting Pugliese and Padden.
The two goalers enjoyed first-class service, and the ease of their shooting was a highlight for a team that has struggled to score at times this season. The chemistry that all good goaling pairs exhibit is starting to show as the two work out the kinks that come with new players playing together.
In the end, it came down to a furious last quarter. Down by 3 goals, the Jets were able to draw within one goal as Usher and an exhausted Abate marshalled the troops defensively.
The Saints pulled away as di Filippo outworked Usher and made it to the edge of the circle. The Jets reigned them in, Usher getting her own back & intercepting a centre pass, before Pugliese finished confidently. The sun beat down, and the Saints – led by di Filippo, yet again, pulled away.
This time, the Jets couldn’t find the answers, as the Saints finished the stronger of the two teams and ran away with a 27-30 victory.
Despite the loss, the positives were plentiful from the game, with 27 goals from Padden and Pugliese the team’s second-highest total for the season.
The continued excellent form of Genreau, Usher, Abate and Buck, as the side comes together, bodes well for the second half of the season.
Finally, Fortunaso-McKay’s assured and confident display at U17 level is a sign of future things to come from the stingy, defensively-minded goalkeeper.
The Jets fall to 1-4 on the season, perhaps undeservedly. Despite only having one win to their name for the season, they possess a percentage of 98.13, indicating their attacking prowess is improving each week.
If the defensive effort can match the offensive output, the Jets will be going places fast.