by Jordan Witte
A season-best performance from goal attack Latesha Hardaway wasn’t enough for the U17-1 Metro Jets side, as it fell to a 20-25 defeat to Doncaster & Districts on Tuesday night.
Hardaway, who crossed from Craigieburn at the conclusion of last season, was incisive in goal attack, both roaming the court to pick out assists and nailing goals from long range.
It took a special effort from a Doncaster side, somewhat unfairly anchored to 9th position on the ladder, to overcome the best Jets performance of the season.
Coaches Jordan Witte & Kim Dooley impressed upon their squad, four of which attended the VCNA tournament just two days prior, the importance of learning lessons from playing on representative squad players and implementing those lessons in their usual competition.
“The point of going to tournaments is to get better,” Witte said before the game. “We expect that those of you who went and played, learned something from playing on girls that are taller than you, that are faster than you, that move better or position themselves better on the court.”
The Jets heeded those words, starting the stronger of the two teams. Bela Hartman’s pressure through the wing defense position was immediately noticeable, while Lucy Beath went to work applying physical pressure in centre.
It was clear that if the Jets were to win, it would require a massive effort from defenders Alix Colafella & Zoe Usher. Doncaster’s goaling combination boasted extreme height – the type of game-breaking, get-out-of-jail height which is enough to overcome broken plays.
With Colafella taking on the responsibility of duelling with Doncaster’s goal-shooter, Usher was left to roam the goal circle seeking intercepts, two of which foiled Doncaster’s attacking thrusts.
At the other end, Hardaway’s forays into the centre third bared fruit, as the goal attack picked her passes early, stepping on and delivering accurately to Chanel Romeo, Darja Bilyanska and Beath on the circle.
Hardaway and Romeo had their best shooting performances of the season. Doncaster’s defenders forced lengthier shots, but the distance didn’t seem to bother either goaler, with the Jets staying within striking distance throughout the game.
Nat Williams, dealing with bilateral foot injuries, only played a half, but displayed her trademark aggression and defensive instincts, making the most of her time on court.
Trailing by six at three-quarter time, the coaching staff encouraged aggressive defense.
“It’s only three turnovers,” coach Kim Dooley said. “Just force three turnovers, and we are right back in this. That’s all it is, and you guys have got that in you.”
The Jets would force those three turnovers, but couldn’t retain the ball on their own centre possessions, as the teams traded breaks of centre. Colafella battled heroically against the towering Doncaster goal-shooter, forcing several intercepts.
But weight of numbers would prove irresistible, as Doncaster’s midcourt solved the problem and started throwing passes where only their goal-shooter could get them.
Combine that with an uptick in physicality, which saw Beath take several hard falls onto the court, and it was lights out for the Jets.
Three centre passes later, and the lead, which the Jets had gotten down to two through Hardaway and Romeo, was pushed back out to five goals.
There it would stay, the game finishing 25-30 in favour of Doncaster, condeming the Jets to their second-straight loss.
Post-game, coach Jordan Witte praised his squad for their best performance of the season so far.
“Yes, it’s not a win. And yeah, it sucks to lose like that, and get pushed around on court and come off with bruises and bumps. But that was easily the best you’ve played this season. The shooting, the defensive pressure, forcing turnovers, the ball movement. All the best you’ve put in.
“It’s the little five percent extra, pushing through in the last few minutes of every quarter and doing the little things, which is going to win you those games.
“Taking lessons from playing on rep-calibre girls, taller girls – you guys put that into practice tonight. It’s not a win, but there’s so much we can take from that game.”
The Jets fall to 1-4 on the season, with a matchup against Westside next on the fixture.