By Jordan Witte
After the high of last week’s victory of Craigieburn, which gave them their first win of the season, the U17-2 Metro Jets side came crashing back to Earth on Tuesday night, as the elements and the fourth-placed Sunbury Sonics combined to hand the Jets a 15-36 loss.
With captain Leah Cheevers still a week away from returning from her ankle injury, the Jets weren’t able to match Sunbury’s precision, as the Sonics dealt with the wet conditions far better.
This wasn’t a blow-out win based on one particular quarter where the Sonics dominated. Rather, it was a gradual defeat, as the Jets struggled to put together back-to-back goals.
The midcourt – marshalled by Alicia Lupone, Bec Stingel and Maddy Birrell in her return from illness – did their utmost to adapt to the difficult conditions. The Jets have enjoyed successful games from Lupone and Stingel in the past, largely due to their speed and ability to get separation from their defenders.
On a wet night, with the court not conducive to speed of movement for both ball and player, the Jets found themselves bogged down in the midcourt and unable to utilise their strengths.
As a result, the turnovers came thick and fast. After last week’s miserly effort in only giving the ball away 18 times, the Jets had 22 offensive turnovers against Sunbury, and couldn’t move the ball from defense with any fluency, giving it away 7 times in the defensive third.
The conditions made it difficult for Aimee Harris and Anushka Sadler to have any meaningful impact on the game. Sadler’s shooting action is quite loopy, and while it is effective in dry weather, any bounce off the rim in wet conditions will skid and often miss. Harris’ shots are flatter, but again, any deviation from the centre of the ring will cause variable bounce and skid when the rim is wet.
Both goalers do rely on the rim to aid their shots in falling, and while the shooters contributed 15 goals at 78% between them, the sheer lack of opportunity for the first-choice goaling partnership meant the Jets struggled to put any scoreboard pressure on the Sonics.
Harris’ third quarter was a highlight, as the goaler put the conditions to the side to score the side’s only goals for the quarter, shooting five goals at 100%.
Kim Dooley trialled Ketria Wood and Louisa Bongrain in attacking positions in the last quarter to attempt something different. Bongrain spent a previous season in shooter, while Wood has pedigree as a part-time attacking player, but the positional switch was to no avail as the Sonics defenders pounced on anything loose.
Maddy Birrell conributed strongly to the defensive part of the court, as she was utilised firstly as a wing defense, then a centre, and finally as a goal defense. In difficult conditions and against bigger-bodied Sunbury players, Birrell’s drive was a highlight, as she combined well in the last quarter with vice-captain Charlotte Caldow to blunt the effectiveness of Sunbury’s goalers.
Despite the result, co-coach Kim Dooley was buoyant after the game, assigning a portion of the blame to the weather conditions.
“It’s not all bad. It’s just the rain and the wet, and us going away from the little things that we do well,” Dooley said.
“While the weather obviously affects the game style we play, we can’t blame it all on it being wet,” co-coach Jordan Witte added.
“We did go away from our game plan. We got harrassed into giving the ball up, and we couldn’t give our goalers the opportunities they need to win us the game.”