By Jordan Witte
You could have forgiven Metro Jets’ U17-3s for turning up a little hesitant.
If you place any sort of value in looking at ladder positions and basing your chances of winning off them alone, then the Jets would have been down and out before the first centre pass against Victoria University.
This team isn’t built like that.
Since their first game as a team (a difficult 18-30 loss to WP Lakeside), the Jets have come on in leaps and bounds, gelling as a team and building the sort of chemistry that usually takes seasons to create.
It was this chemistry, and the willingness to adhere to a different game plan, that was the catalyst for a dominant first half against VU, which had the second-placed team on their heels and reeling.
With persistent rain having dampened the courts for the preceding few rounds, the Jets took the court last of all for Tuesday night. Coach Jordan Witte requested a patient build-up of play, attempting to ensure the Jets didn’t over-exert and cause themselves injuries while turning the ball over, trying to play too fast.
The Jets leapt to a phenomenal start, as Georgia Padden and Holly Pugliese were instrumental in giving Metro an early lead.
Asked during the week whether she feels comfortable in the side, Padden – who is still eligible for the U15s competition – was exuberant in her response.
“I think me and Holly are getting a lot better,” the goal attack said. “We are learning each other’s games. I’m having a lot of fun.”
The rise of Pauline Genreau continues unabated, as the diminutive young midcourter handled the conditions superbly. Treating it as though it were a dry ball, Genreau’s patient style of play matched the wet court, with her passes finding a teammate nearly every time.
With their shooters faltering early, the Vultures allowed the Jets to creep further and further away. Under a light drizzle, Pugliese was money time and time again, as Genreau and Isabel Ieraci patiently put together well-worked drives.
Defensively, the Jets have improved markedly. Team captain Sara Abate and Ella Buck form a dangerous partnership, and after last week’s rebounding troubles against St. Therese’s, the defensive pairing were rock solid, hauling down the Vulture misses in the first half.
At half time, the Jets were deservedly leading. Maddie Usher may as well have written the textbook on how to play wing defense, as the youngster monstered her wing attack and disrupted countless passes.
The issue with such a young team is the consistency. Although it has improved, it is still a major effort to win a game of netball at any level, and it requires four quarters of consistent effort.
The Vultures are second on the ladder for a reason, and their goal attack – introduced properly to the game at half time – showed why.
Despite the best efforts of Abate and Buck, no distance was too far as the Vultures rained down an ungodly amount of pressure-laden shots in the second half.
So good in the first half, the scoreboard pressure got to the Jets, as Padden and Pugliese couldn’t match the Vultures, who ultimately overpowered Metro to run out 13-21 winners.
“If we had played that team at the start of the season,” Witte said after the game, “we would have lost by a lot more.”
“If you look at our results from the start of the season, and compare them to how we’re travelling now, I can’t wait to get a second crack at everyone this season.”
“At your ages, the emphasis for us as coaches is on getting you guys to improve both individually and as a team every week. We just want consistent effort and to see that you guys are getting better. And so far, you’re showing us just that.”
Ladder positions aren’t everything. And the Jets showed that despite sitting second-bottom, with a record of 1-6, they’re a force to be reckoned with when they’re able to put it all together.
They’ll get a chance to prove it, with their first return match against Lakeside up next.