by Jordan Witte, Claire Macuz & Salv Lupone
A singularly dominant performance from defender Malia Kroger and a shooting flurry from attacking trio Zoe Rowan-Paul, Isabella Cavallo and Dimitra Kritsidimas was enough for the U15-3 Metro Jets side to chalk up another win on Thursday night.
Taking on Essendon Thunder, who desperately needed a win to keep themselves within touching distance of the top 4, the Jets started like a bull at a gate. Kritsidimas, playing above her usual age group as a fill-in for the missing Emma Robertson, had two goals on the board before the Thunder could blink, with a combination of smart movement and fluid shooting action too clever for the Thunder defenders.
As the Thunder pushed for their own opening goal, Kroger notched her first deflection of the night, which allowed Emma Naso to assist Rowan-Paul for her first goal of the night.
Bella Cavallo was lively in wing attack, using her height to her advantage. A stunning effort at saving a wayward pass wasn’t called by the umpire, while Ella Zaccari, starting in centre, stepped in front of an Essendon pass to quell an attack.
Kritsidimas had her third for the quarter after snaring a rebound, before Essendon finally opened their account. The response was emphatic, as Rowan-Paul restored the Metro lead, before Kritsidimas extended it with two quick goals either side of a Kroger interception.
With an eight-goal lead at the first break, the Jets had already made Essendon’s job difficult. As the Thunder tried to work their way back into the game, Kroger forced three consecutive turnovers, extinguishing the now-fiery Thunder.
Sofia Abate’s lightning pace gave the Jets a point of difference in the midcourt, as Metro continued to ramp up the pressure on the Thunder. Abate’s speed contributed directly to the first Metro goal of the quarter, with Abate’s pass to Rowan-Paul put right on the money.
Playing at a frenetic pace, Eloise Barnwell’s vision in wing defense cut off Essendon passes in a row. Then it was Cavallo’s turn. Then Abate’s gliding interception gave the Jets the ball back again.
With the ball seemingly spending more time between the circles than in them, it was Essendon who broke the deadlock, reducing the margin to just four with five minutes left in the quarter.
From there, it was Kroger’s insane defensive pressure – hitting contests with ferocity scarcely seen in this competition – and Kritsidimas’ laser accuracy that carried the Jets to four goals in five minutes to end the Essendon resistance.
The third quarter was more of the same. Bella Cavallo was switched to goal attack, as Kritsidimas took a well-earned break. Cavallo contributed the first goal of the quarter, before Essendon answered back.
Kroger continued to have complete disregard for human life, throwing herself at everything. Metro’s court-wide pressure forced several turnovers for held ball, before Rowan-Paul, Abate and Cavallo combined for the play of the night.
Ducking under a defender, Rowan-Paul cleared out space, as the taller goaler took her on-edge opponents with her towards the baseline. Cavallo, now free of an opponent, hung out the back, but it was Abate’s pass, past the outstretched hands of an Essendon midcourter on the circle, which found Cavallo’s hands for the easiest of goals, that was the most impressive part of the play.
Metro’s clean-up crew – Naso & Kroger – forced another turnover, which Zaccari turned into a crafty assist to Rowan-Paul, before Kroger – always Kroger – went absolutely bananas in a 30-second period of utter dominance.
Defending two players after Naso was forced out of position, Kroger had a deflection, then pressured a shot, rebounded the miss, distributed the ball up court, watched as the midcourt fumbled, then intercepted the resulting drive from Essendon, helping the Jets stay nine goals to the good at the final change.
Coach Kim Dooley urged a strong finish from her group, and Kritsidimas’ goal was the perfect start. Essendon answered, but Cavallo quietened fears of a comeback, before Naso and Kroger yet again combined to thwart an Essendon attack.
Zaccari’s defensive pressure in centre rose noticeably as the Jets’ focus switched to defending their lead. Kroger’s attempted interception led to a deflection, and the goal keeper let her frustration with the mistake show.
Cavallo added another goal after a Kritsidimas miss, but with the sting out of the game, it was fittingly Kroger’s pressure, forcing an Essendon turnover, that closed the game out, as the Jets doubled the Thunder’s score to run out 20-10 winners.
The win takes the Jets to 6-2, and keeps them atop the ladder.