Western Sting has booked itself a spot in the 2016 Australian Netball League (ANL) finals after splitting its road trip east in the penultimate round of the regular season.
Sting flew to Sydney needing one victory from its double-header weekend against NNSW Waratahs to lock away a top four finish and secure a place in the finals for the third straight year.
That task was made even tougher after Waratahs won the first match of the weekend 63-60 in Newcastle on Saturday afternoon.
But Sting bounced back strongly to claim a 59-50 result at Netball Central, Sydney Olympic Park, in Sunday’s game to achieve their goal.
The result means that QLD Fusion are now out of the finals race, five points behind Sting.
Sting coach Michelle Wilkins said her team was determined not to have to rely on results of next weekend’s matches with Fusion heading to the nation’s capital to take on Canberra Darters.
“That was really one of the key messages; that we really needed to take responsibility of our own destiny across this weekend.”
Sting’s victory also means that Victorian Fury will finish the regular season on top of the ladder.
Sting got away to a strong start in the opening game, leading by six goals at quarter-time in the match played as a curtain raiser to the ANZ Championship thriller between NSW Swifts and West Coast Fever.
But Waratahs fought back in the second quarter to reduce the margin to two goals and then took a one-goal lead into the final term.
“I thought we showed a lot of improvement in our competitiveness, particularly with the straight ANL group,” Wilkins said.
“To me there was a lot of positives out of it. Yes, we did let the lead fall away but, at the same time, I was pleased at the overall effort of the group.”
Sunday’s game started in similar fashion, with Sting again fast out of the blocks to lead by eight goals at quarter-time and were able to hold that advantage for the rest of the contest and secure that crucial victory.
Fever shooter Kaylia Stanton was a stand-out, scoring 44 goals while captain Lisa Millman was a consistent player across both games.
Sting has the bye in the final round of the season which Wilkins said would allow her group to refresh themselves ahead of their finals campaign.
“We’ve been on the road three weeks in a row and obviously a Newcastle-Sydney trip on top of that, it’s an opportunity to refresh and work on a few of the errors that we know we’ve got some capacity to make some improvements to and be ready for finals,” Wilkins said.
The final round of the ANL season will be held next weekend with matches in Canberra and Adelaide, where second-placed Waratahs meets Southern Force (third).
The finals series will be contested at Netball Central, Sydney Olympic Park, on the weekend of June 25-26.
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