By Hayley Wildes
There was no doubt that Round 13 of the VNL shaped as a pivotal one for the Casey Demons.
Sitting with a 5-7 record in fifth position prior to Wednesday night’s clash at the State Netball Centre, a win against the third-placed North East Blaze (10-1-1) was necessary to keep in touch with the all-important top four.
It was epic encounter as you could sense both teams understood the importance of grabbing a win.
The difference in the first quarter was obvious; Casey’s ability to force turnovers and in doing so, create more opportunities to score. Goal attack Emma Ryde drained 12 goals to help the Demons out to a four-point lead at the first break, 16-12.
North East was always going to reply at some stage and that occurred in the second quarter when goal shooter Elizabeth Nicol connected on 13/14 shots to help bring the Blaze within one-point, 29-28, at half time.
With Shannon Blackman and Kassidy Withers making their presence felt in the mid-court with intense pressure, Ryde made sure to finish off the good work as she made 14/16 shots in the third quarter. With the Demons looking strong, but far from home, Casey held a four-point lead, 47-43, with a term to pay.
Casey’s defence went up to another gear and North East couldn’t respond in what was a dominant fourth quarter from the Demons.
The pressure of goal defence Demi Woodlock, along with Withers and Christie Hillberg in the middle, was too much for the Blaze and they could only muster 11 shots for the quarter, compared to 20 for the Demons.
That pressure and defence resulted in arguably Casey’s best win of their inaugural VNL season. Taking down a team that had only suffered one loss in 12 games, in impressive fashion – 65-53 – the Demons kept their finals dreams well and truly alive.
Ryde (51/60 goals) and Erin Bell (14/21) were a great pairing in attack, while Withers and Hillberg played vital roles across the court.
The win sees the Demons move to 6-7 on the season. Whilst they still remain outside the top four, they now sit just one win adrift of the Southern Saints (7-6) in fourth, and have created a two game buffer ahead of Melbourne University in sixth.
Round 14 will see Casey take on Boroondara (3-10) on 26 June at the State Netball Hockey Centre from 7pm in another must-win game.
Looking ahead further, the Demons have home games in Round 15 and 16 at Casey Stadium. Facing the Ariels on 3 July at 8:20pm and the Southern Saints on 10 July at 7:50pm, both games shape as must-see encounters for local netball fans.