By Romy Stephens
In it’s inaugural season, Casey has earned a spot in the Victorian Netball League Championship finals despite suffering a tough loss against Geelong on Wednesday night.
In what has been a stellar maiden year for the Demons, the 70-57 loss against the Cougars wasn’t enough to displace them from fourth position at the end of the home and away season.
The prospect of finals seemed to send some nerves through the teams as both delivered a few uncharacteristic turnovers early.
Numerous intercepts in the first quarter gave the Demons plenty of opportunities to run away from Geelong on the scoreboard. But the Cougars’ pressure throughout the court meant Casey struggled to transition from defence and could only take a narrow one-goal lead into the second term.
As time ticked on, the Cougars began to find some rhythm in attack with the help of a few position shuffles and added speed through the middle of the court.
Despite strong targets up forward in dominant goal shooter Emma Ryde and electric goal attack Erin Bell, the Demons struggled to penetrate Geelong’s defence and hit the goal ring.
Come half time, the Cougars had overwhelmed the Demons and extended the margin out to 10 goals. Once they gained a clear lead, they retained patience and ball control right up until the final siren.
Despite the convincing loss, the Demons will take confidence from an impressive first-quarter performance and an even more impressive season.
The side has taken the VNL competition by storm, earning a finals position in its maiden season.
Demons VNL president, Rebekah Bogos said the champion team’s success has come down to a strong club culture led by head coach Robyn Pym and players such as Ryde, Bell and defender Karli Foster.
“As a new club, we’ve tried to build a culture that people want to play for,” she said.
“The experience of Robyn and players like Emma, Karli and Erin have really led the way.”
Ms Bogos said she is proud of how far the club has come in such a short space of time. She also said the Demons will go into finals with a massive fan-base.
“Once we knew we had the license we went about delivering all our promises.”
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to be competitive. To make finals is a very proud achievement.
“Our Casey netball grassroots community, they’re so excited to have an elite team. We’ve introduced a membership in our first year and have had over 100 people sign up which is unique.
“We’ve really created a following.”
The Demons will take on North East Blaze in the first elimination semi-final on 31 July at the State Netball and Hockey Centre.
The two sides have won one game each against each other this season, with the most recent outing going the Demons way, 65-53.
Ms Bogos said she hopes the team will learn from the loss against Geelong and then build throughout the finals series.
“Hopefully that’s a bit of a glimpse of what finals will be like. If we can take it into next week and take it even further that would be great,” she said.
“They (the coaches) really feel that they have the game plan to defeat Blaze.
“As long as we can execute well and do the simple things well. They’ve built all season so hopefully, they can continue to build.”
In the other VNL semi-final, first-placed City West will take on second-placed Geelong.