Sunday, 5 May 2013

Pulse - and Mystics - starving themselves by reducing goal attempts

The Pulse were defeated soundly in last night's game, scoring 30 goals to the Vixens' 52. Their particular Achilles heel was the very low proportion of attempts at goal (40 to the Vixens' 68), and Pulse shooters' reluctance to have a go. There were a few warning signs from the week before when Caitlin Thwaites who played a great game then, nevertheless dithered on the shot a couple of times. But it wasn't just Thwaites; I think Donna Wilkins managed to get only one goal in the third quarter. Vixens' defenders Bianca Chatfield and Geva Mentor reduced the flow of ball into the very tight circle. In the end it was Thwaites who was benched rather than Wilkins, but by then there were only about nine minutes to go.

Paula Griffin came on at that point, and managed to shoot four from six attempts at 66%. Griffin was unable to take her first shot; a commentator blaming this on a foot over the line, while I thought "Step" was uttered. Either way, Griffin came on impressively in a game already lost, seemingly coping competently with the tight Vixens' marking. According to Hamish Bidwell from Stuff, coach Robyn Broughton is reluctant to use players from her bench unless things get really desperate. If this is the case, it's a bit hard perhaps not just on the bench, but on those players who need time off to regain composure, and for the suffering scoreline.  The ANZ competition also provides players with a chance to improve and show off their developing skills. Victoria Smith and Daya Wiffen have produced some great defensive play recently in their own right. When the attack failed to fire beyond seven shots a quarter, surely replacing either of the shooting duo would have reignited things at half-time. Donna Wilkins seemed to stress out at some umpiring decisions. Griffin is a former Silver Fern who has never been utilised as much as she should be. At her best she is very good. 

Pulse captain Katrina Grant in particular, along with Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had a tremendous defensive game despite stiff opposition from Tegan Caldwell, Karen Howarth (during the first half) and then Sharelle McMahon. If not for Grant and Selby-Rickit, the score would have ballooned. Liana Leota seemed to pick up more penalties than I thought she deserved, and it is the calls that bewilder that really underline morale. Leota is just such a fantastically versatile and athletic player. However, the game's over and the Vixens performed superbly. The umpiring at opposite ends seemed a bit uneven, and New Zealand clocks' three seconds don't seem to tally with Aussie ones. This is something all Kiwi teams need to watch out for.

Another timely warning would be when teams curb their chances at victory by minimising their goal attempts. This is something both Mystics and Pulse did yesterday. The Mystics' Cathrine Latu is accurate but is simply not putting up enough shots at goal. Last night's game between the Mystics and Canterbury Tactix won by the latter at 61-57 saw Latu going to a lot of effort to shoot from close in. It's a good thing it wasn't a trans-Tasman match, or the penalty count would probably have climbed even higher. At the other end, one can only say "WOW" to the impressive shooting duo of Joanne Harten and Sophia Fenwick. Anna Thompson and Jade Clarke in the centre court and Jane Watson on defence also performed slickly. The difference between the Tactix and the Mystics was that the Tactix worked fluidly as a team. While there are outstanding players in the Mystics, they didn't always seem to follow through on the calm advice given by their coach. However, it was good to see Kayla Cullen resuming a more overt defensive role. Elisapeta Toeava and Jess Moulds also played well, and Bailey Mes came on to shoot convincingly in the last part of the game.

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