Last night's game by Haier Pulse against the Mystics was fast and edgy, showing excellent defensive depth within the circle by both sides. At the beginning, the Mystics' Julie Corletto and Jess Moulds made in-circle feeding into a tortuous and skilful affair. The Pulse had to bend, dodge, feint and whisk the ball through to secure possession and goal-score. Hamish Bidwell in this morning's DomPost indicated that the Pulse were 'barely tested' by the Mystics. Because of the awesome defence played by both sides in the goal circle, including Katrina Grant and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit for the Pulse, I cannot say I agree with this view.
Bidwell cited Joline Henry as not feeling the pressure of "the whole thing" for the match duration. Perhaps this was because there was ball squandered on the mid-court by both sides. It remained a pressure situation, but perhaps it is pressure that brings on 'brain fades'. All players on court were susceptible to this, with even the most experienced taking optimistic punts that didn't come off. However, the Pulse's Liana Leota played a sparkling game apart from the odd error.
There was a lot of physicality on court and some of it unnecessary. Perhaps it was a measure of the frustration felt by the Mystics, when a couple of young players seemed to focus inordinately on contacts including involvement of the face and head of the opposition. Penalties inevitably followed. They need to concentrate on better co-ordination and dexterity.
Cathrine Latu was introduced to goal shoot in the second half, and for a short time the Mystics improved. That was until Grant and Selby-Rickit got her measure, along with a whole-team defensive effort in the centre court. You could see the Pulse were making the passage of ball down court really difficult for the Mystics. Perhaps it has become second nature for the Pulse to impose stranglehold defence. As an audience member it was a pressure-filled and thrilling game particularly in and around the circle, but also on the occasion when a rock-solid defence effort by the Mystics was overcome through 'bolts' straight through to waiting shooters. Mystics' shooters Bailey Mes in the first half and Latu in the second were also ready to receive such bolts until Pulse defence tightened up. Kayla Cullen and Grace Rasmussen had some talented passages of play. Tutaia's capability to score goals from distance is a real strength, but her team failed to gel.
So Pulse you did well. You can do better yet, but last night was very promising indeed. Taking the lead at every quarter is an excellent way of asserting your determination. Cherish the ball, and defend to the hilt as you did last night! Thanks for the great game.
The unsung heroes who didn't play - Paula Griffin, Amber Bellringer, Victoria Smith, Claire Kersten and Daya Wiiffen - also seemed match-fit if prior-match practices were anything to go by. Griffin's goaling accuracy pre-match was impressive.