It's easy looking at the goal scores to say that the problem is goaler accuracy. But as commentators have pointed out, Pulse often lack a "second phase" . Too swift centre passes after the whistle are part of this. Centre Elias Shadrock continues to play these passes and she is a promising player (although not necessarily just as centre). The opposition are too close and attackers are often within hand or elbow reach of defenders. Attackers must find space. On Monday the ball teetered in small narrow passes down to the goal. Temepara Bailey observed that Pulse often had just one option on attack.
The shooters have already been tormented into an eye of the needle scenario making desperate sorties to try to find space to launch a goal. The whole thing is frantic and frenetic and psychologically undermining. What follows swiftly deflates the hopes of great defenders like Joline Henry. Adept defenders Katrina Grant and Ama Agbeze then watch the ball at the other end being tossed around some more. A goal might be tried and possibly lost. Shooters, whipped into a frenzy, lose accuracy.
This match was more frustrating than most because shooter Ameliaranne Wells shooting at 78 per cent accuracy was shunted off for Irene van Dyk. When a player like Wells who will shoot from most places in the circle was so close to optimal 80 per cent shooting, putting her off was a bad idea. Van Dyk came on briefly but that particular duo did not work and the reinstated Wells had lost her composure and accuracy. Her partner Jodi Brown is a competent feinter and dodger but prefers to shoot further in especially when surrounded by defenders like Temalisi Fakahokotau and Kayla Cullen. Despite some difficulty converting in the last quarter, Wells fed Brown with superb timing.
Contrast the movement of the Pulse with the Mystics. Despite both sides making many errors causing frequent turnovers, Mystics deployed time effectively to set up first and second phase. Players found space comfortably apart from the opposition around centre court. Defenders from both ends could disrupt things in and around the circle, but Mystics' passes were generally longer and more accurate. Procession to the goal was swift and efficient and less claustrophobic than the Pulse's torturous route.
Liana Leota projected fatigue rather than her usual flair and enjoyment. Playing alongside Serena Guthrie full of energy, flair and crafty play was always going to be difficult. No Whitney Sounness came out to relieve Leota when the fourth quarter started. Sounness might lack big match experience but she has so far proved to have a great jump, feeds cleverly and comes on well as an impact player. Sounness is capable and crafty on the circle edge. A ball or two might have been lost in transition but her previous impact performances should have earned her a place in the last quarter or last half.
Both Mystics' Fakahokotau and Cullen were superb in defence although Fakahokotau needs to stay off the body more. Laura Langman and Nadia Loveday in the Mystics centre court had a good court flow to the maestros Cathryn Latu and Maria Tutaia in the goal circle. Joline Henry's game was masterful with the ability to save and gather ball and look long.