The Sunbury Lions passed their biggest test of the Ballarat Netball League season so far with flying colours on Saturday.
Facing reigning premiers North Ballarat City, the Lions put in a strong four quarter performance to win 54-45 and remain unbeaten this season.
Lions coach Adam Boldiston said it was a match they had pencilled in at the start of the season as a good indicator of how they shape up this season.
“It’s definitely a good test,” he said. “The fact we were missing Ruth [Smith] and Tarryn [Munro], we didn’t really know what to expect.
“Loz Gilcrist really stood up through the middle and it was Suzi Johnson’s first full game in A-grade this season and she had to chase the McCartins around and do a lot of work.
“Young Shelby Holter had a stellar game and they didn’t know how to match up on her.”
The Lions jumped out of the blocks early, which allowed them to control the game in the first half with a double figure lead for a lot of the first half.
Boldiston said the start was different from the last two times they played City, when they were beaten early. He said it had come as a bit of a surprise after a poor warm up.
“The first quarter we came out hard,” he said.
“To get the dominance early, makes them play the chasing game … and that’s the way you always want it to be.”
City, who were without goaler Jordyn Bibby, had a better third quarter and were able to reduce the margin to five goals at stages.
Boldiston said the key message at three quarter time was for the side to continue to back themselves in. “The message at three quarter time to the girls in the attack end was to go back to what they were doing.
“They had got gun shy letting the ball go.
“They got back to doing that and the intensity lifted and we were away again.”
Amanda Cusack shot 31 goals, while 17-year-old Holter shot 23 goals from 28 attempts.
Boldiston said Holter, who was originally going to be in their B-grade team this team, had been promoted to the A-grade team for the rest of the season.
“She has a lot of upside to her,” Boldiston said. “She played the first three weeks. We didn’t have AC [Cusack] for two weeks, so she played goal shooter and last week and again this week we didn’t have Ruth, so she played goal attack. After the third round, I decided she’d stay up for the season.
“Having another tall will give the opposition something to think about. I’m excited by the options I’ve got.”
The win gives the Lions a 4-0 record heading into the interleague break.
Boldiston said he was really happy with how things were playing out so far.
“I’m happy with that and I knew this one was the one that I had earmarked.
“We’ve had a better pre-season and they’ve been training more and the skill level had improved.
“There’s a renewed energy through the club.”