PRIDE has endured a baptism of fire against Championship division contender VU Western Lightning in its Victorian Netball League season opener on Saturday in Bendigo.
Outmatched, and then outnumbered due to injury, University of Ballarat Pride was defeated by Western Lightning 64-25 at Bendigo Stadium.
UB Pride was put on the back foot when Kara Hart suffered an ankle injury and left the court. That loss was compounded by an ankle injury to Toni Lind, who played on under some duress.
Pride under-19 coach Kerry Lightfoot said Lightning would be one of the top four teams in championship division this season and the match would not necessarily be an indicator for the remainder of the season.
“At one stage they were down to seven players and another player hurt her ankle,” Lightfoot said.
“VU Western Lightning is a very slick unit and a grand finalist last year. They have Brooke Thompson, who is an ex-Vixens player, so they are going to be one of the top teams.
“Obviously their defensive pressure is massive with a score like that.”
The news was better for Pride’s 19-under team, which jumped Western Lightning in the opening quarter and held on for a 42-26 victory.
With recruit Katherine Dicker scoring 20 goals on debut and Skye Billings 19 goals with an accuracy of 73 per cent, Pride was never really troubled by its opponent.
“We had a very strong defensive start to the game, focusing on four-quarter defensive pressure,” Lightfoot explained. “It was a nine-nil start to the game, which is pretty much the perfect start.
“Maintaining the core of our playing list helps. There were five from last season on the court and that helps with their understanding of one another.
“We have a different defensive set-up this season but our new recruits slotted straight in. Madi Davis (goal defence) and Remeny McCann (goal keeper) were able to step into those positions and that allowed us to keep a player like Jordan Billings to stay in her preferred position of wing defence. If you can have a player as good as Jordan in wing defence you’re doing really well.
“We don’t have the tallest defence but they are very dogged.”