DEFENCE, defence, defence.
This has to be Ballarat Pride’s focus as it takes on Southern Saints in the Victorian Netball League championship division at the State Netball and Hockey Centre tonight.
Southern is Fed Uni Pride’s nearest rival on the ladder as the competition enters the second half of the 18-round season.
While Ballarat is still searching for an elusive win, the Saints are ninth in the 10-team competition, but they do have three victories and are just two games outside the top four.
And it could easily have been more.
Even though the Saints have not had a win since round six and have lost Sarah Wall to the NSW Swifts, they have lost a series of close games, including by five to Monash Uni Storm and six to Geelong Cougars in their latest two outings.
It is a stark contrast to Ballarat, which has been outclassed in the same timeframe by DC North East Blaze and the all-conquering top team City West Falcons.
Statistically, Southern Saints are the least effective in attack in championship with 345 goals – five fewer than Ballarat.
Defensively though, it is a much different scenario, with only four teams having given up fewer goals.
One of those is Pride with 580.
The Geelong Cougars (418) are the only others to exceed 400 in nine games, and this is Ballarat’s biggest problem.
It has had not the physical strength and depth to stop rivals across the court. Too often, Pride is opened up through turnovers.
Ballarat has to improve defensively across the court, whether it is the experienced Lauren Atkinson, Johanna Dash and Emma Ryan through the centre court, or Emma Farrant, Sharni Godfrey and Cass Peace.
Head coach Jo Dash said Pride was determined to stick to its game plan – a fast-flowing attacking style and full court defence.
“We’re determined to correct things within our control by reading the play more acurately and remaining in control of the ball,” she said.
“The teamwork ethic is unquestioned, but we must sustain out efforts for four quarters.”