The Sunshine Coast Lightning have cemented themselves their fifth consecutive finals series, after handing the Giants a one goal defeat in a thrilling extra time clash on Tuesday afternoon.
Sinking the opening goal in her 100th game, Lightning vice captain Steph Wood made light work of long bombs, shooting from the super shot range early.
The first five minutes of the match saw the Lightning go goal-for-goal with the Giants with neither team coughing up the ball easily.
A 16-a-piece draw at quarter time showed the Lightning’s determination, with the chance they could miss out on finals if they faced their third defeat in three weeks.
In the second quarter, the Lightning side asserted their dominance, securing offensive rebounds and effortlessly working the ball down the court.
An unhappy Giants side let go of ball in the centre third as Mahalia Cassidy came from nowhere to take an intercept off Jamie-Lee Price.
The momentum for the Lightning was quickly cut short in the third quarter after Steph Wood took a hard fall and made her way to the bench in tears.
Wood’s knee has been a consistent problem for her in the past few games, playing with taping to assist in stability.
With 100 games in the bag, more than 1,300 goals and a game changing influence on court, Wood’s leadership was carried to the sideline, where the 29-year-old screamed words of encouragement to her teammates.
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Wood’s injury gave way for Peace Proscovia to take to the court, putting in an outstanding performance to honour Wood’s milestone.
The Lightning attack held strong in the final quarter, opting for close-range goals as opposed to Super Shots demonstrating a relaxed game style.
Cara Koenen displayed her talent, shooting at 97 percent.
Koenen utilised a base-line drive to get around Sam Poolman and Matilda McDonell throughout the game, with her ability to switch up and rotate the circle among the highlights.
A contact call against Giant Sophie Dwyer allowed a calm Lightning to work the ball into Proscovia who smoothly slotted the match-winning goal in the final seconds of extra time.
The Lightning’s tenacious centre Mahalia Cassidy was awarded player of the match with 16 goal assists, 23 feeds and three intercepts.
Reflecting on the incredible win, Cassidy told the Nine Network she was so exhausted she couldn’t recall what had happened.
“It was such a full 65 minutes today and I’m so happy that we got it – it was really important for us to make finals,” she said.
After a one goal loss to the Thunderbirds last week, the Sunshine Coast Lightning will use this momentum to give them an extra push against a strong Swifts side on Saturday.
Celebrations for the Lightning will be temporarily cut short by the loss of Wood with fears the agile goaler’s 100th national league game could be her last for the season.
Kylee Byrne’s side will front the Swifts on Saturday at 12:30pm at Nissan Arena, in the last round for the home and away season.
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