ECHUCA Netball Club’s run in A grade ended abruptly on Saturday after going down to Shepparton United by six goals in the first qualifying round at Tatura.
It narrowly secured a spot in the Goulburn Valley League finals the previous week, sneaking into the top six by percentage, and went into the game with high expectations having a 1-0 record over the Demons this year.
And although their post-season was short-lived, coach Casey Frame was proud of the team for getting there.
‘‘At the end of the day we’re still wrapt to have made finals and go out on a game all the girls can be proud of,’’ Frame said.
‘‘We achieved everything we had been working this season and played the style we wanted to.
‘‘The girls challenged (Shepp United) right to the end and that was pleasing to see.’’
A nine-goal turnaround in the fourth quarter saw third-placed United through to the second round of finals and still in the hunt for its fifth premiership, the previous being in 2014.
Echuca got off to a strong start to secure an early lead and were on track for a second victory over the Demons being up by four goals at quarter time, 14-10.
Scores were level in the second term at 14 goals a-piece as United continued to keep within reach of the Bombers. The Demons had opportunities throughout the first half to reduce the margin, but couldn’t convert on their turnovers from the defence end.
The Bombers made the most of strong pressure from defenders Kloe Miechel (GK) and Dearnah Kent (GD) to work the ball into goalers Lisa Drysdale (GS) and Olivia Hannon (GA).
‘‘Hilly (Erin Hill) was our best player on the day,’’ Frame said.
‘‘She was outstanding for four quarter and played with a lot of patience and composure.
‘‘Her workrate off the ball was amazing and she caused a lot of turnovers in United’s attack end.’’
They continued to lead 28-24 at half time, forcing the opposition to make changes.
The Demons brought Laura Cole into goal defence to replace Elle Brooks, both players still eligible for under 15s, with Kirsty Hommes moving into goal keeper.
They won the third quarter by one goal, 16-15, as Echuca maintained the upper-hand on scoreboard with a three-goal advantage going into the final term.
From that point onwards it was the Bombers game to lose.
‘‘A couple of incorrect passes in the fourth quarter, which United’s goalers capitalised on was the only difference in the end,’’ Frame said.
‘‘Dearnah and Liv both played really strong games and should be pleased with how they finished off the season.
‘‘And Drysy (Lisa Drysdale) played exceptional even after being sick for most the week.’’
United brought on Kate Durling in to wing defence and her experience helped guide the ball out of defence and through the midcourt.
2016 Murray Netball League best and fairest Jessie Barnes-Hill became the dominant goaler in the fourth quarter to score 17 of 20 goals for the Demons while the Bombers’ 11 saw them down 54-60.
Sarah Bohn and Barnes-Hill shared the goaling role well, making it difficult for Echuca’s defenders to shut down either player.
Both teams had a lot of youth out on the court whom would no doubt be extraordinary A grade players in years to come.
Meg Rohde was solid in wing defence to cause several turnovers around the ring and Abby Poulton was patient around the goal ring at wing attack to feed the ball well into the goalers.
The under 17s and B grade are both still in contention for the flag and will play in the semi-finals this weekend.
B grade has a double chance after defeating Kyabram by eight goals on Sunday at Benalla Showgrounds and the under 17s will need to win this week after going down to Shepparton United 44-50 at Mooroopna Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
B reserve season also ended yesterday after going down to Rochester, 24-33.