New record as Mystics extend winning streak
The Northern Mystics retained their winning streak with a 46-42 win after holding off a fast-finishing Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel at the Auckland Netball Centre on Saturday.
Trailing by eight at three-quarter time, the Steel produced an exciting finish, showing some of their form of old but it ultimately proved a bridge too far. However, by finishing within five, the southerners picked up their first points of the season via a bonus point.
The teams came into the match with contrasting fortunes, the Mystics yet to lose a match and two-time ANZ premiership winners the Steel yet to win one.
The result of this clash left both teams with new records, one to celebrate and one, not so welcome. The Mystics created a club record by winning four games in a row for the first time in the league while the Steel are now on a record losing streak of three.
Each side fronted with predictable line-ups, young goal attack Asher Grapes, a permanent replacement for the injured Bailey Mes, starting for the Mystics and an equally youthful goalkeeper Taneisha Fifita getting the nod for the Steel.
The quick hands of midcourters Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle provided a steady stream of ball into the hands of 1.93m shooter Grace Nweke as the Mystics took control early. It was a different story for the Steel, who relied on their traditional patient and methodical build-up.
Pushing out to a six-goal lead at one stage, the Mystics looked poised to take off but a more assured Steel built their way into the game with shooter Jennifer O’Connell finding her radar under the hoop.
Regaining some parity, the steely southerners potted five goals on the trot to close the margin to just one when the Mystics took a 13-12 lead into the first break, Nweke scoring all their goals.
Goal attack Georgia Heffernan joined her midcourt twin sister Kate on court on the resumption, helping the Steel level the scores shortly after.
The scores remained tight until midway through the second stanza, the menacing presence of experienced defender Sulu Fitzpatrick, the dazzling attacking momentum of Toeava and precision of shooter Nweke anchoring each third of the Mystics court as they clicked up the pace.
That was further enhanced when exciting young shooter Saviour Tui took over from Grapes, helping share the load under the hoop while proving a reliable target.
Showing plenty of enterprise, Shannon Saunders was a slick provider for O’Connell under the Steel hoop but ever-hungry for the ball, a late burst pushed the Mystics out to a 24-20 lead at the main break.
Trinidad & Tobago shooting import Kalifa McCollin made her way back for the Steel but it was the Mystics who continued to extend through the third quarter.
There was no let-up from Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka, the pair applying the defensive blowtorch to leave the Steel with limited options, holding sway with their hustle and ball-snaffling prowess as the Mystics marched out to a 37-29 lead at the last break.
The Steel looked poised for one of their renowned fightbacks when trimming the margin to just three with eight minutes to go but the Mystics weathered the storm while holding on to their unbeaten record and posting a new club record.