Mt Barker charge into women’s finals
Mt Barker’s strong late season form has continued as they shared the points with North Albany in the final round of the regular fixtures on Sunday afternoon in the Lower Great Southern Hockey Association women’s A-grade competition.
After just three wins in the first 15 rounds of the season, Mt Barker produced an impressive late surge to claim a finals spot with three victories and a draw in their last four matches.
Mt Barker notched wins over Spencer Park (3-1), Tigers (2-1) and Manypeaks (3-1) before an equally strong performance against premiership fancies North Albany in round 20.
With the top two positions on the ladder already confirmed, Mt Barker stunned Redbacks with two early goals as they chased a fourth successive victory.
Dani Paviour-Smith put Mt Barker ahead after less than 10 minutes with a simple field goal conversion from close range.
With Laura Archer playing well in midfield, Mt Barker continued to press forward with purpose and Redbacks conceded a second goal soon afterwards when Shamara Letter scored from a goal mouth scramble. Those two goals seemed to spark Redbacks into action as they began to win more possession and were cleaner in defence.
With just over 13 minutes left in the first half, Redbacks hit back as a Nicole Spinks miss hit from a penalty corner was calmly tapped in by Sophie McDonald.
Less than four minutes later Redbacks levelled the scores after Kelly Burlikowski pounced on a loose ball from a saved shot and found the back of the net.
The two sides had their opportunities to break the deadlock in the second half but both defences stood firm, with Letter and Lani Frusher holding up at one end while Tracey Menegola and Spinks were just as resilient at the other.
Both teams were unsuccessful in their two penalty corner attempts, each in the last 35 minutes, and perhaps the best chance of a winning goal was on a Tallulah Gouldthorp’s bursting run into the area but her shot was just wide as the match ended in a 2-2 draw.
Burlikowski, Spinks and Sophie McDonald were all strong performers for Redbacks, who will now face Manypeaks in the second semifinal this Saturday.
Archer, fresh from playing for WA at the Australian Country Hockey Championships, was superb in helping Mt Barker take a point, while Letter and Frusher were also influential.
In the other women’s A-grade match, Spencer Park caused an upset over Peaks, winning 2-1 to head into this week’s elimination final with winning form.
Meanwhile in the men’s A-grade competition, Redbacks scored a 2-0 win over Mt Barker on Sunday, led by youngsters Sam Want and Eddie McQuade.
On Saturday a double to State representative James Gonzales helped Park down defending premiers Peaks 4-1 in their clash.
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