Geraldton Netball finals: Aztecs one win away from two years of perfection as Lightning upset Pumas

Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
Libby Shuttlewood looks to shoot for Aztecs
Camera IconLibby Shuttlewood looks to shoot for Aztecs Credit: Jake Santa Maria

Aztecs are through to the grand final of the 2022 Geraldton Netball Association after beating Kazuals in a dominant display, while the Pumas crashed out against the Lightning.

The Aztecs had come into the finals off the back of a dominant regular season in which they went undefeated.

Kazuals had been well ahead of the pack in second place but had not found a way to crack the Aztec might. However they did push them all the way in their last meeting, going down by a solitary goal.

They would need to bring their A-game to get anywhere close to the Aztecs and they were up for the fight early, trailing by only one goal.

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Both goal shooters were going well, as Kelsie Crowe was able to match Libby Shuttlewood in the opening exchanges.

The Aztecs did open up a small break in the second quarter to lead by three at the half and while the Kazuals were still in the game, they needed to find a way to force turnovers off Aztec plays.

However, the third quarter went the other way as the Aztecs ramped up their pressure and were more efficient going forward.

Karyn Tapper was brought on in wing defence as Shanae Wright shifted to goal defence and they stifled the supply into the circle.

Abbie MacDonald was working well with Shuttlewood and when one did miss, more often than not the other was there to get the repeat shot.

At the other end, Kazuals couldn’t find that sustained attack and trailed 53-45 at the final break.

It was too big a margin to overcome in the final quarter as the Aztecs controlled the game to maintain the advantage until the end and claim a 67-59 victory to go directly through to the final.

They are now just one win away from an unprecedented two perfect seasons in a row.

The elimination match saw the Lightning take on the Pumas, with the Pumas favourites to take the clash as the Lightning had won just three games in the regular season.

But Pumas were without their star shooter Mikenna Schultz as the multi-talented star suffered an ankle injury on the weekend playing for the Rams on Sunday.

It was a scrappy and at times physical start as both teams committed a high number of turnovers, often looking for ambitious passes into that final third.

Kendall Schuts was marshalling the Lightning well from the centre and their shooter Emma Smith kept the scoreboard moving.

At the other end, Grace Yokwe was often isolated in attack as they struggled to cover the loss of Schultz and they scored just five goals for the opening quarter.

It was a theme that would continue for the rest of the match, as while neither team got much fluency Lightning was more threatening in front of goal.

They grew the lead out to seven by halftime to 20-13 and after the Pumas managed only six goals in the third term, the game was over.

Lightning ended up with the upset victory 44-31 and move on to the preliminary final next Tuesday against Kazuals.

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