As the race for the ANZ Premiership finals heats up, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel must successfully combat their nemesis the Robinhood Stars on Monday night.
The only opponent Steel has yet to topple, the Auckland side has proved a bogey team so far this season but now is the opportune time to strike.
In a stark reverse of fortunes, their round 10 encounter was the last time Stars tasted victory while, in comparison, Steel has been unbeaten since. It sets the scene for a showdown of epic proportions with both teams determined to edge ahead on the points ladder.
Stars notched up seven wins on the trot to dominate proceedings in the first half of the season before hitting a slump in form in the latter stages.
Three consecutive losses – the latest a 52-39 drubbing from the Good Oil Tactix on Monday night – has seen them slip out of the top three.
Steel assistant coach Jo Morrison was expecting a fierce opponent.
“The Stars have been a real niggle for us this year. They are at home and it will be a great game. I can’t wait,” she said.
“If we can stick to what we’ve been doing, then we’ve got an opportunity. But we’ve just got to take it one ball at a time because we know how good they are and how strong defensively they are. We’ve really got to think about how we combat that.
“We’ll definitely have a good look at the games we’ve played against them and also games they’ve had against other opposition to determine what we can do against them.”
Steel’s confidence was soaring after a gallant performance over the table-topping Mystics on Sunday where the southerners held the advantage throughout to claim a crucial win and retain the Georgina Salter Memorial trophy.
“It’s was a great thing to do that for Georgie. She would have loved the intensity of this game. We lead that whole way which was amazing. This group pulled it off,” she said.
“That game just shows how much grit this team has got. For such young heads, they are playing with such maturity and smarts,” Morrison said.
“We’re getting better every week which is so exciting and rewarding because they are working really hard.”
In her first season as an ANZ Premiership assistant coach, Morrison was relishing the role and Steel’s fresh young team was a key component.
“They are so coachable. And courageous to try things out which is probably why they are doing so well out there really. And so adaptable – you can give them some stuff at the breaks and they will go out there and actually try and do it. They’re not set in one structure which is really great,” she said.
Steel’s final home game will be staged at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill on Saturday, 24 July. Tickets are available from the venue or online at www.ticketek.co.nz.