Australian Club Challenge: Aus Juniors beat All Stars

North Coast Phoenix win gold, while Aus Juniors win the All Stars game

Plate Final & All Stars Game

The Canberra Dolphins have claimed bronze in the Plate final, while the Australian Junior Squad defeated the All Star team on the final day of the Australian Club Challenge in Canberra.

With a hometown support behind them, the Canberra Dolphins defeated the Gold Coast 6–5 in a tight encounter in the first game of the day.

With both teams trading attempts through the first quarter, goalkeeper of the tournament Guilia Fox (Dolphins) and Gabby Palm (Gold Coast) held firm in the cage not allowing the ball to cross the line. 

The Gold Coast were first to break through mid-way through the second through a goal to Peta Schulte, the Dolphins immediately responded through centre-forward Rachael Corvisy, despite further attempts the score remained deadlocked at the main break.

Angela Gaskin converted early in the third to put the home-side in front, before now field player Palm and Carrie Fettes found the back of the net to put the Gold Coast ahead by one at the final break.

Corvisy scored her second to bring the Dolphins back level, before Millie Pullyblank’s conversion edged the Queenslanders back ahead.

A double to Canberra’s Melissa Taylor in less than a minute put the Dolphins ahead, before some miscommunication saw the Gold Coast’s Claire O’Callahan score to once again level the game.

With the teams trading shots with a minute remaining the crowd began preparing for a penalty shootout, before Gaskin converted her second with 22 seconds remaining to win the Plate final for the Dolphins.

Soon after the Plate final was completed, the Australian Junior Squad took on the tournament All Star team defeating them 13–6. The game provided many with an opportunity to watch or play under the new six-a-side Junior FINA rules.

Jessica Zimmerman opened the scoring for the Australian Juniors, before veteran Gemma Hadley levelled the score. The teams traded shots as they looked to work combinations and spacing with two fewer players in the water.

Kelly Mendoza and Emily Scott converted for the All Stars to lead by two, before Tiana Sogaard-Andersen and Maddy Steere scored in quick succession to level the score to 3–all at the first break.

Fiona Walsh scored early in the second to put the Australian Juniors ahead, player of the tournament Madeline Rosenthal soon responded converting off an extra-man opportunity to level the score, before left-hander Kiara Holden found the back of the net with 15 seconds remaining to put the Australian juniors ahead at the main break.

The Aussie side then found their pace, with sharp passing proving the difference, scoring 4–1 in the third. Ash Roberts, Alex Corbett, Zimmerman and Holden scored for the Aussie team, while Emma Lewis converted for the All Stars.

With the crowd cheering the teams on, the Australian Juniors maintained the pressure through the final quarter once again scoring 4–1, sealing the 13–6 win. 

Championship Final

The inaugural Australian Club Challenge crown heads to Western Australia with the North Coast Phoenix defeating the Sydney University Lions 8–6.

The Phoenix got off to the perfect start with Jessica Reynolds opening the scoring within the first minute, while the teams traded shots goalkeepers Anna Wagner (Phoenix) and Georgia Rossettin (Lions) held firm.

Stephanie El Safty snuck one home late in the first to push the Western Australians two ahead at the first break.

In the second stanza, missed opportunities by the Lions and El Safty’s second pushed the Phoenix further ahead at the main break.

With some stern words by Coach, Daniel Trent, Sydney Uni tightened their attack with American import Madeline Rosentahl finding the back of the net early in the second, however the Phoenix soon responded through veteran Gemma Hadley.

The experience of the Western Australians began to shine, with Reynolds converting her second and Claire Rechichi getting on the board, despite an impressive double by Emily Scott late in the third it wasn’t enough to close the three-goal deficit at the final break.

With the Phoenix looking to secure the win, they built the pressure in the fourth through El Safty converting her third and Kate Biviano adding to the total.

With everything on the line, the Lions mounted a comeback with Scott and Kelly Mendoza finding the net in quick succession to close the gap.

Both teams traded shots, and despite a last ditch goal by Scott to get the Lions within two, it wasn’t enough and the North Coast Phoenix took the Australian Club Challenge crown.

The Canberra Dolphins will take on the Gold Coast in today’s Plate final, before the Australian Junior Women’s Squad will take on the Australian Club Challenge tournament team in the All Stars game. 

Semi Finals

The Sydney University Lions and North Coast Phoenix have booked their spots in the inaugural Australian Club Challenge championship final in Canberra.

The Phoenix blew home-side the Canberra Dolphins out the water with a convincing 19–5 semi-final win.

The experience of the Western Australians shone, as they racked up five unanswered goals in the first quarter, including a double to Alicia Anderson.

In the second quarter, impressive goalkeeping from Anna Wagner and a hatrick from Stephanie El Safty pushed the Phoenix further ahead to lead 11–1 at the main break.

A tight third quarter saw only one goal apiece, before goals rained down from the Phoenix in the final term with Jessica Reynolds, Claire Rechichi and Zoe Stenhouse scoring doubles and Anderson adding her fourth to close out the win.

In a closer affair, the Sydney University Lions defeated the Gold Coast 9–5 in their semi-final.

The Lions got off to the better start, finding the back of the net four times in the opening stanza with goals to Emily Scott, Emma Lewis, Thalia Bogg and Madeline Rosenthal to lead 4–1 at the break.

The Gold Coast pressured in the defence in the second, with Cathryn Prout converting for the Queenslanders.

The Lions stepped up the attack in the third term with Bogg adding a double and Rosenthal her second to extend the lead to 9–3.

The Gold Coast defence in the final term was impressive shutting down Sydney Uni’s goal scoring while adding two themselves, however it wasn’t enough to close the deficit and the Lion’s booked themselves a spot in the championship game.

While the Phoenix and Lions will play for the championship game, the Gold Coast and Dolphins will battle it out in the plate final, before the All Stars take on the Australian junior women.

Day Three

The Australian Junior Squad continued to assert their dominance on day three of the Australian Club Challenge in Canberra defeating the Sydney University Lions 14–6 and Gold Cost 21–2.

The Australian Juniors jumped out to an early 5–2 lead in the first quarter against the Lions through a double to 15-year-old Kiara Holden, and singles to Pascalle Casey, Fiona Walsh and Jessica Zimmerman.

Strong defence by both teams in the second quarter saw the score inch to 7–3 at the main break. Walsh and Casey found the back of the net early in the third, before American import Kelly Mendoza converted a double for the Lions. But it wasn’t enough, with Holden slamming home her fourth 25 seconds from the final break.

With the win assured, the Australian Juniors were able to hold the Lions to a single in the final term while putting three more goals on the scoreboard to confirm the 14–6 win.

Against the Gold Coast it was all one way traffic, with the Australian Juniors building pressure in each quarter shutting the Queenslanders out of the game. Casey, Pip Cooper, Julia Barton, Jessica Zimmerman, Maddy Steere and Alex Corbett all scored hatricks in the win, while Millie Pullyblank and Peta Schulte scored for Queensland.

In other games, in what could be a prelude to the championship final, the Sydney University Lions narrowly defeated North Coast Phoenix 11–10.

The Lions took the upper-hand into the first break leading 4–3, thanks to goals from Emily Scott, Emma Lewis, Kelly Mendoza and Madeline Rosenthal, while Gemma Hadley converted a double and Jessica Reynolds a single for the Phoenix.

Sydney Uni were able to push the difference out to two at the main break before some lax defence early in the third saw Claire Rechichi, Reynolds and Hadley find the back of the net to take the lead.

A timeout and some stern words from Coach Daniel Trent saw the Lions put together some skilled attack with Mendoza and Rosenthal converting to edge Sydney Uni back in front at the final break.

Mendoza scored her fourth to put the Lions two ahead early in the final term, before Hadley and Rechichi combined to even the score.

With a tight contest on the card, a penalty goal to Scott put Sydney Uni back in front and despite an attacking onslaught from the Western Australians, the Lions defence was able to hold them out to secure the win.

Earlier in the day, the Canberra Dolphins gave North Coast Phoenix a scare early in their match up, with the home-side jumping out to a 5–4 lead at the main break through a hatrick to Melissa Taylor and singles to Natalie Smith and Angela Gaskin.

The Western Australians rallied in the third quarter, with veteran Hadley once again demonstrating her experience piling on four impressive goals taking the Phoenix to an 11–7 lead at the final break.

As the pressure ramped up in the final term, the Western Australians were able to find the back of the net a further five times through a double to Reynolds and singles to Alicia Anderson, Zoe Stenhouse and Rechichi closing out the win for the Phoenix.

With the Australian Juniors now ineligible to qualify for the championship rounds courtesy of the revised draw; the Sydney University Lions will take on Gold Coast in the first semi final, while North Coast Phoenix will hope to repeat earlier success against the Canberra Dolphins in the second semi-final.

The Australian Juniors will take on a tournament All Star team on Monday under the new FINA junior rules. 

Day Two

The Australian Junior Squad showed no sign of fatigue from their recent three week residential camp as they dominated day two of the Australian Club Challenge.

Facing the Canberra Dolphins in their opening game of the tournament, the Aus Juniors led from start to finish winning 21–3.

Jessica Zimmerman opened the scoring in the first minute before Maddy Steere, Pascalle Casey, Brooke Dickie and Fiona Walsh added extras to lead 5–0 at the first break.

Despite a goal from the Dolphins’ Melissa Taylor early in the second, the Aus Juniors continued to apply the pressure extending the lead to 11–1 at the main break.

The Dolphins were able to step up their defence in the third, reducing the Australian Juniors to four goals for the quarter, however the speed of the Aussie side was too great, and a hatrick to Kiara Holden in the final quarter sealed the dominant win.

In their evening game, the Australian Juniors continued their winning form defeating the experienced North Coast Phoenix 17–5.

It was the Western Australians who opened the scoring, with Jessica Reynolds finding the back of the net, before Tiana Sogaard-Andersen responded for the Aus Juniors. Tori Morrissey and Kiara Holden pushed the score to three, before Kate Biviano converted to keep the Phoenix in touch at the first break.

Once again, second quarter pressure saw the Australian Juniors push their lead out with Maddy Steere scoring a double, and Ashleigh Roberts, Julia Barton and Pip Cooper all adding to the total.

Despite a double to veteran Gemma Hadley in the third, the Phoenix couldn’t match the pace of the Aus Juniors who added to their score line to lead 11–4 at the final break.

With Coach Eddie Denis on the sideline, the Aus Junior women continued to perform adding six in the final quarter to complete the win.

In other games, local side the Canberra Dolphins scored their first win with an 8–6 win over the Gold Coast.

The Queenslanders opened the scoring with Millie Pullyblank, Peta Schulte and Lauren French all converting, before sisters Melissa and Natalie Taylor kept the Dolphins within one at the first break.

A goal to centre-forward Rachael Corvisy early in the second levelled the score, before a penalty goal to Melissa Taylor and the pinpoint accuracy of Claire Lennox put the Dolphins in front at the main break.

Carrie Fettes narrowed the gap for the Gold Coast early in the third, but with Melissa Taylor adding a double to her total, Tiana Sinclair adding her name to the scoresheet, and some strong defence, the Canberrans were able to maintain their two goal lead in the second half to seal the win.

The Sydney University Lions continued their winning ways scoring a 12–7 win over the Gold Coast in their morning game, before enjoying a third round bye in the evening.

Emily Scott dominated for the Lions, scoring eight including a hatrick in the first quarter. Georgia Rossettin was strong in the cage for the Sydney side, while for the Gold Coast Lauren Frenchalso scored three, and Cathryn Prout and Millie Pullyblank both converted doubles.

Day One

Day one of the Australian Club Challenge got off to a quick start with the Sydney University Lions and Western Australia’s North Coast Phoenix claiming first round wins.

Sydney Uni led from the start in their 13-8 win over home side the Canberra Dolphins, to be ahead 2-0 at the first break. Six separate players scored in the second term to extend the Lions lead, but an impressive hatrick from young gun Tiana Sinclair and double from Marnie Koch helped the Dolphins reel the Lions in to a slender three goal lead at the main break.

The Lions ramped up the pressure in the third through goals to Emily Scott and Emma Lewis, while Melissa Taylor found the back of the net for the Dolphins.

Taylor scored two more in the fourth for the home side, but it wasn’t enough to challenge the Lions with Tahlia Bogg scoring twice and Madeline Rosenthal converting to assure Sydney Uni claimed the win.

The experienced North Coast Phoenix from Western Australia dominated the second game of the day against the Gold Coast to win 16-3.

The Western Australians took an early 3-0 lead, before Millie Pullyblank found the back of the net to close the gap for Gold Coast. Despite her efforts the Phoenix hit the accelerator to pile on five goals by the main break.

Kate Biviano scored a double in the third quarter, while Stephanie El Safty converted her third goal to extend the Western Australian’s stranglehold to 12-1 at the final break.

Pullyblank and Carrie Fettes scored a further two for the Queenslanders, however Phoenix added a further four, including Jessica Reynolds nailing her fourth and Alicia Anderson her third to seal the convincing win.

With the benefit of a first round bye, the Australian Junior Squad will use knowledge gained from watching earlier games as they take on Canberra Dolphins Friday morning, while Gold Coast will line up against Sydney Uni.