Lightning urged to step up in battle with Vixens
NETBALL: The Lightning will need to "step up" if they are to earn a place among Super Netball's frontrunners, says Sunshine Coast assistant coach Kylee Byrne.
After a three-loss start to the season, the reigning premiers have since fought their way back into the competition with back-to-back wins.
And they'll be on the hunt to continue their winning form as they host Melbourne Vixens during round six at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday.
But Byrne expected the Vixens would be hungry for a win after suffering a tough loss last week, and said her Coast outfit would need to be ready for a challenge.
"They are one point ahead of us at the moment but we know that this is the game that we actually really need to step up," Byrne said.
"We've been alright for the last three weeks, but this is the game - if we want that top-four position, we've got to put it out on court this weekend."
The Lightning are currently placed fifth on the eight-team Super Netball ladder.
The top four, come season's end, will advance to the finals series.
Byrne said making the top four before the season's midway mark was important so the Lightning could be in a prime position to capitalise on the remaining fixtures.
"We're coming up to the end of the round and we want to be in that top four by the end of the first round so that we can hit those teams that we did lose to at the start," she said.
"We've got to come away with points and the win, plus some bonus points this week.
"Then we're up there still in the top three or four which is where we need to be."
She said the Lightning would need to minimise mistakes and turnovers or the Vixens would be quick to punish them.
She said ensuring the ball connected with players during attacking and defensive plays was vital.
"That's been an absolute focus and we'll need to do that against the Vixens because any stray ball or any mistake they'll just come through and take," Byrne said.
Byrne expected the team to be at full-strength for this weekend's clash, with Madeline McAuliffe, who went off with an ankle injury last week, to be back and firing on the court.
Although there had been no official word, Byrne also expected head coach Noeline Taurua to return for the game on Saturday.
Taurua has been in New Zealand grieving the loss of her father Kingi Taurua, who died last Thursday from cancer.
Sunshine Coast Lightning will host Melbourne Vixens from 3pm at USC Stadium on Saturday.
It's their third home game to date in the 14-round Super Netball season.
- Tom Threadingham