Every year since forming in 2015 the Orange Physiotherapy Vipers have fallen agonisingly short of Orange Netball Association’s biggest stage, but last weekend they held their nerve to take the next step and cement their maiden Toyota Cup grand final berth.
In front of a full house at Sir Neville Howse Stadium, the minor premiers edged past Orange City Craig Harvey Mechanical in Saturday’s unbelievable major semi-final, ultimately winning 46-43 after the clash was forced into extra time.
The two sides were deadlocked at 36-all as the the full-time whistle was blown, with Vipers rallying to lead by five after the first period of extra time and holding off the desperate Lions after that.
“We led at every break but we could’ve made it a little bit easier on ourselves. We still held our nerve and got the job done though,” Vipers coach Lynne Middleton, understandably stoked with the win, said.
“I’m really, really pleased for the girls because they really wanted this and they’ve been working so hard for it.
“It was just a really great game of netball, we knew it would be a physical game and we’d spoken a lot about holding our space on the court, we did that well.”
As Middleton said the clash was brutal physically, but Vipers’ battle mentally was just as big, especially in overtime.
They were forced to rally and shrug off a potentially match-turning moment, with former Australian Schoolgirl shooter Teigan Colley missing what would’ve been a match-winning shot in the dying seconds of regulation time.
Those moments can often deflate teams, whether they’ve enjoyed the best of the clash or not.
Vipers made sure that didn’t happen, producing a victory-clinching blitz to push out to a 43-38 lead after the first period of extra time.
“Orange City came back really hard in the second period of extra time, we knew they would, but we held on,” Middleton said.
The victory hands Vipers a week off too, which Middleton says shouldn’t slow her troops down, and they’ll be focusing heavily on once again finding the right mindset during that two-week, decider preparation.
“It’ll be more of the same, but with more intensity I think,” Middleton said.
“We’ll speak again about how important it is to hold our nerve, once we’re there it’ll just be about making sure we play our game again and keep doing what we’ve been training.”
Of course Vipers’ win also spoiled Orange City’s hopes of an all-Lions grand final, instead the club’s two sides will face-off in this weekend’s preliminary play-off.
Orange City Newey’s Drive-Thru Cleaners got the job done against Hawks Royals for the second week in a row, winning the third-versus-fourth play-off 54-49 to eliminate the two blues.
While, after Saturday’s epic major semi-final, many might predict the CHM side to win through to the decider, the fact remains Orange City split their sides evenly this year and both remain huge dangers.
“Definitely,” Middleton said, when asked if the NDTC are a threat to both her side and the Lions’ CHM outfit.
“Both attacking ends are really strong, I think that one will just come down to which side wants it more and which one really defends to the death.
“We’ve got no preference as to who we play because they’re both great sides. We spoiled their dream in a way that both Orange City sides won’t be there, so we’re expecting a really tough game regardless of which one fronts up.”
DO YOU WANT MORE ORANGE SPORT NEWS?
- Receive our free newsletter delivered to your inbox every morning, as well as breaking news alerts. Sign up here.