SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 23:  Cara Koenen of the Lightning is challenged by Maddy Turner of the Swifts during the round six Super Netball match between NSW Swifts and Sunshine Coast Lightning at Ken Rosewall Arena, on April 23, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Batcheldor Blitz helps Lightning strike the Swifts

The Sunshine Coast Lightning have defeated the NSW Swifts on the back of a shooting masterclass by Reilley Batcheldor in the third quarter.

It was an enthralling match between the NSW Swifts and the Sunshine Coast Lightning, but in the end, the Lightning prevailed 69-62, thanks to a blitz by Reilley Batcheldor in the second half.

It was a see-sawing contest, as the Lightning got out to a fast start, thanks to Kate Walsh. Walsh had two blocks in the first quarter, both of Kelly Singleton.

The Swifts' defensive end stood up, with Allie Smith managing two intercepts, and Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner switching positions and causing havoc.

For both sides early, transition play was strong, as every single turnover in the first quarter ended in a goal for that side.

The second quarter was messier, as both sides, the Lightning in particular struggled maintaining possession. The Lightning had eight general play turnovers in the second term, as the Swifts clawed back three goals to make it a single goal difference at half time.

The second half was a battle of matchups, as Kate Walsh and Helen Housby went toe to toe in one circle, in what became a spiteful matchup.

Words were shared every goal at that end, while at the other end, Tayla Fraser was introduced to quell Laura Scherian's influence.

Lightning assistant coach Chris Voge said after the match that Walsh had played a key role.

"It was a fiery matchup. I think Kate [Walsh] did a great job today. For us, it was a tagging game. Kelly, she probably used her presence to stamp her authority early on in the quarter, and she did that. Helen is a different kettle of fish, you can’t scare Helen as easily as a Kelly, tried and true.

"She just had to tag and tag and tag and do the grind out there. I thought she did a good job, and we just decided that we needed something different in that last quarter.

"She was probably a little bit spent towards the end of that, allowed Tara to move out the front, and brings KD on, who added a bit of the height and a bit more agility in the air."

Fraser's speed affected Scherian, who had just three centre pass receives for the term. As a result, Lightning coach Kylee Byrne switched Laura Scherian into centre, and injected Annie Miller into the game.

For Miller, it was an exciting moment, and she had a clear role to play.

"I had a really good chat with Kylee earlier in the week about what my role is, and coming on from the bench, and she gave me some really good clarity," Miller explained.

"I had three key things to deliver when I was on, and just do those to the best of my ability and just do my job for the team. I was really happy with my performance."

Late in the third term, the Lightning pulled away, as Reilley Batcheldor sunk four super shots in a row, to give the Lightning eight goals in four minutes, and push the lead from 43-all to 51-48 by the end of the quarter.

It was a momentum shift that the Swifts were unable to recover from, and the goals scored proved to be the difference.

In the fourth quarter, the Swifts fought back, but were never able to get the match back on level pegging. A late flurry of Super Shot attempts went poorly for the Swifts, with the Lightning turning those misses into goals at the other end, stretching the margins.

It was a problem for the Swifts all night, as they converted just 50 per cent of their turnovers into goals, and managed a score on a missed shot on just 15 per cent of missed attempts.

In the end, the Lightning ran out seven goal winners, and the Swifts are left to lick the wounds of a second consecutive loss.

Miller explained that as a team, the Lightning had been on a path of success, and the two consecutive wins was proof of that.

"We had a tough couple weeks at the start of the season but we’ve really come together as a team. We worked out how to not go within ourselves and draw on each other when stuffs not going how we want it to.

"I think the last couple of weeks have really shown, against two quality sides, that we can go out there and stick to what we know and do what we do best."

At the defensive end in particular, the combinations are starting to come together, according to Miller.

"They’re doing really well. It took a couple of weeks for them to figure out their combination.

"It was very new for a long time, we had Tara out doing rehab for a little while, and now that she’s back and KD’s playing, they’re doing really well. Kate got so many deflections today, so really proud of their effort the last few weeks."

Voge also explained that the unleashing of Batchelor was planned.

"We’ve got a bit more of a structure and a plan. Some of the athletes, like a Reilley came on, knows that her job, in that moment is to sink some twos."

When pressed after the match, Swifts' Head Coach Briony Akle could only express frustration about Batcheldor's heroics.

"We knew that she could come on and do that," Akle said.

"Unfortunately, we didn't stop those eight points already gotten four minutes so, It's disappointing - that clutch moment of the game is certainly when she got those shots in, so lots to learn.

"I think the pressure has got to be there before it gets to her. So I think for us it got there, you know, pretty quickly, and then she's got that opportunity. So shutting it down before it even gets to her is the key."

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For Klau, who had four deflections, one intercept and one gain in the second term, and nine deflections for the match, facing the combination of Steph Wood and Cara Koenen presented a big challenge.

"they've played together for a number of years now they've got that sort of combination," Klau explained.

"They know each other's game inside out. And as you saw today, they were quite seamless. Steph played the feeder role and Cara was able to get that ball on the post, which was really hard to defend. So yeah, credit to them. They put out a great performance. And unfortunately, they just got us at the end."

Klau explained that her matchup against Koenen was particularly tough, given Koenen's skill on the baseline.

"Cara is known for her baseline moves, I think, obviously, cutting off the baseline having that body position.

"I guess the challenge is when she does kind of poor we can't follow her unfortunately, silly rule. But yeah, so obviously she's really great at getting the defendants head turning. So I think it's just been able to see her at all times and having that body positioning."

For Akle, Klau was up to the challenge, and it just didn't come off for the Swifts on the night.

"Sarah is a Diamond and Sarah does a great job. I think anyone's going to have a challenge with a place her so you know, we certainly got ball back.

"I just see us as we said those moments in the third quarter, you know, last five minutes that it got away from us."

Akle was impressed with Kelly Singleton's performance, but explained that the first year player still has some improvements to make.

"There's some little errors in there that we need to fix up and she'll certainly get there because I think her movement off the ball is really good and now she'll get back out there next week. And certainly, you know, make good of those errors with Cara [Koenen] being such a tall presence down there."

For Akle, the big challenge is filling the hole left by Sam Wallace. While Sophie Fawns has stepped in admirably, the 18 year old is a different goal shooter to the Trinidad and Tobago star, and plays a different style.

"We need training sessions at the end of the day," Akle explained.

[Wallace's injury] happened in Round One and we've been on the road for 10 days, so I'm just really looking forward to having some solid training sessions and you know, getting that technical knowledge and down in that attack end.

"We've got to play different style and that of course, is going to take some time. We've had Sam Wallace for five years with a certain style of play.

"Any team that thinks you're gonna come out there and fix it in three rounds is that it's not going to happen. So for me, it's probably that work in progress.

"We got ball back and we didn't convert I think it sat at 52 per cent conversion rate, so there's other things in that game besides 'gelling' I think that we need to be better at. We got ball back so it'll come in time."

The Lightning will face the Giants next week, while the Swifts will travel to face the Queensland Firebirds.