The Perth Thundersticks women’s team looked set for a shoot-out to decide their opening match of the Sultana Bran Hockey One League, but that was snatched away from them by a Madi Ratcliffe goal with 22 seconds left on the clock, that assured Hockey Club Melbourne of victory.
The Melbourne side came out in the first quarter and tore the Thundersticks apart. They took the lead in just the fifth minute thanks to a well-worked penalty corner routine, finished off by captain Claire Messent.
The Victorian side were fast and slick with their passing and it looked as if the Thundersticks were facing an onslaught, however thanks to some good goalkeeping and strong defending they went into the first break still trailing by just the one goal. Coach Ed Welch then set about re-organizing his team.
Melbourne could well have stretched their lead at the start of the second quarter. Krissy Bates’ shot on the reverse stick was well saved by Aleisha Power. This save seemed to spark the Western Australians into life. Roos Broek found Jacqui Day who in turn picked out Agueda Moroni, but her shot was deflected wide.
Six minutes away from half time Power was called upon to deny Messent a second. From that save playing out from defense the Thundersticks built patiently, and when Melbourne failed to clear their circle Shanea Tonkin pounced and the Thundersticks were level. If they could convert their bonus goal attempt they would have the lead. Hockeyroos goalkeeper Rach Lynch denied Tonkin in the one-on-one and so the scores were tied at 1-1.
Melbourne finished the first half applying plenty of pressure on the Thundersticks goal. A great build up involving Bates and Olivia Colasurdo saw the ball end up with Madi Ratcliffe and she was only denied by another sharp save from Power. Power again denied Ratcliffe in the final minute of the half.
In the first minute of the second half Melbourne won a penalty corner, but a mis-trap prevented a shot on goal. This was the start of a sustained spell of pressure.
Hannah Gravenall swept into the circle and picked out the unmarked Ratcliffe, but Power was quickly off her line to close down the opportunity and the Thundersticks cleared.
From their sixth penalty corner Kary Chau picked out Ratcliffe in the circle but this time her shot on the reverse stick sailed over the crossbar.
As the quarter drew to a close Krissy Bates managed to beat Aleisha Power only to see her shot rebound off the post. The rebound fell to Laura Desmet, but once again Power was on hand to save, and the Thundersticks were still in the game.
They started the final quarter with purpose as Moroni set off on a mazy run. The Thundersticks then won their first penalty corner of the match. The first attempt resulted in a re-award, so too did the second, before Rach Lynch saved from Moroni and Melbourne cleared the rebound.
With five minutes left on the clock Melbourne won their seventh penalty corner. Madi Ratcliffe managed to get plenty of power on her flick, but with Power at full stretch it flew past the goalkeeper’s right hand post.
The Thundersticks were desperate for a winner to give the home crowd something to cheer. Good play between Roos Broek and Moroni saw Moroni with just Lynch to beat inside the circle. She opted to spin before shooting, but this gave Lynch time to step out and close her down, and the opportunity had passed. Thirty seconds later after more good build up the Thundersticks over-hit a pass that handed possession back to Melbourne.
Madi Ratcliffe surged forward, was allowed to make her way to the top of the circle, where with the clock counting down she hit a hopeful shot towards goal. Cruelly it caught the stick of Jacqui Day, and wrong-footed Aleisha Power and both could only watch as the ball dribbled over the line with 22 seconds left in the match.
Ratcliffe then managed to beat Power for the bonus point goal, but her field goal had proved decisive. The Thundersticks restarted quickly and won a free-hit at the edge of the Melbourne circle, but they never had time to take it as the hooter sounded and they had lost their opening game in the dying seconds.
It was a cruel blow and a bitter pill to swallow, after the side had shown so much spirit and fight against a dominant Melbourne who should have put the game to bed much earlier. It was only the defensive work of Rachel Frusher and Karri Somerville with goalkeeper Aleisha Power that prevented them claiming victory earlier.
The Thundersticks will be back in action at Perth Hockey Stadium on 12th October when the Canberra Chill will be the their opponents. Tickets are available through Ticketek.
Women’s Match Details
Perth Thundersticks 1 (Tonkin 26’)
HC Melbourne 3 (Messent 5’, Ratcliffe 60’/60’)
By Ashley Morrison