Lightning coach buoyed by team's dedication
SUNSHINE Coast coach Noeline Taurua liked what she saw when the Lightning brushed Easter eggs for a hammer-and-tongs practice match.
The quality and intensity said one thing - the business end of the season is here.
Six home-and-away rounds remain before finals in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball competition, which had a bye round over Easter.
Teams approached the week off differently with the finish line in sight.
The Firebirds trained in the first part of the week and put their feet up over the public holidays while the Lightning went their separate ways after last weekend's hard-fought win over NSW Swifts but reassembled over the last few days.
Despite sitting in third spot with six wins, one loss and a draw and looking every bit finals-bound, the Melbourne Storm-backed Lightning are not taking the foot off the accelerator.
With superstar goal shooter Caitlin Bassett to the fore, the Sunshine Coast leads the competition for shooting percentage with 451 goals from 509 attempts (88.6% success rate) and have conceded the fewest goals (503).
The Lightning also have the most intercepts in the competition with 53 of the league-leading 70 coming from captain Geva Mentor.
The Sunshine Coast resumes against the Adelaide Thunderbirds at Boondall on Saturday night with the Firebirds taking on the West Coast Fever in the second match of the double-header.
Taurua said the Lightning can build on what they have done already in their stunning inaugural season.
"It's the second half of the season. The intensity is going to rise and like everyone else we have taken a breath to get ready for that big second push," she said.
"I'm really happy with where we are at and what we've done but I know the competition will only get more intense and we need to keep working hard and keep improving.
"Anybody can beat anybody so you just have to really go for it from here if you want to secure that top-four position."
Taurua said the attitude within the Lightning squad suggested they were up for the fight.
"The girls went through a conditioning session on Saturday so that brought them back to reality and then the energy on court (on Sunday) was quite high," she said.
"They are excited to be back together and the quality was quite good, which was very pleasing. They were very buoyant.
"We can start our week now as per normal and get into our routine ahead of the Thunderbirds, who are always tough."
The Lightning have three home games in their final six regular season outings while the Firebirds are on the road for four of their last five matches as they engage in a dogfight with Collingwood for fourth spot.