DESPITE a final-quarter fightback, the Casey Demons fell to Melbourne University by five points at Casey Fields in Round 9.
The Demons began the contest firing, but the home side struggled to maintain control, with Melbourne Uni capitalising on its few forward entries and booting four goals late in the first term.
The fade out proved costly in the end, with Uni’s lead enough to deny the Demons a comeback victory.
DISPOSALS: Birch 24, Zanker 21, Jakobsson 18, Cordner, Hore 17, Heath 16
GOALS: Zanker, Cordner, Birch, Hore
Ten minutes of play costs the Demons
It was a 10-minute period in the opening term which cost the Demons a win on Saturday.
After dominating the contest early, the group were unable to capitalise on their several chances in front of goal.
In contrast, Melbourne Uni made the most of their opportunities, converting four goals before the first-quarter siren, which proved to be the difference.
Eden Zanker is a boss
One of the reasons the Demons earned an opportunity to win the game in the dying moments was the play of Eden Zanker.
The 19-year-old has established herself as a dominant figure in the league, averaging 14.6 disposals, 3.1 tackles and 17.1 hit-outs in six games this season.
In another impressive performance, Zanker continued to develop her craft, going back in defence, substituting in the ruck and pushing forward to kick a much-needed goal.
Jess Duffin provided a masterclass
Saturday’s game gave the young Demon midfielders a first-hand look at what it takes to be an elite VFLW player when they matched up against Jess Duffin.
The reigning Lambert-Pearce medal winner for the best and fairest player in the VFLW, Duffin was dominate in Uni’s victory, recording 39 disposals.
Despite her initial influence slowed by Libby Birch – the Demon played a run-with role – Duffin worked he way into the game, with devastating results.
Alicia Johnson, Melanie Hogg and Shelley Heath all had turns rotating on the savvy veteran, while Kaila Bentvelzen minimised Duffin’s impact in the final term.
Kate Hore makes an immediate impact
One impressive performance on Saturday came from Melbourne-listed AFLW star Kate Hore.
Playing in her first game for Casey this season, Hore made an immediate impact for the Demons, providing drive from the midfield and giving her teammates opportunities in front of goals.
The 24-year-old looks like she hasn’t missed a beat since the end of the Melbourne AFLW campaign in March, providing an instant injection of intensity and skill to the Casey midfield.
Season on the brink
After starting the season with three straight victories, Casey has now endured five consecutive defeats and has come to the crossroads of its season.
With only six games remaining in the year, the side must show the intensity and fight it displayed in the final quarter on Saturday if it’s to keep its season alive.
A word from the captain
“It’s very frustrating,” co-captain Nicole Garner told Melbourne Media.
“We played the first ten minutes really well, but then just fell away for the next two-and-a-half quarters.
“Something we really need to address as a playing group now is how we can lift our intensity through all four quarters.
“The heat is really on for us...we need to win the next three games.
“As a playing group, we are mentally really strong. We are going to get around each other and take the next three games head on, and we are not going to shy away from that.”
Next up for the Demons is a contest against the unpredictable Western Bulldogs.
Currently sitting fifth on the VFLW ladder, the Bulldogs have had one of the most erratic seasons so far.
Losing to Collingwood by 74-points in Round 7 and to Hawthorn in Round 8, the Bulldogs rebounded to run out victors against the previously undefeated Richmond side in Round 9.
The Bulldogs will provide a tough test, and the Demons will need to be ready for the challenge when they meet at Casey Fields on Saturday 13 July at 11:30am.