Box Hill proved their superb outing against Diamond Creek was no fluke as they made top-four bound Melbourne Uni sweat out a hard-fought Round 13 victory at Box Hill City Oval.
Despite missing several key experienced players, the Hawks were just four points behind the third-placed Mugars at half time. However, their efforts were steadily overwhelmed in the second half as the Mugars rediscovered their touch around the stoppages. Melbourne Uni ran out twenty point winners in the Hawks’ final home match of their inaugural season, 6.12.48 to 4.4.28.
The loss of warhorses Mel Kuys and Chantella Perera was a blow to Box Hill, who were an unexpected chance to beat the Mugars after their strong showing against Diamond Creek. Even less welcome news was the late inclusion of star Melbourne Uni midfield trio Alicia Eva, Emma Kearney and Ellie Blackburn. The Hawks spent the first ten minutes on the back foot as repeated entry and the dynamic Melbourne Uni forward line put them to the test. Hannah Ibrahim, Deanna Berry and Monique Conti did the scoreboard damage for the Mugars with Brooke Slaney snapping a goal against the run of play as the Hawks fell 15 points down at the first break.
However, it was a revitalised Box Hill who hit the field in the second quarter. Emily Gilder snared a pair of goals as she slipped out the back to mark and play on twice to bridge the gap to just four points. The defence had settled after a rushed start with Tamara Luke winning the ground ball, Julia Crockett-Grills fighting tooth and nail in the contests and Jayde Van Dyk winning her match-up on Moana Hope.
Melbourne Uni reassumed control of the madly see-sawing contest in the third quarter and struck the crucial first blow through Kearney. The Hawks’ forward entry dried up as the Mugars began to win the clearances. A momentary lapse in defence was all it took for Jess Anderson to slide out the back and put her side 17 points clear early in the quarter. Box Hill stemmed the bleeding for the rest of the match but the damage had been done. Gilder’s third halfway through a purple patch in the final quarter pulled the margin back to a tantalising two goals but it was Hope – having been comprehensively outplayed by the best afield Van Dyk – who finally shut the door on the Hawks three minutes from the final siren.
In an emotional change room address, coach Patrick Hill thanked the Box Hill crowd and volunteers who have supported the Hawks in their inaugural season and declared he “couldn’t be prouder” of what his players had achieved.
“I thought we were incredibly brave against one of the premier teams, particularly given how undermanned we were,” said Hill. “The girls were very good defensively, their pressure was outstanding, we held our own in the midfield and played to instruction.”
Box Hill will have a chance to end their season with a win when they play the Seaford Tigerettes at RF Miles Reserve next Saturday from 2pm.