Kieran Yap provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Victoria NPL Women’s competition along with photos (31/8/22).
Above: South Melbourne (white) look to get away during their final game of the season at Box Hill United. Photo: Passion Creations.
The Senior NTC Side Emerge As Surprise Title Contenders
The Victorian NPLW has been thrilling from the first round this season, and the final round was no exception despite the top three positions already being decided.
Alamein and FV Emerging both went into Round 21 with fourth place up for grabs, and the challenge for each club could not be more different.
Alamein faced Calder United, the newly crowned premiers. Mark Torcaso’s side has been a winning machine in 2022, and deserved to finish in top place. Kat Smith’s Alamein, needed to win to leapfrog FV Emerging into fourth, and even though Calder had nothing to play for, they are still the best side in the competition, and players are fighting for spots in the lineup for the finals.
FV Emerging started the round in fourth and only needed to match Alamein’s result in order to hold onto that position. They faced bottom-placed Bayside United.
Alamein’s hopes took a hit in the 70th minute of a tightly contested match. Raquel Derales turned in a goal for Calder after a cross from the right was hit back across goal.
They hit back soon after in the 78th minute through Elaina Vatcky who sped behind the defence and flicked a classy finish into the net with a single touch.
Calder were in no mood do to a potential grad final opponent any favours however, and continued to play with intensity. Alamein’s heads did not bow, as they continued to attack, but could not find the winning goal. Their season came to a close in heartbreaking fashion after being in the top four for much of the year.
The day belonged to FV Emerging. The development side made up of some of Victoria’s most promising young players has surged into fourth after winning four of their last five matches.
Mila Bulic opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, but Sofia Galetti equalized for Bayside United who were keen to end a disappointing season on a high.
As far as FV Emerging knew, they needed a win to play finals. And as the clock ticked towards full time they would have been forgiven for showing some nerves. In a remarkable display of game-day maturity and talent, they remained composed and scored a late winner through Silverbell Morris.
It was a back post header from a set piece in the 89th minute. Morris had one chance to guarantee finals for her team and buried the header after a well-timed leap. In a season filled with incredible highlights, this will not be the goal of the year, but is a definitely contender for the best moment.
FV Emerging secured a finals place that might have felt improbable months before. They face Calder United in the first final and will go in as underdogs but will not be lacking in confidence as they ride the wave of their impressive season.
Elsewhere, it was a goal fest. South Melbourne and Box Hill United played out a 4-3 game with South claiming the victory.
Melinda Barbieri scored twice for Box Hill as they looked to recover from being 3-0 down at halftime. The first was a terrific long-range effort in the 72nd minute. Sofia Sakalis played her into space on the left and Barbieri cut inside and fired a rocket into the net on her right boot. She scored her second deep into injury time but as brave as the comeback was, it was too late.
South Melbourne secured the win through Janna Lawson’s brace and goals from new Western United signing Francesca Iermano, with Georgia Kandilas’ 73rd-minute strike proving decisive.
In a preview of the first final, second-placed Heidelberg United played Bulleen Lions. Neither side had anything to gain in this encounter except a possible mental edge. Both coaches would have been keen to try out tactics or options before they meet in the semi final, and the result was an entertaining 3-2 win to the Bergers.
Heidelberg went into halftime 2-1 up, strikes from Stephanie Galea and Kathryn Vlahopoulos had them in control despite conceding through an unlucky own goal.
Lia Privitelli’s persistence and good bodywork earned a penalty kick which Alana Jancevski easily converted in the 65th minute to level the scores.
She hit it emphatically for her 11th goal this season and second penalty. Melissa Maizels was sent the wrong way but the shot was powerful enough that it would have made little difference.
Emily Roach scored the winner for Heidelberg to make it three wins for the league runners-up from three meetings with Bulleen this season. But the match ended with some concern on both benches as Alessia Tevere and Isabella Wallhead both ended the game off the field from knocks to the face.
They will meet again in a few days to fight for a spot in the final.
The home and away season ends with Calder United as premiers and favourites to win the finals series. It has been a remarkable, consistent, and relentless campaign by Mark Torcaso’s team.
Calder United did not have the usual big names that have adorned their roster in previous seasons. But they trusted in their youth development and promoted players to the senior roster. They looked a skillful team individually and an extremely cohesive unit throughout.
Calder have scored the most goals and conceded the least. Not one of their players is anywhere near Golden Boot contention, instead, they have threats all over the pitch and a confidence that appeared unshakeable.
Heidelberg will be disappointed with second, but will back themselves in the finals. They are the only side to defeat Calder United this season. Danielle Wise and Galea have been phenomenally consistent in front of goal. Melissa Maizel’s looked impassable in some games, they have gifted fans a terrific home and away season and a thrilling title race.
As for the finals, FV Emerging and Bulleen will go in as underdogs against Calder and Heidelberg. But they do have the talent to win a knockout game. As South Melbourne’s epic run to the Nike Fc Cup final showed, anything can happen on the day, and both sides are stacked with talent that can turn a match.
It has been an amazing NPLW season in Victoria, and we still have finals to look forward to.