ARARAT is one win away from an A Grade grand final berth after edging out arch-rivals Stawell 36-35 in a thriller at Minyip Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The Rats prevailed in a see-sawing qualifying final encounter that had plenty of twists and turns.
Stawell came back from 17-11 down at half-time thanks to a whirlwind second half, getting within four goals by three-quarter time and just one goal by the full-time whistle.
Ararat game-day coach Megan Shea said everything fell into place at the right time of the year. "We've had a lot of disruptions this season," she said.
"It's nice to have 10 people qualified on the books, so we're feeling much better than what we have been."
Shea praised her side's defensive players particularly Kira Payne for their stellar work when the game was on the line.
"Stawell came for us in the second half, but to our credit our defenders were very patient," she said. "Kira Payne got her hands to a few balls late in the last quarter, which probably saved us.
"I was really rapt with how mature she was." The pace and enthusiasm of Rats young gun Tiffany Boatman through the centre was sensational, while experienced goal shooter Tahnee Walker was on-song with a game-high 31 goals. Stawell was well-serviced by goal defence Emma Henry and centre Jemma Clarkson in its gallant defeat.
Coach Liza Cook said her side failed to show up in the second quarter.
"We forgot that we were playing netball for a while there," she said.
"I don't know what went wrong in the second quarter.
"We just couldn't get it into the circle." The third-placed Warriors' season is on the line in Sunday's do-or-die first semi-final against Horsham RSL Diggers at Dimboola Recreation Reserve.
Ararat will go in as massive outsiders in Saturday's second semi-final against the unbeaten Horsham at Davis Park, Nhill.
It is something that Shea thinks could work in her side's favour.
"We haven't been at full-strength against Horsham and we'll go in as underdogs," she said.
"We're looking forward to seeing how our starting seven lines up against them."