WESTERN Phantoms’ premier men’s finals bid received a serious blow at the weekend when the Phantoms suffered two narrow losses.
Sitting just outside the top four at the start of the weekend, the team had a chance to stake a serious finals claim with games against Heidelburg and league powerhouse Melbourne University Renegades.
Instead, the Phantoms were defeated in two five-set games – an experience coach David Berry described as gut-wrenching.
In their first match against Heidelburg, the Phantoms had a chance to go up two sets to love, but lost the second set 29-27 and went on to lose 15-11 in the fifth.
It was a similar story in the match against the Renegades, with the Phantoms capturing the first set before failing to capitalise on their opportunities.
“We could have set our season up, but now we find ourselves back in the pack and we’ve got to back up at the weekend with two more games,” Berry said.
“The good news is we get another crack at Heidelburg on Saturday, and we’re familiar with what they did to us.
“Eastside Hawks, who we also play on Saturday, are struggling so I’d like to think we’ll get a win there.”
Berry praised the play of Brad Mason, who was good on Saturday and battled admirably despite being repeatedly targeted on serve on Sunday.
Libero Josh Gordon will miss most of the season with an overseas trip, and his absence was felt in the game against Renegades.
Berry said the team needed to find a way to cover Gordon’s defence and reception skills in their two matches on Saturday.
Two wins would keep the team in the race for a top four place, while two losses would virtually end their finals hopes.
“It might not look all that flash at the moment, but projecting forward there’s hope for us right across the board.”
The reserves men are coming off a five-set loss against Eastside Hawks. They face a pivotal test against Dandenong Cossacks on Saturday.
Sitting in fifth place, a win against the lower-ranked Cossacks could put them in the top four if the Hawks lose.
A match against Latrobe Valley beckons for the reserves women, who can solidify a place in the top four with a win.
It comes off the back of a three-sets-to-one win over Renegades at the weekend.
The division two women are also set to receive a boost, with Horsham athletics star Anna Bush set to make her Phantoms debut.
With a successful athletics season in the books, Bush will play the remainder of the Phantoms’ games.
The team had a tough win against Latrobe Valley at the weekend and sits just outside the top five.
Berry said all teams were well-placed.
“It might not look all that flash at the moment, but projecting forward there’s hope for us right across the board,” he said.
“If we can put our best teams out there every week, we know we can be more than competitive.”