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Kookaburras fire at Duel in the Desert

The first women's footy games of the year were held on Saturday with the inaugural 'Duel in the Desert' tournament hosted by the Arizona Lady Hawks. With temperatures expected to rise into the triple digits it was an early start with games starting not long after 8.00am. At the event were the newly formed Denver Lady Bulldogs and the Atlanta Lady Kookaburras as well as the hosts of course the Lady Hawks, runners-up at last years Nationals in Louisville.

Photos courtesy: Pat Shannahan - Phoenix

Game #1 and as expected the Lady Kookaburras the reigning National Champions came to play and looked quickly to stamp their authority on proceedings against hosts the Arizona Hawks. Atlanta swapped their talls in Katie Grist and Meghan Brown through the ruck and they had a marked effect getting the ball down to rovers Jenny Sarbacker and Cathy Reinhardt. For Arizona it was Tina Arend and Courtney Church gathering the most possessions often feeding off the Kookaburra's rucks in well timed moves.

One of the Lady Kookaburras strengths is their ability to thwart any forward plays and keep their opponents opportunities to a bare minimum and this was again certainly the case with Arizona going forward several times but without reward. Judith Stein, Kris Kubicek and Sue Marsh of Atlanta providing a solid wall of defense on many of those attacking moves by the home club. At the first break though neither team had posted a goal with the one solitary point on the scoreboard to Atlanta.

As the game progressed though it was the Kookaburras doing all the attacking. The reigning National champs put on 5 goals in the second term with two to Cathy Reinhardt that were both gems. Midway through the game the Kookaburras lost the skillful Pizzari to a concussion after she clashed with a teamates knee and although things slowed a little the Arizona Lady Hawks had no answer to the persistent tackling and running of the Lady Kookas. Tina Arend certainly was the team standout for the Hawks along with Geri Jellison and Audra Woodward who were both giving 100% in the backline but were consistently under pressure.

Atlanta added just one more goal in the third term by Sue Marsh and the same in the last with the one major to Jenny Sarbacker. In the end Atlanta just too consistent and persistent all around the ground shutting out the home team in a great team performance. Arizona can be pleased with their performance just the same they had 'a red hot go' and were just outgunned again.

Final Scores
Atlanta 7.10.52
Arizona 0.0.00

Atlanta: Cathy Reinhardt, Jenny Sarbacker, Nikki Peoples, Diana Pizzari, Meghan Brown.
Arizona: Tina Arend, Audra Woodward, Geri Jellison, Courtney Church, Andrea Casillas

Atlanta: Cathy Reinhardt 2, Jenny Sarbacker 1, Judith Stein 1, Katie Grist 1, Sue Marsh 1, Diana Pizzari 1
Arizona: Nil

Suzy Thomas, Denver & Pam Joy, ArizonaAfter a break Game #2 perhaps came around faster than normal for Arizona in the hot conditions as they faced the Denver Lady Bulldogs in the Dog's first official game. Complemented by a few traveling Milwaukee Bombers the Denver team looked good in the warm ups and they didn't disappoint when the game started either. The Denver Lady Dogs certainly matched the Arizona Hawks in athleticism who were perhaps already feeling the heat of having to play back to back games. The Hawks looked under a lot of pressure from the get go as each team moved the ball well up the ground.

It was goal for goal early with each team showing the handy crowd of over 100 or more some great skills and running football. Jalyssa Miller and Kelli Modica were doing well for the Bulldogs with again Tina Arend and Courtney Church the most prominent for the home team.

Goals were seemingly coming easier though for the Dogs with Denielle Beilfuss helping herself to a couple and Lara Porter rucking in the center then running down the field to goal after getting on the end of a chain of handballs. The Lady Bulldogs had hit the big time. Only points separated the two teams at each early break with the local Hawks down slightly.

So it was showdown time at The Duel in the Desert come the last quarter. Denver were still full of running, the Hawks however looked a little tired and thats the way it panned out. Denielle Beilfuss continued where she had left off earlier and with the steady defenses lead by Ellie Frey and strong play by Kim Howard the Bulldogs slammed on 4 goals in ten minutes to secure their first victory in their first game. Quite an acheivement considering most of the ladies were playing a real game for the first time.

Final Scores
Denver 8.1.49
Arizona 3.5.23

Denver: Jalyssa Miller, Denielle Beilfuss, Anna Thexton, Kelli Modica, Suzy Thomas.
Arizona: Tina Arend, Courtney Church, Pam Joy, Karla Mascarenas-Pack, Geri Jellison

Denver: Anna Thaxton 3, Denielle Beilfuss 2, Lara Porter 1, Alicia Houghteling 1, Kathryn Hogg 1.
Arizona: Not supplied

Game # 3 and it was the showdown of the new and the not so old. The new kids on the block Denver testing themselves against the unbeaten Lady Kookaburras. And test they did through an exciting first quarter the Lady Dogs were super competitive and soon after Judith Stein posted the first goal of the game Denver replied when Alicia Houghteling swooped on a loose ball 20 yards out and also goaled. At the first break it was Atlanta 1.1 to Denver 1.0 and the Lady Kookas looked under pressure for the first time all day.Tina Arend, Arizona

Unfortunately Denver lost the services of Kathryn Hogg at the end of the 1st quarter and their enthusiasm was to be denied further fuel as Atlanta rolled on through the next three quarters. Jenny Sarabacker demonstrated why she is so highly regarded in this sport already with a steady stream of possesions all over the ground. Where Sarbacker left off Dewi Mitchell, Nikki Peoples and Cathy Reinhardt grabbed the rest for the Kookaburras. Judith Stein in her more familar roll at full forward after the first break helped put away Denver's hope of a fairytale start to their first year as she finished with seven goals for the game in a best a field performance.

To Denver's credit they never gave in for one second and their coach Dom Kennedy was rightly proud of their performances in this game and the weekend as a whole.

"The tournament was a great experience for the Denver Bulldogs women, with most of the team playing in their very first games. We hope to build off the progress they have made over the last year to challenge some of the better established teams at Nationals in Colorado Springs. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the Milwaukee ladies who helped us gain our first win." Kennedy later said.

Final Scores
Atlanta 13.10.88
Denver 1.0.6

Atlanta: Judith Stein, Jenny Sarbacker, Nikki Peoples, Dewi Mitchell, Ann Collins
Denver: Jalyssa Miller, Kelli Modica, Lara Porter, Suzy Thomas, Ellie Frey.

Atlanta: Judith Stein 7, Ann Collins 2, Jenny Sarbacker 1, Dewi Mitchell 1, Stephanie Powell 1, Betty Pat 1.
Denver: Alicia Houghteling 1.

Tournament Awards

MVP - Jenny Sarbacker, Atlanta

Most Consistent - Kelli Modica, Denver

Leading Goalkicker - Judith Stein, Atlanta

Crowd : 120

Weather : HOT