UP THERE: Madeline McAuliffe has enjoyed a strong season for the Lightning.
UP THERE: Madeline McAuliffe has enjoyed a strong season for the Lightning. John McCutcheon

Knack for winning close games prepares Coast for blockbuster

NETBALL: Sunshine Coast assistant coach Kylee Byrne believes her side's ability to stay calm under pressure holds them in good stead for their preliminary final clash with the Giants on Sunday.

The Lightning edged the Firebirds by a single goal amid tense scenes in enemy territory last weekend to keep their title defence alive.

And during the second half of this season, they've dropped just one of six close encounters.

"If you look at how we've won games it (generally) hasn't been by big margins but ... we're actually really good at that. We know how to control those situations," Byrne said.

"We'd love to win by more, for our hearts more than anything, but we'll take one goal if we have to."

The Lightning showed composure under fire last time the two teams met, at Sippy Downs in June, when Caitlin Bassett found the hoop at the death to level the scores.

The Sunshine Coast players head to Sydney having proved a point this season, according to Byrne.

They won the national league title in their inaugural campaign in 2017 but she said they've emphasised their talent this time around.

"Where people might have said last year that we might have been lucky or it was first year and we went with it, I think it (this year) shows we have the calibre of players who can compete at this level, whether it's here or (on the) international (stage) and I hope people are starting to look at that," she said.

They've managed to get this far without star midcourter Laura Langman, who left in the off-season.

"There's been a lot of talk about how we've been without Laura but I think it's hats off to, particularly to Laura Scherian and Maddy McAuliffe, who have put their hands up and filled that role for us."

The Lightning are likely to head into the grand final replay against the minor premiers as slight under-dogs but Byrne was okay with that. "We're loving that situation and particularly down there, where it's a hostile environment against the crowd. We don't want it any other way," she said.



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