Stingrays go out with bang

Stingrays player Michelle Carney fires at the Central Coast goal at JJ Kelly Park on Sunday. Picture: ADAM McLEANFOOTBALL
Nanjing Night Net

Illawarra’s season came to a heartbreaking end despite a final-day thumping of Central Coast.

The Stingrays hammered the wooden spooners 9-1 at JJ Kelly Park but fell tragically short of a finals berth by a single competition point.

Blacktown Spartans’ 2-1 win over Manly United kept them out of Illawarra’s reach and saw them jump into second to seal their spot in the post-season.

United and Sydney University had already booked their passage, as had minor premiers Macarthur Rams.

Stingrays coach Graham Shaw said it was a tough pill to swallow.

“We had a good year but it is hard to take. It is a frustrating end to the season,” he said.

“We covered the eight-goal difference that we needed to and did everything we could, but then other results go against us and it did not matter. It was hard to take.

“But if we are relying on results elsewhere on the final day of the season it obviously shows that there are probably little things across the course of the season that we can improve on so we aren’t in that position.”

Illawarra did everything in their power to nab the last finals spot.

Despite being without regular first graders Jordan Baker, Caitlin Cooper and Lucy Nolan, the Stingrays rocketed out of the blocks.

They hammered in five first-half goals against Central Coast before completing the rout in the second.

Sophie Hancock scored a season-best four goals after being called into the starting line-up while Michelle Carney chipped in with a hat-trick.

Katelyn Leadbeatter and Nikita Woods also got on the scoresheet.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for Illawarra to make the post-season.

They missed out on the final day for the second straight year.

“It is so close, yet so far, but I couldn’t have asked for anything more from the girls,” Shaw said.

“They went out there with the game plan and executed it.

“They were clinical in front of goal and defended well, too. Central Coast did have the ball and created chances but defensively, as a whole team, we defended well.

“We got the result we wanted really if Blacktown lost or drew, but they got the result.

“Anyone who was there would know the performance was brilliant and beautiful to watch.”

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