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WPL Week 1 Team of the Week

WPL Team of the Week. Source: Zee Ko

WPL Team of the Week. Source: Zee Ko

Blurb: Golden Boot Laura Spiranovic grabs a hattrick to open her account in 2013 while Cairnlea captain Tijen Hussein led by example in the epic 5-4 win over Casey. Who else made this week’s WPL TOTW?

The first week of a season is always an intriguing one. Which teams have brought over their pre-season form? Are any of the big transfers going to turn it on for their new clubs? How are the defending champions going?

Box Hill and Heidelberg started their season like the last, in a 2-2 deadlock that left both sides cautiously optimistic but elsewhere, South Melbourne handed a 9-0 beating to Altona while Bundoora trumped Preston by eight goals.

Here we give you the best performers from the weekend that was.

Starting Eleven

Keeping your head up under intense fire is never an easy thing to do, especially when you’re a goalkeeper. With the opposition attack scrambling to reduce what had been a substantial deficit earlier in the game, Cairnlea goalkeeper Candice Sallama stood firm as the last bastion of defence as Casey Comets got to within 5-4 with five minutes to go. Some stellar goaltending ensured they got no further though, as a resolute home side closed out the contest.

Coming off a serious knee injury is never easy, but Sarah Sumner seems to have taken it in her stride as she turned out for her new club South Melbourne on Saturday. The versatile Sumner was back in central defence after playing most of last season as a midfielder for Preston, showing no ill effects as she countered everything Altona City threw at her with ease. Even more impressive was her assist for the fifth goal as a laser guided lob out of defence found Spiranovic before the striker finished with ease.

Over at Ashburton Park, a brave Ashburton side went down 2-0 to Sandringham but were not without their merits as several players stood out in a fighting effort. Centre back Kristin Stensholt was a rock in defence, her fantastic distribution and composure at the back key as she made several good challenges over the course of the game.

Giulia Sepe is a surprise entry at left back, the tiny EAP defender having improved in leaps and bounds over the preseason. Energetic on or off the ball and hardly putting a foot wrong all night, Sepe matched up to Bulleen opponents twice her size for most of the game and emerged with distinction as her team won 4-1. Keep up the performance over the season and we might just have a young star in the making.

While she might not have much to do defensively, South Melbourne’s Demi Mihaloudis put in an attacking display that sees her just edge out Bundoora’s Claudio Fruscalzo for the right back slot. The marauding full back was the start of many an attacking move out of defence, collecting balls from goalkeeper Cassandra Dimovski before hitting targets further up the park. With the result firmly in the bag, Mihaloudis and company played some exhibition football and thoroughly enjoyed themselves on the pitch.

Emily Hulbert was serviceable starting on the flank last Friday but really came into her own after being shifted infield as Box Hill substitutes started coming off the bench. The young midfielder showed tremendous class and poise to dictate play in the middle of the crowded field after Tal Karp had been moved to centre back, offering a passing outlet alongside Grace Vincent that had perhaps been missing in the first half. Box Hill coach Jeff Hawkins could do much worse than starting her there this coming weekend.

Playing opposite Hulbert that very evening was none other than veteran midfielder Belinda Pannella, leading the Heidelberg United line in an advanced false nine position. Pannella was a outstanding presence throughout the first 45 minutes, opening the scoring after only eight minutes on the clock before teeing up midfield partner Julia Nicolaci to level the scores and ensure the Bergers came away with at least a point.

It’s in the Women’s Premier League that Stephanie Tanti really comes into her own as the one-time Melbourne Victory player starred against Ashburton. Linking up well with new teammate Nicola Prins for the first goal, Tanti caused plenty of problems for the Ashburton defence with her smart movement and accurate passing. There is really so very little you can do when this player is on form, and we once again saw an example of that on Saturday afternoon.

Bundoora might not have needed to get out of second gear while beating Preston, but there were several performers that caught the eye nevertheless. Rachel Alonso was one of them, despite insisting that she had not been at her best. The statistics told a different tale however, with her one goal and three assists making her a significant contributor in Bundoora’s win. Alonso’s Melbourne Victory call up was just reward for a stellar season last year, but the forward no doubt knows she will have to back it up again this time round if she wants to make further inroads.

There’s a familiar face at centre forward once again, and it’s no other than Golden Boot Laura Spiranovic. The premier forward was in scintillating form for South Melbourne once again, potting a handy hattrick as her team ran riot against Altona. Spiranovic scored two goals in ten second half minutes, before completing her treble by finishing off a Jessica Au cross in the 73rd minute to push her right up to the top of the scoring charts.

Ask any Cairnlea player who the outstanding player was in the match against Casey and there’ll be only one answer. Captain Tijen Hussein led the line with aplomb, proving a menance throughout as the Ashburton defenders scrambled to counter her. When the smoke settled, her contribution was clear for all to see. Two goals and two assists means Hussein more than deserves her place in our forward line this week.

Substitutes

Bethany Mason-Jones: EAP goalkeeper Mason-Jones was making her WPL debut, but showed little outward signs of nervousness as she kept Bulleen at bay for most of the game. She just edges out her idol Cassie Dimovski, who kept a clean sheet but didn’t have much to do for South Melbourne.

Elaina Vatcky: The young Box Hill player made quite an impression with her drives up and down the wing, putting in a good defensive shift while also aiding in attack. Box Hill’s opening goal duly came from Vatcky, as she put in a good cross from the right that Seyma Erenli converted.

Zoe Stamatopoulos: Not many players enjoy playing against this EAP midfielder and for good reason. Her sly ankle taps and sharp elbows might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are part of what make Stamatopoulos so effective. Don’t let her rough play fool you though, as she was on hand to blast home her team’s first goal after a deflection.

Demi Kallianis: Moving to a new club is fraught with difficulties, but Kallianis didn’t look out of place on the wing for Heidelberg United. The ex-South Melbourne player showed a willingness to run at defenders and was at the heart of a few promising moves for the Bergers.

Ashleigh Beagley: Bulleen were impressive despite their loss to EAP, showing off a confidence that can only come from going a whole State Division 1 season unbeaten. Captain Beagley was at the forefront of things, her technical ability and work rate shining through as she led the line. Her goal was well deserved.

Zee is a freelance sportswriter and photographer based in Melbourne. When he’s not living in fear of getting deported, he covers both the professional and amateur football leagues around Victoria. He is also working on his new state league football website The Corner Flag, which will host next week’s edition of this Team of the week, hopefully with the graphics we missed this time round.

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