Bassendean Caledonian and Stirling Panthers are gearing up for the first leg of the Bankwest Women’s State Premier League playoff which will take place at Yuluma Park on Wednesday night.
The second leg will follow at Jubilee Reserve next Sunday.
Bassendean finished at the bottom of the Premier League, but player/coach Kelly Jarden said they have performed well this season.
“It’s been tough for the girls, but many haven’t played Premier League before,” she said.
“It’s a big step up, and to be fair it was a real eye opener for them in terms of what’s required and the commitment needed at that level.
“One thing I can say is the girls never give up, they have improved during the season and it was capped off with a good win against the NTC in the Cup final.”
Jarden said injuries have taken their toll on the side.
“We do lack experience and we lost Tahti Salla with a knee injury against Queens Park, which was a real blow for us,” she said.
“We’ve been hit by injuries all season but we are ready for the playoffs and looking to keep our spot in the league.”
Jarden said her duel role has been challenging.
“It’s been really hard playing and coaching, but it can also be very rewarding,” she said.
“We played well in games and scored goals, but we’ve conceded silly goals which has hurt us.
“They have worked really hard on the field and have come a long way from last year.
“We had a meeting last week and all the girls want to stay on, so a win in the playoffs will give us another season in the top flight to continue our improvement.”
Jarden has been influential in the middle of the park, while skipper Peta Hayward pins a tight defence. Both were part of the Perth United side who played in the World Masters Games in New Zealand in May.
Up front, Epril Nossent has been the avenue to goal for the Caledonians, while keeper Sofia Vujovic has been in good form after replacing the injured Sam Geddes, who broke her thumb four weeks ago.
Stirling Panthers finished second in Division One, three points behind Champions Wanneroo City.
Coach Frank Di Costa said it’s been a good second half of the season for his side.
“Our form in the second half of the year has been really solid and our confidence is really high but the players are just enjoying themselves and looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
“The team has also really matured this season in all areas of the game and we are a young squad with a number of teenagers so we are learning every week and developing as a group.”
They were edged out by the Champions in the final game of the season, but Di Costa said it was a great warm up for the playoffs.
“I thought we really took it up to them and just fell short of getting a result and we matched them on all fronts,” he said.
“I was really proud of the girls on how well they handled the physical and mental pressure, and it will put us good stead for the tough playoff games ahead.”
Di Costa is preparing his side for strong competition against the Caledonians.
“We’ve had some good battles with them in the past, so we know what to expect,” he said.
“They are a good side and have been unlucky this season, but we have nothing to lose and will go out, play our style of football and enjoy the experience. After all, it’s only our second season in the state league.”
Skipper Danielle Monastra will be vital at the back for the Panthers, along with keeper Monique Todd.
Bassendean will be keeping a close eye on Stirling’s Brooke Johnston and Sophie Podmore who have combined well this season, scoring nearly 30 goals between them.
WOMEN’S STATE PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYOFF
Stirling Panthers v Bassendean Caledonian
Bassendean Caledonian v Stirling Panthers