WNA - The Ararat Rats have ended the Wimmera Netball Association's reigning premiers, Warrack Eagles tilt at a third successive flag, while keeping their own grand final hopes alive.
The Rats overcame a slow start to run away comfortable 26-goal winners over the Eagles in Sunday's first semi final.
Warrack had a blistering start to the match, shooting the first five goals of the game, which left Ararat joint-coach Olivia West slightly concerned.
"The first five minutes I was a bit worried, but we began to work our way into it and peg them back," she said.
The Rats trailed the Eagles by two goals at quarter time, however a three goal turn around in the second quarter saw the Rats take a one goal advantage into the main break.
The second half of the match saw the Ararat's premiership credentials sky rocket, with its intense pressure steam rolling Warrack.
"In the last half we absolutely blitzed them," West said.
"They shot just 10 goals for the rest of the game compared to our 35 goals. I think the difference was the accuracy too, we only missed 14 goals for the match, whereas they missed 25 all up."
West said Jakki Gibson and Megan Shea worked well together in the goal circle, with well fed passes and more scoring opportunities proving the difference.
"We started driving the ball in harder and Megan Shea really stepped up and had a boom of a game," she said.
"She was shooting goals from everywhere and that really lifted the team. The pressure got put on Warrack and they started making errors."
West said that when Ararat's attacking end fired up it had a positive affect on the whole team.
There were no passengers in the Rats' important win, and that will need to be the case again on Sunday when the team faces Stawell in a blockbuster preliminary final.
"I'm fairly confident. If we can continue to play the same way we did on Saturday I think there is no reason why we can't get the win," West said.
"I think everyone has to step up and apply lots of pressure on their opponent. It can't just be one end or in the middle that is working hard, everybody has to contribute."
The Ararat Rats 17 and unders missed out on the chance to move straight through to the grand final and will now enter into a do-or-die preliminary final against Stawell on Sunday.
Ararat joint-coach Donna Spalding said her team looked shaky in its clash with Horsham last Saturday.
"We didn't play well at all, there was no real standouts," she said.
"There was some fairly officious umpiring and the girls were a bit rattled with a few calls I think. Because of that we made a number of unforced errors and there were a lot of turnovers from both teams."
Ararat held a two goal buffer at the first change, however Horsham began to settle and took hold of the match in the second term.
The Demons showed why they finished on top of the ladder, dominating all areas of the court.
The Rats had fallen 13 goals behind by the final whistle, going down 51 to 38.
Tiffany Boatman was named in Ararat's best, along with Shani Dickins, who Spalding said improved on her previous week's performance and kept her shooter fairly honest.
Ararat will now take on Stawell, a team it has beaten in both encounters this season.
"The first round was close and in the second game it was a convincing win, but only after half time was when we broke away," Spalding said.
"They are a fast and physical team, so we will have a challenge on our hands.
"I think when we are on a roll we have a really strong attacking end. Kira Stapleton and Mary Butler have a really good awareness of where each other is in the goal circle.
"We get plenty of drive out of Lauri Williamson in the centre. It is Lauri's first year in centre, she is normally in goals, so I think she has done really well and her spatial awareness and creative passing is great.
"And Brooke Williamson at wing attack sets up our attacking end very well with her passing. It takes a bit of pressure off Mary and Kira."
The 15 and under A team's season has ended with a heartbreaking two goal loss to Horsham in the first semi final.
In what was an evenly matched contest, the Rats battled right to the final whistle, with Cecilia Stewart dominating the attacking end for Ararat.
Stewart shot 27 goals to be named Ararat's best player, while her shooting partner Justine May was also named in the top players.
Ararat's 15 and under B side kept its September campaign alive with a gritty victory over Horsham RSL Diggers, 29 to 24.
Emily May and Stella Frawley were named Ararat's top two players.