South Melbourne’s NPL-W team will be aiming to win through to a second consecutive NPL-W grand final, to be staged at AAMI Park later this month, when they host Alamein FC in a semi-final at Lakeside on Saturday.
The semi comes just a week after South clinched back to back Premiers plates in last Saturday’s final round of the season at the David Barro Stadium, with a 3-2 come-from-behind win against another finals contestant Bulleen Lions.
“We’ve been the most consistent team over the course of the season,” South Melbourne women’s team head coach, Angelo Koutos told Neos Kosmos.
“At one stage, we were trailing [closest rival] Calder United by almost nine points. Then we caught them and overtook them and kept the lead, and we won the premiership, which is a major achievement.”
South’s two NPL-W premierships follow on the heels of three consecutive State League titles.
“They’re a talented bunch of girls,” Koutos says. “I’ve been coaching a long time and to see this group of players, it’s mind boggling. They’ve got something. They jell together and being part of South Melbourne, they know how to win. It’s in their DNA now. It’s part of the club DNA. They know what to do when they get in front.”
Despite a coaching change just before the halfway point of the current season, from previous championship winning coach Socrates Nicolaidis to Koutos, the transition has been a smooth one, with the team losing just once, to Alamein, since Koutos took charge. Along the way, they have scored 112 goals at an average of just over four goals a game.
“I gave a challenge to a lot of the players who play in a midfield role to go and score goals and not to rely on just one or two goal-scorers like our top goal scorer Melina Ayres,” Koutos said.
“They responded brilliantly and all those girls started scoring. And once they got the hang of it, there was no stopping them after that. Cracked 100 goals with three games to go.”
It didn’t inhibit Ayres either, who scored her 100th goal in just her third season in the NPL-W league, a remarkable achievement for a player still in her teens.
Ayres is just one of a number of players in the South team who have played at W-League clubs prior to the current season. Others include Gummer, Eliadis, De Vanna, Mason-Jones, Varley and Sakalis.
“The club is bidding for the A-League license and part of that is having the women’s program in the W-League as well,” Koutos says. “When you’ve got 55 per cent of your squad already playing in the A-League, it’s a good push on the powers that be at the FFA that we’re up and ready to go.”
Ahead of the semi-final at Lakeside, Koutos says his squad is in great shape.
“We know exactly what [Alamein’s] game plan is. They’re a very physical side, with tall, big girls. We’re expecting a real battle. We lost to them 2-1 a couple of weeks ago, but that was under circumstances where we had a break after a catch-up round, and we were reduced to 10 players. We know we can beat them. We’re very confident. But as I said, it’s a one-off semi-final. Anything can happen. With a bit of luck on our side, we’ll get through.”
The senior women’s semi-final kicks off at Lakeside on Saturday 15 September at 4.30 pm. Prior to that match, South Melbourne U19s, who also won the Premiership last Saturday, will play their semi-final kicking off at 2.00 pm at Lakeside.