Souths put nine past Pride in rough NPLW season opener
SOUTHS United are a perennial NPLW finals contender, but Western Pride team manager Byron Van Der Zee believes they could be more than that this season after his team "were just demolished” on Sunday.
Souths romped to a 9-0 win at Wakerly Park in the opening round of the competition.
Pride were unlucky to concede an own goal inside three minutes, before a clinical Souths added two more in quick succession to lead 3-0 in the blink of an eye.
Compounding Pride's woes was a brutal head clash in the 25th minute, which resulted in experienced centre half Victoria Merrick and fullback Sasha Beaumont requiring substitutions.
Down three goals, two quality defenders and left just one substitution to work with Pride were always going to struggle to keep a foothold in the contest.
That proved to be the case, with the young side able to put together individual passages of promising play but ultimately outclassed by a more experienced outfit.
Boasting a quality line-up with multiple W-League players including former Australian representative and leading scorer Amy Chapman, Souths were simply too strong.
"I think this is a big learning opportunity for them,” Van Der Zee said of the young Pride team.
"We went into this game with no goals scored against us when we played three other NPL teams (in pre-season). We thought we were really solid defensively, but they definitely showed our weaknesses.
"They kept getting behind our defensive line. They had a lot of speed up front and took full advantage.”
Van Der Zee labelled the first stanza of play "a bit heart wrenching” as the team found itself down three goals inside 11 minutes.
"We had those three quick goals, but then I thought we played some good football right up to the halftime whistle,” he said. "We started to settle and play better as a unit.”
Positive for Pride was the blooding of a number of new faces in the team, but also a return to the green and white for a familiar face.
Megan Hellmuth - one of Pride's first women's players - returned after a stint in the US on a college scholarship. The defensive midfielder was thrust into Merrick's vacated centre back position in a trial by fire, but performed amicably in her first minutes in a new-look Pride team.
Tara O'Keefe, an 18-year-old winger who has spent time in the Brisbane Roar Women's program, also found her feet in a Pride uniform as a substitution.
"We know what the benchmark is now,” Van Der Zee said.
"But I believe when we go out and play next time, we can be a better reflection of what we've been doing over the past three or four months.”
NPL Queensland Women's Rd 1
Souths United 9 def. Western Pride 0 at Wakerly Park