Razor-sharp attack boost for Stingrays

FOOTBALL

The season is yet to officially begin, but that hasn't stopped the Illawarra Stingrays from sending out an ominous warning to their rivals.

The 2013 league runners-up were extremely dangerous in attack as they claimed the preseason cup on Sunday with a 3-1 win over Sydney University.

Western Sydney Wanderers stars Jordan Baker and Michelle Carney scored all three goals between them.

Baker, 17, was particularly impressive with a brace and new coach Graham Shaw predicts big things for his young striker.

"Jordie has really stepped up to the plate now. She has obviously had that experience in the W-League over the summer which has given her a lot of confidence," Shaw said.

"She is looking to come through and perhaps do what Michelle Carney has been doing for the last few years and get that goal tally right up."

Baker will play alongside Carney at the tip of the Stingrays attack for the majority of the 2014 campaign.

The veteran showed her enduring qualities with a golden boot-winning haul of 44 goals last season, which saw her claim the player of the year award.

"Michelle is a key player for us and it gives us that experience with her being the captain, too," Shaw said.

"Her and Jordy have a good partnership upfront and she leads the way in the way she plays her football."

Shaw will need players with the experience of Carney in a tougher NSW National Women's Premier League competition.

The competition has been reduced to eight teams to ensure the top flight is made up of an elite group of squads all capable of competing for the title.

"It is a tougher format week in, week out. To win the preseason with all eight teams involved, it gives us a good indication of where we are looking to go this season and where we are hoping to finish," Shaw said.

"I think we will be up there again this season."

The Stingrays will get an immediate indication of how they are placed when they meet defending premiers Marconi Stallions in their opening match on Sunday.

Last year's decider saw Marconi prevail 5-1 over Illawarra.

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