AHEAD of Carlton's virtual NAB AFLW Women’s elimination final against Brisbane, star forward Darcy Vescio says the team's finals hopes are in its own hands.
With two games remaining, the Blues are second in Conference B on eight points. Their opponents, the Lions, are third, also on eight points, with 18 per cent separating the two as they fight for a preliminary final spot.
It's not out of the question for the team that loses Sunday's match at Ikon Park to still finish second and earn a preliminary final berth against the first-place team in Conference A, but the road would be a lot more difficult.
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"There's a lot riding on this game. But I think we respond quite well to pressure," Vescio told womens.afl.
"The weeks go really quickly so you just have to mentally prepare. It's exciting though, to think we're in that position to play (in a preliminary final) if we want it enough.
"[Round five against Collingwood] was a good little test. (We had our) backs up against the wall (after losing to Geelong in round four). It was good to understand what we can do as a group."
Vescio was the eventual star of the team's five-point win over the Magpies, snapping the winning goal in the final few minutes of the match.
It came after she kicked three behinds, including a couple from straightforward set shots she would normally slot with ease.
"When you're down, it can (weigh on your mind) a bit, the 'what ifs' and that sort of thing, but in a game of football, as a forward, you feel it a lot if you don't take your opportunities, (even though) that's just a skill error," she said.
"Whereas if you missed a kick further up the field, you wouldn't notice it as much, but your teammates rely on you to finish off the work they do, so ultimately when you can't do that, you feel like you need to find something or another way to contribute.
"You don't know when your opportunities are going to come, so you just need to stay in it and focused and not drop your head too much."
Things can turn quickly in a short season. Carlton started the year with a comprehensive 36-point loss to North Melbourne, but last year's wooden-spooner has rebounded well to record wins over Greater Western Sydney and Collingwood.
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The match against Brisbane is the perfect opportunity for Carlton to show it belongs in the preliminary finals.
"It's pretty difficult to get things working in such a short, intense season," Vescio said.
"You try to build as a team. Ultimately, everyone just wants to get better as a footballer and as a team. That's been our focus all season – getting better and continually developing.
"We have to put four quarters together and that will put us in a good position, because we've got a really good opportunity."
Outside of football, Vescio is on a break from work as a graphic designer after spending nearly two years working for the Blues.
"I finished in October, so it's been almost five months. I'm not doing much at all outside of football. I'm ready to step back into something and keep my mind a little bit busier," she said.
"I stepped away from the club to get a little balance back, because I felt everything was just footy-related. There's a lot of upside to it…I think I'm the only AFLW player who's had enough sleep."