During the course of this 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague season we’ve seen some fierce battles out on the court.
As we move into the semi-final stage of the competition, these match-ups are going to become even more closely contested.
On Saturday, Team Bath will travel to the Thunderdome to face Manchester Thunder in the 4pm game and Surrey Storm will welcome Hertfordshire Mavericks to the Surrey Sports Park at 6pm.
These sides have now all met twice already this season and will know each other’s games inside-out, making this semi-final Saturday a fascinating one.
For a closer look at the face-to-face player match-ups, read on!
Semi-Final One – Manchester Thunder v Team Bath
Malysha Kelly v Chelsea Lewis/Lenize Potgieter
The Jamaican defender has been a revelation for Thunder this season and has been more than a match for all the Goal Shooter’s she’s come up against this year. Her all-round defending has impressed fans and pundits alike and it’s been largely discussed that she’s the full package.
Chelsea Lewis/Lenize Potgieter:-
Both shooters are proven world-class players and have had strong seasons making them invaluable to the Bath attack. They are reliable options to don the Goal Shooter bib, which makes it easy for Anna Stembridge to change her line-up without concern for flow of play. In a match-up against Malysha Kelly, both shooters will be in for a physical battle, but they’ll definitely be up to the challenge.
Eboni Beckford-Chambers v Ellie Cardwell
The experienced England international and Bath captain has picked up Player of the Match awards across the season for leading by example. Her combinations with both Karla Mostert and Sam Cook have grown as 2016 has progressed and have contributed to Bath’s strong finish to the regular season. Beckford-Chambers is a defender no shooter looks forward to facing, and on her first season back in the VNSL, she will not want to lose this huge semi-final!
What a season it’s been for this young rising star! Cardwell didn’t begin 2016 in Dan Ryan’s starting seven, but has performed when called upon and is now the firm owner of that GS bib. The attacking combination of Bayman, Haythornthwaite, Housby and Cardwell has been a tough nut for other Superleague sides to crack – which has been the reason for their strong ending to the regular season. Cardwell will come across a difficult test in Beckford-Chambers, but this is going to be the most fascinating tussle of the day – a young, talented, confident and fearless shooter up against one of the most experienced, tough and versatile defenders in the country.
Natalie Haythornthwaite v Claire Brownie
Haythorntwaite has followed up her 2015 Player of the Season award with Yorkshire Jets with another strong and consistent season with her new side. Dan Ryan has played Haythornthwaite in all three attacking positions, but seems to have settled on her playing the Wing Attack role. Her fast feeding and quick hands have been admired all year.
The Scottish international has proven herself to be one of the best Wing Defence’s in the league, causing all kinds of problems for her opposition. She’s physical, agile and rangy and cuts off space for feeding into the shooting circle extremely effectively making her a force to be reckoned with. She’s so strong in supporting the circle defenders and is every Wing Attack’s nightmare – Natalie Haythornthwaite will have her work cut out, but her lightning-fast hands versus Brownie’s defensive prowess will be an interesting battle.
Semi-Final Two – Surrey Storm v Hertfordshire Mavericks
Hannah Reid v Sammy Wallace
Surrey Storm’s captain and defensive anchor, Reid is incredibly consistent. Reid plays with real passion and commands the circle, not allowing her shooter much, if any, wiggle room. Her combinations with Katy Holland and Josie Huckle in the 2016 season have been remarkable and she’s made the smooth transition from GK to GD half way through a game many times this year.
Wallace has had an impressive impact on the Vitality Netball Superleague this year with her expansive style of play. She’s not only stylish, she gets results – her shooting stats are incredible. She’s scored 438/491 goals at a percentage of 89% this season and has made it extremely difficult for defenders to mark her. She can take the ball high and low, making her a feeder’s dream. Reid’s close marking will be something Wallace will find difficult, but Reid will have to be mindful of the shooter’s calm approach and rangy reach.
Sophia Candappa v Sophie Carter
Candappa was shortlisted for the Vitality Netball Superleague’s Player of the Season after a great first season with her new side. Her tireless work rate means she offers both Storm’s attack and defence the support they need. Candappa’s eye-catching performances in 2016 have also earned her a call-up to the Roses Netball Europe squad for next month.
After Joline Johansson’s season-ending ACL injury, Carter has stepped up to the Centre bib and has put in performances beyond her 20 years. She joined Mavericks as a youth back in 2012 and has worked her way through the ranks and into the first team. She’s fast, determined and despite the difference in experience, will give Candappa a lot to think about during the course of this semi-final clash.
Pamela Cookey v Layla Guscoth
What more can be said about Pamela Cookey?! Despite retiring from international netball, the former England captain remains a world-class athlete. The combination of Cookey and Rachel Dunn has been virtually unstoppable for a while now, and despite losing their third-musketeer in Tamsin Greenway for this season, Georgia Lees has stepped up to the plate to support the two shooters. Cookey has shot at a consistent 86% this season and has been reliable as ever in the circle.
Hands up who’s excited for this battle?! Guscoth has had an incredible year so far – she’s become a doctor AND captained her side to a VNSL semi-final! Every coach will have a plan for their shooters to deal with her boundless energy and ability to intercept anything and everything that comes her way. The match-up between Cookey and Guscoth will be exciting – they’re both clever players and will be very aware of how each other play.
If you haven’t managed to get tickets to be at the fixtures live then you can watch both games on Sky Sports 5 from 3.35pm!