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Bath blow open race for Final Four

Team Bath Netball will go into next week’s home match against Wasps on the back of three successive wins after coming from behind to record a hard-fought victory at Surrey Storm on Bank Holiday Monday.

The 56-49 success moves the Sitec-sponsored Blue and Gold to within three points of defending champions Storm, who currently sit in the fourth and final play-off position with five games of the regular Vitality Superleague season remaining.

Storm led 30-25 at half-time but the visitors, fresh from Friday’s emphatic 59-33 victory over Severn Stars, seized control in the third quarter and surged into a 44-40 lead before seeing out an important win.

It was another encouraging performance for Team Bath ahead of their meeting with second-placed Wasps at the University of Bath Sports Training Village on Monday (7.45pm).

Head Coach Anna Stembridge said: “I’m so proud of the team, it was a great display of both dominant defence and clinical but creative attack.

“It’s always tough facing Storm on their home soil and we knew they would come out hard at us but the girls responded brilliantly. It would have been easy for the score to blow out in the first half but we fought hard to stay in touch and that was important.

“I could see our momentum building through the match. We were relentless in defence, right across the court, and we really cherished the ball. You don’t get as many turnovers against Storm because of the way they play, so we had to be clinical when we had possession and we were.

“The other pleasing thing was the impact the replacements had. One of the things that Jess [Thirlby] and I have said from the outset is how important the depth of our squad is – it’s not just about the seven players who start, it’s everyone in the 12.

“Sometimes teams are forced into reactive changes but we always try to make them for positive reasons, and it’s been great to see the impact that players have made from the bench.”

Two of Team Bath’s remaining games are against Coventy-based Wasps, a new franchise led by former Team Bath player Tamsin Greenway, who briefly went top of the Superleague table on Monday after recording their 11th win from 13 games.

“Wasps are flying and I’m not surprised to see them right up there,” said Stembridge. “They are a new franchise but everyone expected them to be challengers because of how Tamsin recruited.

“She brought in not only talented players but also established partnerships. You have Natalie Haythornthwaite feeding Rachel Dunn in attack and there is Josie Huckle, Hannah Reid and Amy Flanagan who were so effective for Surrey Storm last season.

“We will go into this game respectful of the opposition but fully confident in our own abilities and making sure we are as prepared as possible.

“Every game is going to be like a cup final from now on and I know it’s a cliché but we have to take them one quarter, one match at a time. That has to be our focus and what will be, will be.”

Anyone who buys a ticket for the Wasps game before Saturday, May 6, will be entered into a prize draw to win a training day with Team Bath’s Superleague players and coaches.

Tickets are priced £12 for adults, £8 concessions and £35 for a family ticket. They are available at www.teambath.com/events/ticketline or by calling 0844 888 4412.

The Superleague match will be preceded by an U21 Netball Performance League (NPL) game between Team Bath and Wasps. Centre pass is 4.45pm and admission is free.