Loughborough Lightning became the first team in the Vitality Netball Superleague to secure their spot at Final Four on Saturday night after a sensational 59 – 52 win over Surrey Storm.
Lightning travelled to The University of Surrey to face the 2016 Champions for the first time this season. Both teams started the league with a tremendous start, claiming their first six matches in a row, Lightning began with the upper hand however having maintained their dominant position, winning all but one of their games so far.
A slow start in the first quarter saw Storm take the lead early on. Quickly taking note of the seamless exchanges into the Storm shooting circle, Lightning tightened their defence and attempted to form a barrier between the ball and shooting powerhouse Craig.
Quarter 1: 13 – 17
Using the reflection time wisely, a more knowledgeable Lightning returned to the court, eager to give the crowd a taste of their usual play.
Despite Storm’s shooting accuracy, Lightning’s Proscovia continued to convert the centre passes into points, remaining unfazed by the switch in goal attacks part way through the quarter.
A further change for Lightning saw Ella Gibbons take on the goal keeper role with Jo Trip moving to goal defence. With a new defensive line-up Storm had to quickly readjust to Lightning’s new style of play.
Quarter 2: 26 – 31
Eager to see Lightning’s now famous third quarter turnaround, the crowd were on the edge of their seats going into the second half. With a gap of just five points, all Lightning needed to do was tighten up and do what they do best.
A quick change part way through saw Oyesola return to the court, refreshed and ready to face the challenge ahead. Lightning seized each and every opportunity that was thrown at them to finally take the lead shortly before the end of the quarter.
Quarter 3: 43 – 40
Heading into the quarter on the tailwind of a turnaround, an unchanged Lightning side had just fifteen minutes to secure the win. Both teams increased the pace, physicality and presence on the court, with each turnover making a crucial difference to the scoreboard.
Not ready to take things lying down, Storm’s defensive unit gradually applied more pressure to Lightning’s shooting circle whilst the entire Lightning team used every ounce they had left to cause crucial errors and open up opportunities for points. The explosive quarter finally ended and Lightning took the win.
Final Score: 59 – 52
Lightning have now recorded a whopping 13 wins so far this season and currently stand 6 points clear at the top of the table.
Reflecting on the night’s events, Head Coach Karen Atkinson was keen to keep her team focused on the next few weeks;
“I’m really pleased to get the three points away at Storm, it is a notoriously difficult place to play. The girls dug deep again after a slow start which we need to address heading into the play offs.
Player of the match for me was Beth Cobden who took some crucial intercepts and drove the ball through the court well.
It is a great feeling to have qualified for the finals weekend already with four games to go, and it is testament to the hard work of all the players and support staff. We cannot however take our foot off the pedal and preparation for each match will be as meticulous as it has been so far this season.”
England star Beth Cobden has certainly been making her mark in a purple dress this season; she shared her key to success against Storm;
“I’m really pleased with the team’s performance, Surrey storm put out a massive game against us and we were pushed to the last minute! I think our teams defence from the whole 7 is what won us the game. I am glad to secure our place in the semi-final and look forward to improving over the next four games.”
Lightning now look ahead to their final four games of the season, all of which take place at Loughborough University. Catch them in action next on Monday 15th May at 7.45pm where they take on Hertfordshire Mavericks. Tickets are limited so get yours now: Loughborough Lightning Official Website