Team Bath Netball fans have been told their support is “so, so important” as the Blue and Gold embark on a critical run of four home Vitality Netball Superleague games in the space of just two weeks.
The next three Fridays see Team Bath entertain top-four rivals benecosMavericks (June 1), Loughborough Lightning (June 8) and Wasps Netball (June 15) as the race for the end-of-season semi-final spots reaches a decisive stage.
They also have a rearranged fixture on Monday (June 4) against Scottish franchise UWS Sirens, who inflicted a first defeat in five weeks on Team Bath when they met at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow on Saturday.
That 51-43 reverse means the Blue and Gold sit fifth in the table, three points behind benecosMavericks, and Team Bath Superleague Head Coach Anna Stembridge says the players are fully aware of the significance of Friday’s game and the upcoming run of fixtures – click here to get your tickets.
“We have to make sure we bounce back on Friday and facing a quality side like Mavericks will really focus our efforts,” she said.
“We have four critical home games coming up and there is still everything to play for as all of the top five have to play each other over the next month.
“As well as Mavericks, Lightning and Wasps, we also have to go to Manchester Thunder on the last day of the regular season. Facing all of our top-five rivals in the space of three weeks, plus our rearranged fixture against Sirens, is undoubtedly a tough run but ultimately you want to be challenged as players and as a squad.
“You always want to test yourselves against the best in the league and this is a challenge we are looking forward to.
“It is also a real boost to have this run of games at home at such a crucial stage of the season. The fans have been magnificent all year and to have that support is so, so important. They really are our eighth player and we need everyone to turn out for these matches and get behind us.”
Team Bath will be looking for an instant response to Saturday’s setback in Scotland where the visitors, who were without captain Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Jess Shaw due to injury, were caught cold in the opening stages.
A Sirens side featuring former Blue and Gold stars Sara Bayman, Claire Brownie and Shantal Slater were in fine form as they opened up a 14-9 lead in the first quarter before extending it to 28-18 in the second.
Team Bath closed the gap to six at half-time but Sirens were able to double their advantage during the third period and end any hopes of a comeback. The visitors kept battling, though, and had the consolation of winning the final quarter 13-9.
“Sirens put out probably their best performance of the season so far but we knew they would be a threat,” said Stembridge. “They have some real quality players on their roster and they brought it to us.
“From our point of view, we were expecting a much better performance but we were a little hesitant and disconnected in the first quarter and we struggled to turn it around after that.
“We fought back in the latter stages of the second quarter as well as the second half of the game and it was great to see Tash Pavelin out on court, she has been excellent in training during the past few weeks and did brilliantly when she came on.
“We need a positive response against Mavericks and Sirens this week and I’d also like to see us produce the kind of performances we know we are capable of. We have shown our quality in moments but now it is about producing it consistently.”
All four of the upcoming home matches start at 7.30pm, with doors opening at 6.30pm. The Mavericks game will be preceded by an on-court celebration of Blue and Gold legend Asha Francis, who is leaving the club after 14 years this summer to move to Singapore with her family.
Francis, who captained Team Bath to the Superleague title in 2013, said: “When you move on you don’t always get that chance to say goodbye or thank you to everyone for all of their backing over the years, so it will be nice to share this with a lot of people I care about.”