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Ama’s top picks for the play-offs!

Loughborough Lightning and now England Roses captain Ama Agbeze has spoken with Sky Netball about who she thinks will win this year’s Vitality Netball Superleague.

She’s identified her player picks for each side, who she thinks are the surprise package, and ultimately who she thinks will win the title.

You can read Ama’s whole feature on the Sky Sports website, here: http://www.skysports.com/netball/news/12040/10260089/netball-superleague-ama-agbeze-answers-key-questions-about-saturdays-semi-finals

TeamBath Netball 
12/02/16
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Bath move into play-offs full of confidence

Team Bath know they will head into Saturday’s semi-finals facing the team that finished top of the Vitality Netball Superleague table, Manchester Thunder – but they’re still confident.

After a strong finish to the season with a 20-goal win over Loughborough Lightning, Bath feel like they have the momentum to take the win in Manchester.

Bath look back at their finish and also look ahead to the semis below:

Team Bath Netball will head into this weekend’s Vitality Netball Superleague semi-finals with confidence soaring after finishing the regular season with an emphatic 75-55 win at Loughborough Lightning.

Saturday’s result – Team Bath’s biggest of the season in terms of goals scored – extended the Blue and Gold’s winning run to four matches and was their third successive victory on the road.

Standing in their way of a Grand Final place is a table-topping Manchester Thunder team who have only lost once all season.

They are also the last side to have beaten Team Bath, with last month’s 69-51 win at the Thunderdome following up a 62-37 success for Thunder at the Team Bath Arena in February.

But Team Bath Director of Netball Jess Thirlby believes this weekend’s meeting in Manchester will be much closer and is taking inspiration from Hertfordshire Mavericks, who stunned Thunder in the semi-finals last season.

“We have unfinished business with Manchester Thunder, they are the only team we haven’t beaten this season,” said Thirlby.

“Thunder got off to a flying start on both occasions we played them and gave us too much to do but it was very competitive in Manchester for the remaining three quarters and we did pose them problems.

“We have to get off to a better start this time and that is one aspect of our game that has certainly improved in the last four matches.

“Thunder have to be the favourites after finishing top of the table but they have the ghost of last season’s semi-finals to contend with. They went into that match with a perfect record but lost at home to Mavericks, so it is possible.

“We are in a really good place. The girls are buoyant and they are really living the values and culture we have been instilling in them since pre-season. Maybe the stars are aligning for us.”

Team Bath – backed by Carter Jonas – showed more signs of growth at Loughborough as they produced what Thirlby described as “a really pleasing performance” to record a convincing victory over a Lightning side that finished fifth overall.

“The girls were really up for it and wanted to keep building the momentum going into the semi-finals,” said Thirlby.

“We started really well and quickly took a 6-2 lead. Lightning came back at us but we were still leading by one at the end of the first quarter and the confidence was clearly there, which we demonstrated as we won the second period 21-10 – an excellent scoreline against a team as good as Lightning.

“To score 75 goals against a defensive unit featuring Ama Agbeze, who has been one of the best players in the Superleague this season, is no mean feat.

“We scrutinise all of our performances, as you would expect, and there are couple of things we need to work on but they were far outweighed by the positives. We scored our highest number of goals this season and were able to field a lot of different player combinations once again. Our performances are getting better all the time.”

Only goal average was able to determine the final semi-final line-up as Team Bath’s win meant they finished level on points with Surrey Storm in second and Mavericks – who lost 67-43 to Thunder on Monday night – in third.

Both semi-finals will take place on Saturday (April 30) and will be televised back-to-back on Sky Sports 5 from 3.35pm, with Team Bath’s match starting at 4pm. Storm v Mavericks will follow at 6pm.

Lightning

Lightning’s season comes to an end

Loughborough Lightning drew their 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague season to a close with a twenty-goal defeat at the hands of Team Bath.

You can read Lightning’s full match report from the game below:

Lightning played host to Team Bath for their final game of the season, where they lost 55 – 75

Loughborough Lightning took to the Sir David Wallace Arena for their last game of the season. It was a sell-out crowd and the hall was buzzing with excitement as the team faced the formidable Team Bath. The last time the team met was away, where Bath took the victory 60-44. Lightning’s last game was a huge win against Team Northumbria at home, where the girls won 61-41.

Natalie Panagarry took first centre pass, with captain Ama Agbeze quick to support her. Possession was intercepted by Bath and they took the first goal of the game. Hannah Joseph struggled with contact in the centre third with Peace Proscovia struggling to capitalise on possession in the shooting circle. Lightning enjoyed fantastic centre third chemistry and in the second minute came their first goal of the game, trailing by two goals already. Bath’s defence was strong in the first quarter, putting Vanessa Walker and Proscovia to work for every goal attempt. 

Bath took an early four-goal lead, with Jo Trip working furiously in defence. The game took a physical turn, with Panagarry and Joseph showing off their fantastic chemistry with numerous long balls across the court.

Bath were clinical in their offense and unforgiving with Lightning mistakes. Proscovia found her feet in the ninth minute of the quarter, with Joseph a performing as a stand out player. Trip received a caution in the twelfth minute of the quarter. After a fairly quiet first quarter, Lightning seemed to find their intensity in the final minutes and closed the gap on Bath 14 – 15.

Panagarry took first centre pass, with Lauren Nicholls and Joseph fast to provide support. Proscovia put away Lightning’s first goal of the quarter, finally equalising with Bath 15-15. The home side seemed more determined in their offensive plays, with Walker and Proscovia working solidly as a unit. Captain and Loughborough University alumni Agbeze commanded the court with discipline. Bath soon ran away with the lead once again and the home side was five-goals behind. Contact became an issue as the game took a physical turn.

Walker was a hugely impressive player in the final minutes of the first half, keeping a cool head and delivering goal after goal for Lightning. Walker and Joseph were replaced by Tamikah Campbell and Kadeen Corbin as Bath took a nine-goal lead. The two substitutions provided relief to the centre-third as Bath upped their lead to ten-goals.

HT: Loughborough Lightning 24 – 36 Team Bath

The third quarter began with Rebekah Airey coming on for Trip, with Joseph back on the court over Campbell.  Corbin’s workrate was impeccable in the third quarter, providing fantastic support to Proscovia in order to score. Panagarry upped her aggression after half time, becoming more vocal in the centre third and challenging her opposite player. Bath’s clinical and fast paced playing style was proving to be a issue as they took a twelve-goal lead, with Lightning having to work furiously to keep it from extending.

A huge slap-down from Agbeze brought excitement to the home crowd in the fourth minute of the half. Proscovia’s discipline was tested as her opposite player became increasingly physical, taking two successive knock downs in the shooting circle. Airey worked well in the defensive third alongside her experienced partner Agbeze. Bath’s clinical command of the shooting circle soon meant that they would enjoy a fifteen-goal lead for a large portion of the third quarter. With one minute to go, Bath were leading 38-53, with Lightning errors being brutally exploited by the visiting side.

Coleman came on to replace Proscovia, scoring early in the first minute of the last quarter. Lauren Massey also made an appearance, replacing Nicholls, and was key in providing defensive plays in the centre third. Massey’s chemistry with Joseph was fantastic as they provided Coleman and Corbin with the ball to chip away at the sizeable seventeen-goal difference.

The Lightning team appeared rejuvenated, giving it everything they had left in their final quarter of the season. Coleman was a standout performer in the ten minutes of the game, scoring multiple goals for her team and proving herself a dangerous component in Lightning’s offensive plays.

Despite the goal difference, the home crowd cheered loudly for every Lightning goal and interception. Bath received a caution in the final two minutes of the half as they led by twenty-goals. Coleman and Corbin enjoyed some great interlinking chemistry in the final minutes of the game, both showing immense prowess in the shooting circle. Lightning’s season ended on a huge applause from the crowd, with Bath taking the victory.

FT: Loughborough Lightning 55 – 75 Team Bath

Player of the Match Brittany Coleman had this to say:

“I just enjoyed stepping on the court, I knew it was the last quarter and we were losing by quite a bit, so I felt not as much pressure as if we were close. Yeah, I just enjoyed it, I enjoy playing with the team – I’m not really bothered about the scoreline, I’m just happy that I got on the court!”

Head coach Karen Atkinson also commented:

“Yeah, final game of the season, disappointed; I still think we had the calibre of player to defeat some of the top four sides. I was hoping today would be an opportunity to approve that, to show it to ourselves and to everybody else but it wasn’t to be and I thought Team Bath were just a far more consistent side, they were more mentally and physically strong at times, and that cost us. 

“We have got a lot of youngsters and I think its getting that fine balance of when to introduce them at this level, and the pressure of Super League but, you know, they can definitely stand up to it and I think not necessarily making the play offs has given us that opportunity. Whether I should have done it earlier or not… you’ll never know! You can never turn back time, but, I’m really pleased at how they’ve taken their chance, whether its fifteen minutes or however long and really shown what they’re capable of.”

Starting Seven:

GK – Jo Trip

GD – Ama Agbeze ©

WD – Lauren Nicholls

C – Natalie Panagarry

WA –  Hannah Joseph

GA – Vanessa Walker

GS – Peace Proscovia

Substitutes:

Rebekah Airey
Tamikah Campbell
Brittany  Coleman
Kadeen Corbin
Lauren Massey

We would like to thank all of our fans for your support this season, and hope you will be join us next year! 

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The race to the semis

This weekend will see the final round of Vitality Netball Superleague action before the all-important semi-finals!

There are three fixtures on Saturday 23rd April and one match to be played on Monday 25th April before the play-offs on Saturday 30th April.

As we already know, the four teams making it through to the semi-finals are Manchester Thunder, Hertfordshire Mavericks, Surrey Storm and Team Bath – but the positions in which they finish are not yet cemented.

The first game up on Saturday is at 6pm between Loughborouh Lightning and Team Bath, with the away side looking to put pressure on the top three teams in the league.

Lightning will want to finish their season on a high, and after the disappointment of not reaching the play-offs will be determined to get a win against Bath, making it an intriguing battle.

The following two matches on Saturday will both begin at 6.30pm with the clash between Hertfordshire Mavericks and Surrey Storm being LIVE streamed on the website here: http://www.netballsl.com/members-area/login/

For Mavericks to have the chance to catch Manchester Thunder at the top of the table (they’re currently six points clear) they need to beat Storm and ultimately beat Thunder in Manchester on Monday at 6.15pm – so there’s a huge weekend lying ahead for the team from Hertfordshire.

In the other 6.30pm match on Saturday, Celtic Dragons will make the journey from Wales to Newcastle as they face Team Northumbria for a match where both sides will be battling for pride and to finish their seasons with a win.

This is set to be a huge weekend of Vitality Netball Superleague action, and definitely a weekend not to be missed!