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Thunder’s Greig: “We know we can beat them”

It’s been a long season, but now just four teams – and three games remain before the 2018 Vitality Netball Superleague champions are crowned.

Third-placed Manchester Thunder face Loughbroough Lightning, who finished second in the regular season, in their play-off game, while Wasps and Team Bath face-off in the other semi.

The winner of each will meet in the Grand Final on 7 July at the Copper Box Arena. And Thunder are desperate to be there.

On paper, very little separates the Black and Yellows and Lightning, who have one win apiece against each other this season, while the hosts secured the fixture at home due to their superior goal difference.

But mentality and approach shifts for the semi-finals, while Thunder head coach Karen Greig is aware that what has gone before her side this season, will not be the focus when they line-up at the Leicester Arena on Saturday.

“Once you get to the semis you have to focus on what’s in front and not what’s gone,” she said.

“The positive we take from the season is we know we can beat them.

“We approach this now in the same way as previous – watch them, break them down, have a game plan and ensure we implement our strengths within that.”

Thunder have been one of the most consistent sides this season building momentum with each game, only losing three times, and scoring over 1,000 (1056) goals along the way.

But so have Lightning, who have a similar record to Thunder, three losses, scoring two less (1054) but also conceding less (852 to Thunder’s 887) .

And as a result Greig is expecting an even match-up, and an organised and strong centre court from Anna Carter’s squad.

Greig said: “We have all seen that they are formidable at both ends of the court and have a strong centre court connecting them.

“I think there will be great match ups all over the court, but as we know when Joyce Mvula is on her game she is unstoppable.”

But whatever strengths Lighting may possess, Greig believes Thunder have the edge when it comes to togetherness and team spirit. Thunder thrive on being the underdog.

They always play right to the buzzer, with heart, grit and passion.

“I think the fact that we have been sitting under the radar from day one stands us in good stead,” she added.

“No one really has us down to be challengers, but I’ve got a solid squad with no real superstars (in others’ eyes) that play hard for each other and the franchise every game.

“Every northerner loves the under dog and we will go out and play like we’ve nothing to lose.”

Tickets for our semi-final against Lightning in Leicester are now on general sale.

The race to reach the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final is heating up – don’t miss out on the season-ending spectacular and get your tickets now!

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Lightning gearing up for semi-final against Thunder

Loughborough Lightning Netball are gearing up for the biggest home game in their history on Saturday 30th June, as they take on Manchester Thunder in a semi-final clash that sees a place in the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final up for grabs.

Currently on an 11 game winning running run, Lightning know that victory over Thunder at the Leicester Arena is all that stands between them and a place in the final, where they’ll be out to go one better than last year’s runner-up finish.

Having defeated Wasps earlier this month, the side they lost out to in the final 12 months ago, the Loughborough University franchise go into the Saturday’s semi-final full of confidence.

England’s Ella Clark discussed Lightning’s recent good form:

“We’re definitely very happy with how the season’s gone since the Commonwealth Games break and we’re carrying a lot of momentum heading into this game. With 11 wins on the trot we can’t complain at all and the atmosphere within our squad is really good.

“I missed the semi-finals and finals last year after getting hurt in the last regular game of the season. That was very disappointing but I’m healthy and ready for this part of the season this time round. I hate sitting on the side-lines no matter what it is I’m doing, so I can’t wait to be part of the team this time and hopefully contribute to a successful end to the campaign.”

Everyone knows Thunder make formidable opposition however, so victory in Leicester on Saturday certainly isn’t a forgone conclusion. Of what it’ll take to secure the win Clark added:

“It’s going to take a lot of running and a lot of grit! Thunder are a very good team and they’ve played together for a long time so they have that connection – we’ve just got to be very clinical with what we do.”

With Lightning fans gifted one last chance to see Lightning play at home this season, Clark urged supporters to get their tickets and roar the team to glory on Saturday night.

“I’m expecting a lot of noise from our fans this weekend. Thunder will bring a group of away fans and they’ll be loud, but we’ll hopefully outnumber them and be even louder, especially if we can get that drum going!”

Tickets for Lightning’s biggest home game in history are available now by clicking here or heading to www.loughboroughlightning.com.

The race to reach the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final is heating up – don’t miss out on the season-ending spectacular and get your tickets now!

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Blue and Gold “ready to peak at right time”

Anna Stembridge believes that Team Bath Netball are ready to achieve their full potential in the 2018 Vitality Netball Superleague – and is backing her players to do just that when they face Wasps in the semi-finals on Saturday.

The Blue and Gold completed their regular season by going toe to toe with fellow semi-finalists Manchester Thunder in an absorbing encounter, with nothing to separate the teams until the last five minutes when the home side managed to crank up the pressure and secure a 54-47 victory.

Team Bath’s place in the top four was already confirmed, though, following benecosMavericks’ 49-47 defeat at UWS Sirens on Thursday and Superleague Head Coach Stembridge said the performance against Thunder should give her players confidence as they enter the knockout stages.

And she is hoping that the Blue and Gold fans will turn out in force for Saturday’s semi-final against table-topping Wasps (5.45pm centre-pass), which is being played at the University of Worcester Arena.

“The slate is wiped clean now and, as we have seen many times in the past, anything can happen in a semi-final,” said Stembridge.

“We would have liked to go into the game on the back of a win at Thunder but we can certainly take huge positives from the way we performed for 55 minutes of that match against a team that has been in great form in recent weeks.

“We have to do it for 60 minutes but I am really excited because I know that our best performance is still to come and what better time would there be to do it than in the knockout stages?

“We have produced moments of brilliance against all of the top teams in the past couple of weeks and we are more than capable of beating them if we stick to our gameplan and play with confidence and belief.

“My belief in this squad has never wavered and if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. I know we have the ability to do that.

“The fact we are playing the semi-final at Worcester is an amazing opportunity – it is the next closest thing we could get to having a home semi-final as it isn’t too far for our fans to travel. They have been incredible this season and it would be brilliant if they could get behind us again – we’d love to see and hear them there.”

Team Bath have been given an additional boost in the build-up to the semi-final by the return of Jess Shaw, who had been sidelined by an ankle injury since early May.

She was straight back into the thick of the action against Thunder as Mia Ritchie suffered a heavy fall at the start of the second period and had to be withdrawn as a precaution.

“To come on at centre in such a physical, fast-paced match after five weeks out and have the impact that Jess had was absolutely fantastic,” said Stembridge. “It was a real baptism of fire but she dealt with it brilliantly and it’s great to have her back at this critical stage of the season.”

A top-quality Superleague contest saw Team Bath go goal for goal with Thunder before the hosts edged into a 28-24 lead at half-time. They stretched their advantage to eight at one point but the Blue and Gold responded brilliantly and won the second half of the third quarter 10-3 to cut the gap to 38-37 going into the final period.

The visitors then drew level and had a chance to take the lead but the opportunity was missed and Thunder took full advantage.

“It was disappointing how the scoreline blew out like that but it was a brilliant game and great preparation for the Wasps match,” said Stembridge.

The race to reach the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final is heating up – don’t miss out on the season-ending spectacular and get your tickets now!

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Vitality Netball Superleague semi-finals confirmed

After 18 gruelling rounds, just 60 minutes stand between Wasps Netball, Loughborough Lightning, Manchester Thunder, Team Bath Netball and the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final.

Both semi-finals will take place on Saturday 30th June and the details are as follows:

Semi Final 1 – Wasps Netball v Team Bath Netball – 17:45 centre-pass

Semi Final 2 – Loughborough Lightning v Manchester Thunder – 19:45 centre-pass

The teams who finished 1st and 2nd – Wasps and Lightning respectively – will host these semi-finals.

Both of these fixtures will be shown LIVE on Sky Sports!

The Grand Final will then take place on Saturday 7th July (17:00 centre-pass) at the Copper Box Arena.

Get your tickets now!