It was a true battle of the elements on a cold and snowy Monday evening, as Loughborough Lightning encountered their first loss of the 2018 season, after a 56 – 55 defeat to Manchester Thunder.
In the fourth round of the Vitality Netball Superleague, Lightning ventured to Leicester Arena where they were met with a gruelling encounter, one which had the audience on the edge of their seats right down to the very last second.
Fans witnessed a fiery start to the night’s proceedings with both teams coming out all guns blazing. Eager to gain momentum and take the early lead, Lightning kept their calm and played their own game. It was that approach, mixed with flighty interceptions from newcomer Sterling, which gave them the crucial edge in the first few minutes.
Four turnovers in as many minutes from Sterling allowed Lightning room to find their flow and set the pace of the game; but not for long. Quickly making changes to their shooting circle with Mvula replacing Clinton, Thunder soon began to retaliate.
Quarter 1: 17 – 13
Eager to maintain their early lead, Lightning continued to push on in the second quarter before changes to their own shooting duo were made. With Clark off and Grierson on, quick adaptations were needed to ensure no points were lost.
Whilst Thunder’s defence applied more pressure to star shooter Proscovia, it was down to the England Roses centre court trio of Panagarry, Joseph and Cobden to bring the ball safely down court and open up more opportunities to score. Thunder however had the same idea, benefitting from Lightning’s slow start to the quarter, by shortening the gap.
Half time: 28 – 27
With 30 minutes left to go, neither side were able to rest on their laurels, returning to court ready to endure a fast and furious second half. Turning it up a gear, Cobden and Oyesola provided crucial back up down the court, giving Clark (who had since returned to court) and Proscovia the confidence to play the wider shots.
Quarter 3: 44 – 43
All that stood in the way was fifteen minutes and a single point and Lightning knew it was going to take all that remained inside them to pull the victory out of the bag. The opposition meanwhile had other ideas.
With Joseph taking a well-earned rest, Grierson took over the WA position. The clock began to tick down and fatigue set in with both sides beginning to make errors in their haste at getting the ball down court. Thunder showed signs of pulling away after scoring three goals on the trot, however Lightning were not ready to give up, pulling it straight back in again.
A glimmer of hope occurred when the home side overturned the ball and much to the crowd’s delight, converted the shot to bring them back within one. Although with only 30 seconds to go and a Thunder centre pass Lightning simply ran out of time.
Final score: 56 – 55
Head Coach Anna Carter was keen to highlight the positives of a loss so early on in the season;
“Overall I’m happy with the players’ performance tonight, there’s a lot to take from the match, a lot to learn and a lot to build into our preparations going into next weekend. We didn’t play with the required intensity tonight. The game-plan was solid but game-plans are only good if you stick to them.”
In what was her third match of the season, after returning from injury, Hannah Joseph’s explosive movements on court saw her awarded the coveted Player of the Match award;
“We have a lot to take from tonight, we need to go back, watch the match, work out where we went wrong and make it right. I’m so glad to be back on court with the girls, I’m just ready to build with this team and see where we can go this season.”
Lightning are back on court on Saturday 3rd March where they welcome local rivals Wasps to Loughborough University. Tickets are limited to secure yours now to avoid disappointment: www.loughboroughlightning.com