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.