Round 1 – Loughborough Lightning 55-44 UWS Sirens
UWS Sirens brought with them a few familiar faces in Loughborough University Alumni Vanessa Walker and Ella Gibbons, along with ex-England powerhouse Sara Bayman. With key signings such as those for 2018, an element of the unknown circled the match, leaving fans eager to see what was in store.
Round 2 – Team Northumbria 43-65 Loughborough Lightning
An initially tight clash was decided during 15 minutes as Loughborough Lightning claimed the third period 21-7 to open up a 51-34 lead. Time and time again Team Northumbria forced their rivals to surrender possession – only to give up the ball themselves and toss away the chance to reduce the deficit.
Round 3 – Loughborough Lightning 69-45 Celtic Dragons
Stepping out in front of an 800 strong crowd, Lightning used their home court advantage to take an early lead, securing the first 6 points of the match within three minutes. Stunned, Dragons were forced to quickly reconcile their losses and prevent the powerful home side from gaining any more advantage and did so with a courageous fight.
Round 4 – Loughborough Lightning 55-56 Manchester Thunder
Manchester Thunder ruined Loughborough Lightning’s perfect start to the season. Thunder didn’t start well and fell six goals down in the opening quarter, but they gradually found their rhythm and chipped away at Lightning’s lead. After trailing for most of the first half, Thunder forced the advantage in the third and didn’t look back, snuffing out any chance of a comeback for Lightning.
Round 5 – Loughborough Lightning 49-60 Wasps Netball
Wasps Netball survived a late Loughborough Lightning comeback to secure a well-earned away win against last season’s Vitality Superleague runners-up. Tamsin Greenway’s team led by 17 at one stage but the hosts fought back and reduced the lead to six, before Wasps pulled away in the final minutes.
Round 6 – Loughborough Lightning 53-51 Surrey Storm
The home team trailed by just one point going into the final 60 seconds of the game however two terrific turnovers and a centre pass saw them score the three vital goals needed to secure the win, leaving the audience gripped to the edge of their seats until the buzzer sounded.
Round 7 – Loughborough Lightning 54-59 Team Bath Netball
Team Bath took a one-goal lead in the first quarter and were ahead 31-29 at half-time. There were moments in the game when the Blue and Gold squad surged ahead only for Loughborough to battle back in a thrilling contest. A strong third quarter, which Team Bath finished with a six-goal lead, ultimately seemed to make the difference.
Round 8 – Loughborough Lightning 54-41 benecosMavericks
benecosMavericks flew out the traps to lead at the end of the opening 15 minutes, but a refreshed Loughborough Lightning side found their rhythm early in the second quarter, moving the ball through the court with ease. They upped the pressure in the third and fourth quarters to pull away in a physical encounter.
Round 9 – Severn Stars 43-58 Loughborough Lightning
After two months of matches on the road and a Commonwealth Games break, Severn Stars were after their first home win. But it was not to be as disappointing opening and final quarters left Stars unable to make up the deficit created despite almost matching the opposition in the remainder of the match.
Round 10 – Loughborough Lightning 65-45 Team Northumbria
On a blisteringly hot day, both sides kick started the match with a fire amongst them, using the first 5 minutes to clock up as many points on the board as possible. The score went on fairly even until eight minutes in where the home side began to ramp up the gears and push past opposition Team Northumbria.
Round 11 – Manchester Thunder 56-62 Loughborough Lightning
Manchester Thunder slipped to a disappointing defeat at Belle Vue. It was a frustrating performance from Thunder, who were out-thought by Lightning in key moments and wasted turnover opportunities in the rare occasions they came.
Round 12 – Celtic Dragons 38-66 Loughborough Lightning
It was a great occasion as Celtic Dragons welcomed Sky Sports to the Sport Wales National Centre Arena for the first time this season. The Green Army looked for win number three of the season but an in-form Loughborough Lightning proved too strong.
Round 13 – UWS Sirens 45-62 Loughborough Lightning
Loughborough Lightning continued their upward trajectory as they got the better of Scottish side UWS Sirens in Glasgow. After a cagey opening 15, which generally went goal-for-goal, last season’s table-toppers took control.
Round 14 – Wasps Netball 47-60 Loughborough Lightning
It was a determined Loughborough Lightning team that quashed Wasps’ hopes of an unbeaten season. Lightning were scrappy to start but quickly found their rhythm. Impressive defensive pressure from Shamera Sterling and Vicki Oyesola caused Wasps problems in attack and with the ever-reliable Peace Proscovia down the opposite end the away side grew their lead.
Round 15 – Loughborough Lightning 59-45 Severn Stars
An impressive first half performance at the Leicester Arena saw Severn Stars shock the hosts, going in front in the first minute and holding it until the final seconds of the second quarter. But a combative Loughborough Lightning took the game away from Stars in the third quarter, building an impressive lead from which Sam Bird’s side couldn’t recover.
Round 16 – Team Bath Netball 42-43 Loughborough Lightning
A sensational final-quarter fightback was not quite enough to salvage a result for Team Bath Netball as Loughborough Lightning held on for a single-goal victory. The hosts found themselves trailing 37-27 at the end of a third period but refused to accept defeat. Layla Guscoth forced a turnover to give the hosts a chance to level with just three seconds remaining but the shot hit the ring.
Round 17 – benecosMavericks 51-62 Loughborough Lightning
A dominant run either side of half-time was enough to give in-form Loughborough Lightning victory. An 18-5 run in favour of the relentless away team all but ended the resistance of their hosts. Every time benecosMavericks threatened a comeback, Lightning responded to pull away again.
Round 18 – Surrey Storm 41-63 Loughborough Lightning
The scene was set, the final game for Surrey Storm’s 2018 season ending at the biggest venue yet, The Copper Box Arena. Despite the home side’s hard work, the guests found their rhythm with intricate passing and movement undoing the duck egg blue resistance.
Semi-Final – Loughborough Lightning 59-50 Manchester Thunder
Loughborough Lightning secured their place in the 2018 Grand Final for the second year in a row after an impressive encounter with Manchester Thunder. The win came as Lightning’s 12th in a row, having not lost a single match since the Commonwealth break.
Final – Wasps Netball 55-51 Loughborough Lightning
Loughborough Lightning claimed the runners-up spot after just falling short in the 2018 Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final. Heading into the final quarter trailing by three, Lightning stormed back and levelled the scores with just nine minutes on the clock. Far from relaxed, Wasps continued to use their defensive prowess to shut down Lightning’s attack and push ahead themselves in the final minutes.
Rebekah Airey, Susie Armstrong, Ella Clark, Beth Cobden, Britt Coleman, Chloe Essam, Brie Grierson, Rosie Harris, Hannah Joseph, Lauren Nicholls, Vicki Oyesola, Nat Panagarry, Peace Proscovia, Shamera Sterling.
British Fast5 All-Stars Championship
Will Loughborough Lightning defend their title in the 2018 edition of the British Fast5 All-Stars Championship?
In last year’s inaugural competition, Lightning beat Team Bath 35-33 in a gripping final which went down to the wire at The O2.
It was a fitting finale to a non-stop evening of thrilling netball as South African shooter and tournament MVP Renske Stoltz scored the winning five-pointer with just 20 seconds left on the clock.