Team Bath Netball made an encouraging start to their pre-season fixtures as they recorded two well-earned victories in a tri-tournament hosted by Loughborough Lightning on Saturday. All 14 players in the Blue & Gold squad got court time as they stepped up their preparations for the 2019 Vitality Superleague campaign, which begins in January.
After a minute silence on court to honour the Remembrance weekend, Lightning and Strathclyde Sirens took to the court to kick start the proceedings, all donning a black armband in respect of the fallen. A 400-strong crowd of fans eagerly joined the squads in Sir David Wallace Arena.
A fairly even start to the match saw both sides convert their centre passes levelling the scores at every opportunity. Despite an increasingly dominant defensive duo, Clinton remained calm in the shooting circle, using her long range to Lightning’s advantage to smoothly sink the shots. However, Sirens’ new addition Cat Tuivaiti was also out to impress for her new side and matched the shots, Sirens eventually pulling ahead towards the end of the quarter, finishing it 11 – 6 ahead of the home side. Whilst both sides continued to up the speed and increase the pressure, Sirens maintained a solid lead throughout the game. Lightning’s Oyesola showed no signs of slowing, changing it up a gear at each quarter to continuously disrupt Sirens flow and gain Lightning an advantage. Despite their best efforts, Sirens ended the match on top, claiming a 28 – 51 victory over the home side.
Match number two of the day saw Strathclyde Sirens take to the court just an hour later against Team Bath. With both sides boasting big names in their 2019 line-ups with the likes of Commonwealth gold medallists Serena Guthrie in the Blue and Gold and New Zealand’s Cat Tuivaiti in the black and red, fans were eager to see how the two sides matched up. A feisty start saw Sirens once again take the early lead however a ferocious Team Bath were not going to lay this match to rest, coming from behind in the second half to steal the win from the Scottish side in the final minutes of the game, final score Team Bath 39 – 33 Strathclyde Sirens.
The final match of the day saw Lightning return to court, refreshed and eager to right the wrongs from earlier in the day. With the arrival of Tuaine Keenan, Lightning’s fresh legs and determination saw them spring ahead in the opening minutes to take a 5 – 0 lead. Despite numerous changes at each quarter, lightning maintained their lead for most of the game with Hollingworth and Oyesola causing constant disruption to Baths attack whilst the smooth long bombs from Parize and Clinton saw their score line slowly creep up. Trailing by just a few points for the first 30 minutes, Team Bath made a last-minute surge in the final quarter to close the gap and level the score. However, with the on-court dominance of Bath’s international stars playing privy to lightning’s fresh feet, two goals in the dying moments of the game saw Bath take their second win of the day to secure the overall tri-tournament victory.
Team Bath face two more pre-season challenges this Saturday (November 17) as they visit champions Wasps Netball for a tri-tournament also featuring new franchise London Pulse. The Blue & Gold then have a tri-tournament of their own to look forward to on Saturday, December 15 as they play host to benecosMavericks and Surrey Storm. Doors open at 1pm and supporters will be able to enjoy three games in one action-packed afternoon at the Team Bath Arena.
Next weekend Lightning will travel to Manchester Thunder in their next pre-season fixture. Lightning fans can then catch their side in action on home soil again on Saturday 8th December as they welcome new side London Pulse and benecosMavericks to Sir David Wallace Arena for their second pre-season tri-tournament.