Saracens Mavericks produced a scintillating display of attacking prowess to overcome a battling Loughborough Lightning 64-51 and move into the top four of the Vitality Netball Superleague table.
A sold-out Hertfordshire Sports Village welcomed the Mavericks onto home court for the first time this season and they were treated to a thrilling encounter which saw goals flying in from all angles, intercepts taken across the court and a bruising, well-contested battle.
Despite a few unforced errors creeping into their play, the hosts were on top during the opening quarter with Jo Trip and Georgia Lees taking advantage of excellent cross-court pressure to win turnover ball.
George Fisher and Kadeen Corbin were combining well in the circle and finishing with deadly accuracy. A conversion rate of 94% saw Mavericks take a 17-12 lead.
The momentum was with the home side and they had Lightning rattled in the opening exchanges of Q2 with the combination of Lees and Fisher connecting superbly. To the delight of the crowd, the advantage was quickly at 11 goals.
In the defensive end Razia Quashie had a huge job on her hands with the visiting GS Mary Cholhok having a substantial height advantage.
At 6ft 7” the Ugandan shooter was the obvious target for Loughborough attacks, but the Roses defender was reading the play expertly to disrupt feeds into the circle.
At half-time Mavericks were 35-24 ahead.
An unchanged seven took to the court for the second half but it was Lightning who came out of the changing rooms the stronger.
A fired-up visiting side were adding physicality to their game and forced several errors to erode the hosts’ lead.
Kat Ratnapala responded by introducing fresh legs onto the court with Lindsay Keable taking over at GD and Trip shuffled to WD.
The intensity of the game was apparent in the amount of stoppages taken to clean up sweat from the court after several players tumbled over contesting for possession.
With the game becoming a little stop-start, Mavericks were able to wrestle back some control and restrict scoring opportunities for the away team. However, at the end of the third quarter, the lead had been trimmed to seven goals; 44-37.
The nerves from the home crowd were being felt on court as Loughborough scored a couple of early goals in the final fifteen minutes to move within five.
Calm heads were required, and the experience of Sasha Corbin shone through as she led the charge on turnover and combined well with sister Kadeen to keep the Mavericks score ticking over.
With time running down, Lightning were becoming increasingly desperate, allowing Lees an additional half yard of space to take advantage with several wonderful feeds into the waiting hands of Fisher.
There was just about time for one final whistle-beating goal from Fisher to secure a second win of the season for Mavericks.
It was match in which the home side had to show their battling qualities and real resilience to hold off a fightback from a strong Lightning side.
Reflecting on the result, head coach Kat Ratnapala said:
“There is no better feeling than playing in front of a sold out home crowd and the support on Friday night was electric. We were still looking for a performance to be proud of and knew that Loughborough, despite changes in their lineup are a solid team with several talented ex Mavericks players such as Oyesola & Clark and newly recruited 6ft7 Ugandan International Mary Cholhok.
We are still building as a squad and for 3 quarters, I was pleased with the intensity and attention to detail, unfortunately we had a drop-in momentum in the 3rd but was pleased with the players ability to bounce back & push on in the final quarter. Standout performances from Fisher, K Corbin and Quashie but Lees really impressed with her tenacity, perseverance & cool calm collectiveness throughout the game.”
Saracens Mavericks are next in action on Monday 4 February when they visit Celtic Dragons.
The next home fixture will be a highly anticipated showdown against a Team Bath side led by Serena Guthrie on Saturday 16 February. This game will be played at the University of Essex in Colchester and tickets are available here.
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