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Sasha Corbin for Saracens Mavericks at Vitality Netball Superleague Season Opener.

The new Vitality Netball Superleague season started with a bang at Season Opener last weekend.

A record crowd at Arena Birmingham saw the best the Superleague has to offer with 557 goals being scored across five exciting games, the most ever scored on an opening weekend.

Catch up with summaries and reactions from all ten teams as we review the first round of the VNSL season.

Strathclyde Sirens 51-53 London Pulse

Both London Pulse and Strathclyde Sirens arrived in Birmingham with purpose and were clearly ready to make their mark on the season with the game finishing a close 51-53.

London Pulse gave themselves a slight lead in the early stages of the game and never looked back. It wasn’t without lack of trying from Sirens who were always close behind their southern rivals.

The clear differential in this game was the shot percentage. Sirens had ten more attempts than Pulse but, with a shot percentage of 67%, wayward efforts cost them those three vital goals.

Halimat Adio, London Pulse and England Future athlete, spoke after the game and was feeling very positive with her team’s performance.

“Today’s game was very interesting. I’m really happy we came away with the win. We started off rocky in every quarter but we still won every quarter,” she said.

“We all stuck together and that’s one of our main things, staying connected and I think the whole team, in general, stayed connected. It was just a lovely vibe coming onto court and coming off court so I’m really happy with today’s game.”

It was bittersweet for Strathclyde Siren’s goal keeper, Zanele Vimbela, who was on the losing side but was awarded Vitality Player of the Match after a number of remarkable interceptions.

“It was really competitive. Pulse came out to play, well done to them,” she said.

“I think we had a few mistakes and gave away a few penalties, unnecessary ones but it’s always a learning curve so I think we’re just going to go back to the drawing board and see where we can improve.”

Celtic Dragons 43-44 Surrey Storm

With the first game of the day setting a competitive bar, this one pushed it even further. It couldn’t have finished any closer with Dragons almost finding time for another goal attempt in the dying seconds which, if successful, would have taken the game to extra time.

Celtic Dragons were in pole position for the first 45 minutes and looked set to secure the three points. Surrey Storm had other plans and miraculously turned around a quarter three deficit of five goals to win the game by one.

It was a game that got away from Dragons who will be frustrated that they couldn’t hold onto their lead but Surrey Storm will be pleased with their quarter four performance and the fact they came back to take the win.

Surrey Storm’s mid-court magician, Yasmin Parsons, commented on the nerves that the record-breaking crowd created amongst her team. She commented:

“It was quite a nail-biting game, I feel like my heart rate has only just lowered. What a performance in that last quarter, we just decided to leave it to that last minute but we knew we had it in us. It was just nerves playing in front of a massive crowd but it’s something we do need to work on.”

New signing Rebekah Robinson made her VNSL debut for Dragons after joining in the transfer window. The Jamaican international believes her new side will grow as a result of the loss.

“We are obviously gutted because we were up by five and had so many turnovers in that last quarter. It’s a learning experience and we have more games to come. Watch out because we are going to learn from these mistakes and come back very strong.

Saracens Mavericks 70-49 Severn Stars

After a shaky start from Saracens Mavericks, they powered through to their first win of the season with a 70-49 win against Severn Stars.

Stars flew out of the blocks, scoring 17 in the first quarter, but it was quarter two that proved to be the most decisive 15 minutes of the match.

Mavericks scored a mammoth 23 goals with Stars only managing eight in return. The score was 34-25 by half-time which was a stark contrast to the 11-17 first-quarter score.

From the start of quarter three, it started to settle with Saracens holding onto the momentum for the rest of the game, closing out the win.

Saracens Mavericks’ Sasha Corbin explained how nerves impacted her team’s start to the game:

“There’s a lot of nerves, first game, we’re all excited and want to get out there but we just didn’t find our form quite so quickly. We definitely felt it on the court, we never lost the trust. It just took a bit longer than we anticipated to get there.”

Stars will now go away and analyse the game as Melissa Bessell, Severn Stars’ Head Coach, comments:

“We’re going to look into that second quarter, I’ve already got my video analysis on it and we’re just going to look into why and fix it. We’ve talked about changing things up this year, sometimes when you go away from a game it gives you a chance to think about what you’ve done.

“I don’t want the girls to think about it too much, we take it, we look over it and we drop it and that’s how we’re moving forward, looking at it, owning it and seeing what we need to fix in training.”

Team Bath 72-58 Loughborough Lightning

This meeting of last season’s third and fourth-place sides proved to be an enthralling encounter in the penultimate game of the day.

Team Bath were victorious in the battle for bronze and came out on top once again at Arena Birmingham as they recorded a 72-58 result.

The winners made it eight opening weekend victories in succession as they blew their opposition away in the second half. Captain Kim Commane and 2019 Vitality Superleague Young Player of the Year Sophie Drakeford-Lewis proved too much to handle as they scored 68 goals between them.

Team Bath’s South African star, new signing Khanyisa Chawane, commented on the result:

“I think the girls went out there with a lot of passion and they just wanted to win and you could see with the effort that went out on court. So I’m really proud with what they’ve done on court and I’m actually happy about this sport,” she said.

“It’s amazing how things change from preseason into the season, we actually played Loughborough two weeks ago and they actually beat us.

“Today, the tables turned so pre-season is worth it because you know what you should work on coming into the season.”

Goal shooter Ella Clark was disappointed with the defeat but is confident Lightning can learn from the result going into the remaining 18 rounds.

“It is what it,” she said. “I’m hoping we can take this, learn from it and build on it for the rest of the season.

“No one wants to lose but I guess you learn more from the losses. We’ll go back to the drawing board and go from there.”

Manchester Thunder 62-55 Wasps Netball

In the final game of the day, Manchester Thunder met Wasps Netball in a repeat of last May’s Grand Final which saw Thunder come out on top.

The champions showed exactly why they wear the crown as they weathered the immense challenges that Wasps brought to the table.

Wasps, champions in 2017 and 2018, battled hard to remain within touching distance of their opponents who netted the first goal of the game.

The match was goal-for-goal during the second quarter with Katie Harris at one point reducing the deficit to four goals. Thunder, with quality coming from the bench, eventually saw out the win by seven goals.

Vitality Rose Laura Malcolm put in a strong performance across the middle of the court. She was happy with the victory but believes there is still room for improvement.

“I’m really delighted to come away with the win in the first round,” she said.

“There are plenty of things that we’re not happy with and we want to tidy up, but job one is done and we’ll build on that next week.”

Fellow England international and Wasps midcourter Iona Christian, who was making her debut for the Midlands outfit, saw the positives in her new side’s performance despite the defeat.

“I’m obviously really disappointed with the result but I thought there were a lot of positives in that game,” she said.

“We really started to see some of stuff that we have been doing in training put onto the court. We also had some real leadership on court to not let that score blow out. After that first quarter, we were in the game.”

Round 2 takes place on Saturday 29 February and Monday 2 March. Times and venues can be found here.

Make sure you’re following @NetballSL on Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for the VNSL Newsletter to stay up to date with news, tickets and transfers!

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