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Double delight as Vitality Roses Allison and Drakeford-Lewis sign new deals with Team Bath

Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has committed to Team Bath for the 2021 season signing a new deal with the five-time champions. Still only 21 years old, the hugely-talented goal-attack impressed with her mature displays for the Vitality Roses during this month’s tour of New Zealand, gaining more international experience against the reigning World Champions, and is now preparing for her fourth season combining top-class study and sport at the University of Bath.

“I can’t wait to get back training with the girls and preparing for the 2021 season, the squad is looking great and it’s really exciting,” said Drakeford-Lewis, who was voted as the Superleague’s Young Player of the Year by her peers in 2019.

“I’ve been back in the England programme since mid-July and haven’t trained with the Bath girls recently but we’ve stayed really connected as a squad and had multiple Zoom calls.

“I love the environment at Team Bath, it’s such a family and everyone is really nice but they train really hard and are constantly pushing you. The set-up, the coaches and support staff are all incredible.

“The squad this year has a real breadth of experience and youth, and it just makes it a really inspiring environment to train in. Everyone brings something a bit different. It’s really exciting to have someone like [England co-captain] Serena Guthrie back in the squad with her leadership and skills.

“It was really disappointing that last season got cut short but we definitely learnt a lot as a group and hopefully we will build on that in 2021, picking up from where we left off as we were on such a high.”

Drakeford-Lewis – who studies Integrated Mechanical & Electrical Engineering and is supported by a Bill Whiteley Sports Scholarship – has been a standout performer for Team Bath since first joining for the 2018 season, earning plaudits for her relentless workrate, slick link-up play and unerring shooting accuracy.

That form has led to Drakeford-Lewis being selected for the Vitality Roses’ senior squad for the past two seasons and Anna Stembridge, Team Bath Netball Superleague Head Coach, believes she will be an international force for many years to come.

“What’s exciting about a player like Sophie is she is both the now and the future of netball,” said Stembridge. “She just gets better and better season after season, and her game is going to go to a whole new level as she keeps developing and learning.

“We know she is a hugely talented and intelligent player but she is also a tireless worker and sets such high standards for herself in games and training. As a coach, Sophie is the kind of player you absolutely love to have in your squad as she is always striving for excellence in every aspect of her game.”

After completing her academic studies rising England star Imogen Allison will be continuing her sporting education with Team Bath Netball after signing up for the 2021 Vitality Superleague season.

The 22-year-old wing-defence has spent her previous four seasons in the Blue & Gold, combining some outstanding on-court performances with studying Sports & Exercise Science at the University of Bath.

Having graduated in the summer, Allison is now looking forward to fully focussing on her netball career – both with club and country having won her first senior England cap during the recent tour of New Zealand.

“It’s year five for me with Team Bath and I’m massively excited to be back in the Blue & Gold,” said Allison, who is currently on tour with the Roses in New Zealand.

“I think I have built and developed with the team over the last few seasons and it’s been really fun to build relationships with different players. I never once thought about going elsewhere. I love Bath as a city, I love living here and I’ll still be around the Team Bath Sports Training Village a lot even though I’m not a student!

“Being a student was great but it meant I had less opportunity to focus on my netball. As a full-time athlete this year, I think I will have more time to build on my performances and work with the other players.

“The more opportunity you get to train and play with someone, the better your relationship will be and it’s really good that I get to build those partnerships not just at Team Bath but with the Roses too.”

Allison has made the wing-defence position her own since first joining Team Bath from Yorkshire Jets for the 2017 season. A dynamic presence on court, her all-action performances have firmly established Allison as one of England’s brightest young prospects.

That status was further enhanced this summer when, after a season with the Roses’ Futures programme, she was selected for the England Netball Vitality Roses senior squad training towards the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“I’ve really enjoyed being part of the full-time Roses programme over the past few weeks and looking forward to what’s next in terms of international opportunities,” said Allison. “I’m very grateful to be a part of it and it’s been great to be playing netball again. It was a bit touch and go when we first returned to training but it all came back really quickly and it has been really good fun.

“It’s going to be a good couple of years, training and competing as a full-time athlete with both Team Bath and England. I can’t wait.”

Anna Stembridge, Team Bath Netball Superleague Head Coach, added: “The timing is right for Imo to go into the Roses programme. She got to test herself against the likes of New Zealand and South Africa with the England Futures team last season and she is more than ready to make the next step up.

“She will also be training and playing alongside Serena Guthrie for both club and country this year, which will be a huge benefit for them and for us as a team.

“Imo has really matured as a player over the past five years. What I was particularly impressed with last season was her ability to keep mentally attacking the game, there was no let up from her. She was instrumental in our comeback win against Wasps when we moved her to centre – she is not a seasoned player there but she understood exactly what I was asking of her in that role and what she had to do for the team.

“Imo is part of that core group of players who have been together for a number of years now, who understand what we are about as a club, on and off the court, and how we want to play. I’m delighted she is going to be with us again in 2021.”

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