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Nia Jones of Severn Stars.

WAKEFIELD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13: Nia Jones of Severn Stars in action during the Vitality Netball Superleague match between Strathclyde Sirens and Severn Stars at Studio 001 on February 13, 2021 in Wakefield, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Vitality Netball Superleague)

Severn Stars’ vice captain Nia Jones says the team will need a ‘huge defensive effort’ going into Round 4 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season.

Stars face reigning champions Manchester Thunder on Sunday 28 February at 12.00 and Loughborough Lightning on Monday 1 March at 19.15pm, both at Production Park Studio 001 in Wakefield.

“We’re really looking forward to getting back on court this weekend,” said Jones. “Not having a match last weekend actually gave us some much-needed extra court time together at training to really look within at what more each of us needs to do to raise our standards.

“Both opponents are particularly strong in their shooting circles – with aerial shooters but also accurate goal attacks, so whatever turnover we can force and steal will be precious – and we know we have to be better at converting that.

“It’s going to take a huge defensive effort from the whole team but we’re ready for it.”

Stars return to the court two weekends after their opening two defeats against Strathclyde Sirens and Wasps.

It was a closely fought contest against Sirens, with only a few goals between the teams in the first three quarters, but Sirens were able to pull away in the final quarter 36-30.

The following day, after a slow start against derby rivals Wasps that left Stars with a daunting 12-point deficit to catch up after the first quarter, the team struggled to make any in-roads to reduce it until the last quarter.

A disappointed Head Coach, Melissa Bessell, said her team would have to go ‘back to the drawing board’ but said her team would come back stronger.

“It was a tough opening weekend. With such a long wait we were determined to get the season off to a good start, but in reality we just didn’t play well. It’s obviously been hard to replicate opposition pressure in training with current restrictions but we can’t use that as an excuse,” said Jones.

“We made too many unforced errors in both games to warrant a win. There are no easy games in the Superleague these days so we know we have to be at our best individually and collectively to truly contest. I’m confident we have the squad to do that, we just need better execution on match day.”

Jones acknowledged the strength of both opponents they face. She added: “We don’t need to overcomplicate the sport we play. It’s catching, passing and spatial awareness so we just have to make sure we don’t get complacent with doing the basics well over and over again.

“We’re working really hard on maintaining focus just on one play at a time. One pass, one drive, just being absolutely present in the moment and recognising momentum swings. The quarters are flying by so it’s imperative we don’t let our minds wander and we make every second on court count.”

Severn Stars play Manchester Thunder at 12:00 on Sunday 28 February. You can watch on Sky Sports’ YouTube channel here.

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