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Ella Bowen of Loughborough Lightning.

Ella Bowen during the England Netball Performance Competition at the Institute of Sport, Sheffield, England on 29th July 2021

Loughborough Lightning Netball have revealed their penultimate signings for the 2022 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) with England U21 stars Ella Bowen and Emma Thacker joining the side.

Both Thacker and Bowen have impressed at international level, with Bowen earning a spot in the Roses Academy at just 15 years of age. Now aged 19, circle defender Bowen is balancing her studies in Sport and Exercise Science at Nottingham Trent University with Lightning and England U21 commitments.

Competing for Loughborough’s U19 side in 2021 brought success for Bowen as she was awarded the league’s Player of the Season as Lightning won the title.

Her success didn’t go unnoticed as she received a highly sought after call up from VNSL Head Coach Sara Francis-Bayman awarding her first ever Superleague contract.

“It’s such a privilege to be signed with Lightning for my first season in the NSL. I can’t wait to be part of such an amazing team, to gain experience and to develop as a player.” she commented.

At the other end of the court, former London Pulse U21s shooter Emma Thacker also makes the switch to NSL next season after beginning an undergraduate degree at Loughborough University in September of this year.

Studying Geography and Sport Science, 18-year-old Thacker also debuted on the international stage for England U17s in 2018 and has since worked her way through the ranks, competing for England U19s on their 2019 tour to New Zealand and Australia, before landing a spot in the England U21 squad this year.

Looking to compete not only at VNSL level but also for the Universities BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) squad this season, Thacker is ready for the challenge that brings. She said: “I’m beyond excited to join Lightning this season and to continue to grow as a player whilst studying at Loughborough.”

Head Coach Sara Francis-Bayman often credits her side’s diversity in experience and ability to develop young players and her latest signings are testament to this.

“Emma and Ella are both part of the England U21 squad and now have a chance to prove their worth on the Superleague stage also. We pride ourselves on investing in and developing young talent and these two players represent some of the most exciting talent out there,” Francis-Bayman told Loughborough Sport.

Bowen and Thacker become Lightning’s 11th and 12th signings of the 2022 window after Mary Cholhok, Ella Clark, Beth Cobden, Alice Harvey, Jess Haynes, Hannah Joseph, Suzie Liverseidge, Nat Panagarry, Hannah Williams, Zan Vimbela, Georgia Brock-Taylor and Clara Miles. You can see how the Lightning squad as it develops here.

For all the latest of signings during the window, make sure to follow the @NetballSL on Twitter, Instagram and visit our Transfers page.

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