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Loughborough Lightning stayed perfect with victory over Surrey Storm on Monday night (Image: Ben Lumley)

Victoria Burgess spoke to Off the Court about Loughborough's perfect start to the Vitality Superleague season (Image: Ben Lumley)

Loughborough Lightning stayed perfect with victory over Surrey Storm on Monday night (Image: Ben Lumley)

Four Vitality Netball Superleague rounds are now in the books, and in amongst the drama on the court is it time to start drawing conclusions?

Probably not, but there are no shortage of talking points, so what have we learned so far….

All eyes on Hertfordshire Sports Village

What are you doing on Saturday at 4pm? I’d suggest getting yourself to Hatfield for what should be the season’s first blockbuster showdown.

Manchester Thunder – with four wins from four games – are in town as Saracens Mavericks – with four wins from four games – play host to what looks like being a cracker.

Tickets for Saracens Mavericks vs Manchester Thunder are available here

Both teams, along with Loughborough, have a perfect record this season, but something will have to give on Saturday.

For Mavs it’s an early yardstick to see if they have put their inconsistencies behind them in the chase a first top four spot since 2016. They have been hugely efficient in putting away Wasps, Dragons, Pulse and Stars so far this season but Thunder represent a different task.

Karen Greig’s outfit have sparkled in high scoring wins over Dragons, Stars, Storm and Sirens that has seen them score at least 70 goals on every occasion.

It’s early in the season but it’s a clash that both teams, the players and coaching staff will relish.

Almond v Venter, Mvula v Quashie, Malcolm v Corbin – we’ve already ordered the popcorn at Superleague HQ.

Quietly efficient Lightning

Can we call the defending champions with a 100% record quietly efficient? No, of course we can’t but that’s exactly what they’ve been.

Lightning started the 2022 season with the opening game at Season Opener and were highly impressive in dispatching London Pulse.

Their second game was due to be against Leeds Rhinos but injury and illness in the Yorkshire camp put paid to that so we had to wait to see them again.

An extra week off allowed Lightning to prepare for a 28-goal demolition of Celtic Dragons, and on Monday night they maintained their perfect start with victory over a buoyant Surrey Storm.

Storm had beaten Bath on Friday night and were playing their first home game in two years, however Lightning stayed calm, laid down an early hammer with a brilliant opening quarter, saw off the hint of fight back and ran out 16-goal winners.

It’s easy to forget that Lightning underwent a change of coach in the off-season and brought in a new-look to their defensive end with Zan Vimbele and Fran Williams.

Say it quietly, but they might be….even better?

All hail Layla Guscoth

There have been a number of stand-out players so far this season, but here at Superleague Towers we are going to single out Layla Guscoth for a mention.

Layla Guscoth has enjoyed a stellar start to the season (Copyright – www.claregreenphotography.com)

Not that the Roses superstar goes under the radar but after four games Guscoth for a Bath team beset by injuries and illness she is leading the way.

It’s 16 intercepts and 13 deflections for a staggering 29 turnovers from her four games to lead the league in turnovers.

A reminder that Guscoth is coming off a demanding Quad Series and some of her Roses teammates have had to be eased back into the action – Serena Guthrie among them – it hasn’t stopped the defender dazzling.

That Bath find themselves still in the early top four despite their issues is thanks to their superstars delivering and their young players stepping up – none more so than Guscoth.

Stars out to solve puzzle

Melissa Bessell did not mess about when it came to the post-match press conferences after Severn Stars were beaten at home by Saracens Mavericks.

“I can’t tell you what I said to them at half-time,” was Bessell’s diplomatic response to Hannah Wilkes question.

Trailing 35-21 at the break, Stars were nothing like the team that had showed over Season Opener weekend they could be a force.

It’s three straight defeats after that win over Storm and Team Bath are up next. Cat Tuivaiti – hopeful of a return from a calf injury in Round 5 – said that the top four places were a target, and they need a spark.

Stars won the second half against Mavs 31-27 and the final quarter 17-10 to at one point threaten the most unlikely of comebacks.

Ironically Stars biggest problem might just be deciding on their best team.

Katie Harris, Michelle Drayne, Nicole Humphreys and Lucie Herdman were all on the Stars bench at the weekend and all have made an impact so far this season. Paige Reed starred again, Liana Leota dazzled and Bethan Dyke is back from injury.

In Issy Eaton – a hugely talented shooter – and Summer Artman – enjoying regular starts after her off season switch from Bath – Stars have no shortage of blossoming talent.

Bessell’s puzzle is to put all that into a starting seven that can deliver consistently.

Time needed for new-look Dragons

While three teams have posted perfect starts to the start, Celtic Dragons are the only team without a win so far.

It’s a run of defeats that now stretches to 10 games, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Celtic Dragons v Leeds Rhinos (Gareth Everett)

Lefebre Rademan is one of a host of new faces at Celtic Dragons (Gareth Everett)

They have faced three of of last season’s top four and the red-hot Saracens Mavericks – no easy task when bedding in a new style of play and a host of new players.

Most importantly there is a culture shift underway for a franchise that has won just once since the 2019 season that saw them finish seventh in the table.

A new look team under new head coach Dannii Titmuss-Morris are having to rebuild the mindset after the struggles of the last couple of campaigns.

Back in front of a partisan crowd in Cardiff, the Dragons ran Rhinos close with a thrilling final quarter to underline that they are moving in the right direction.

It doesn’t get any easier with a trip to the Copper Box to face Titmuss-Morris’ former team London Pulse in Round 5 but it looks like a win might be just around the corner.

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