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Vitality Netball Superleague 2022: Round 5 talking points

Surrey Storm have made a bright start to the season as they chase a return to the top four (Image: Ben Lumley)

There were plenty of talking points from Round 5 in the Vitality Netball Superleague as one perfect record goes and two teams remain with a 100% start.

With five games down for almost everyone we are at the quarter point of the season, the league table is taking shape and the star performers are emerging – here’s what caught our eye over the Superleague weekend.

Storm gathering momentum

In front of their second sell-out crowd of the campaign, Surrey Storm claimed a second scalp of last season’s top four – they mean business in 2022.

Victory over Leeds Rhinos came less a week after Team Bath were beaten and now Storm are tucked just outside the top four with two wins from five games and are very much in the mix.

Most interestingly four of those five games have been against last season’s semi-finalists so it will be interesting to see where they go from here having lost to Severn Stars at Season Opener.

They scored 68 against Thunder and 56 against Lightning, which is their lowest tally of the season, so goals are certainly not going to be a problem and Proscovia Peace already leads the way in the shooting standings.

The two-time champions have not really found themselves in top four contention over the last three completed seasons and head coach and franchise director Mikki Austin spoke at length last season about having to change the culture.

The off-season arrivals of Proscovia Peace, and Sophia Candappa – who made her second Storm debut on Saturday – looks to have brought a shift in mentality and belief.

We’re watching closely…

A centre star in the making

Here at Superleague HQ we’re keen to mark your card on those who’ve been shining this season – in Round 5 it was Beth Ecuyer-Dale, Saracens talented young mid-courter.

We took ourselves off to the Hertfordshire Sports Village to see the battle between two perfect starts.

Thunder got the win, and in a thrilling contest they had to work hard for all three points, however player of the match honours went to 22-year-old Ecuyer-Dale.

“They are quality mid-courters and the type of people I want to be going up against to get better and to challenge myself – it’s exciting,” she told us after the game, clutching her trophy.

“I feel like I am making my connections with the mid-courter’s better than ever before so it’s really nice to be out there with friends as well as teammates.”

Beth Ecuyer-Dale impressed for Saracens Mavericks (Image: rzphotos_)

Beth Ecuyer-Dale impressed for Saracens Mavericks (Image: rzphotos_)

Going up against Laura Malcolm, Caroline O’Hanlon and Nat Metcalf is no mean feat for anyone but Ecuyer-Dale rose to every challenge.

Setting the tempo when her team prospered but more impressively, each time Thunder looked to pull away she had the calmness to lead her team back into the contest and almost pull off a win – we’ll leave the final word to Beth.

“We proved we could compete against the best teams in the league – it’s gutting not to win but we are happy with the performance.

“We’ve come here to show we want to be top four, and we want to be champions and that performance against a great team showed that.”

Pulse feel home comforts

London Pulse are perhaps the team who felt the cancellation of the 2020 season more than anyone else – a perfect start was rendered null and void by the pandemic.

Just as importantly a terrifically talented bunch of young players missed out on a season’s worth of experience.

A disappointing 2021 followed as much was expected – perhaps unfairly but given the talent and those early displays the previous season the netball world had high hopes.

With five games under their belt Pulse are fifth, level with fourth placed Bath and very much expecting to be in top four contention after finishing eighth last year.

They’ve also won both of their home games including a win over Celtic Dragons on Saturday afternoon as they look to make the Copper Box something of a fortress.

Funmi Fudoji, Jas Odeogberin and Zara Everitt represent an astonishingly talented defensive unit and get plenty of praise so a word here for Olivia Tchine.

The 21-year-old has enjoyed a blistering start to the season – she’s just 13 goals off her tally last season and is in esteemed company on the shooters charts.

It’s easy to forget that it’s just two full seasons this young franchise have been together but the early signs are of a team looking to make up for lost time.

Van der Merwe adds to Thunder’s options

On Saturday, after a hard-fought win over Mavericks, Karen Greig spoke passionately about how much had been asked of her young defence in the early weeks of the season.

Yomi Eza-Wilson, Emilia Roscoe and Millie Sanders have all stepped up to play a part alongside Kerry Almond as the three-time champions set an ominous start to the season.

“We’ve took some criticism for our defensive efforts, but we have got a very young defence end and it’s about them learning their trade and finding their feet in the Superleague,” Greig told us after the win in Hertfordshire.

“We have leaked a lot of goals so to see them put in that performance and keep Mavs under 60 was a real positive for us.”

48 hours later and Thunder were in action again, the second of three games in six days that will test any squad – but Thunder’s options shone through with South African superstar defender Shadine van der Merwe making her debut.

Van der Merwe completes completes Thunder’s all-star starting seven – and their brilliant youngsters have their role to play as well.

The question now is how long will that winning run last.

All eyes on the foot of the table

Celtic Dragons and Severn Stars go head-to-head in the Round 6 Monday Night Netball, which could prove to be a fascinating watch.

Tickets for Severn Stars v Celtic Dragons are available here

Shaquanda Greene-Noel looks like being an entertaining addition to the Superleague this years (Image: Ben Lumley)

Shaquanda Greene-Noel and Celtic Dragons travel to Severn Stars on Monday chasing a first win of the season (Image: Ben Lumley)

Dragons are yet to win all season but have shown glimpses that a new-look team might not be far away under new coach Dannii Titmuss-Morris.

Stars beat Surrey Storm on Saturday at Season Opener, but have lost all four games since to leave head coach Melissa Bessell frustrated.

Stars play twice in round six, with a trip to London Pulse on Saturday before they host a winless Dragons team who will fancy their chances of ended a run that stretches back to last April when they beat Storm.

Cat Tuivaiti made long awaited debut in defeat to Team Bath linking up with Liana Leota, while Dragons own important Shaquanda Greene-Noel has delivered some eye catching displays.

The race for top four places, the top of the table blockbusters will always draw headlines but their are plenty of storylines elsewhere in the competition and stars-Dragons already looks like one not to miss.

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