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Loughborough Lightning: Trust key for Burgess during testing run

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

Things could barely have gone any better for Victoria Burgess since she assumed control of Loughborough Lightning in the off season.

With Sara Francis-Bayman taking an 18-month break from the sport to be with her wife Stacey in Australia, Burgess took on the director of netball role.

Fast forward four months and with seven wins from seven games, Lightning are sitting second in the table with a perfect start to the defence of their first ever Superleague title.

Off the back of a double header that featured two games in two days, Burgess joined the latest episode of ‘Off the Court’ to discuss a whirlwind start to the season.

“It was a good two from two for us, it is always a challenge but these girls train week-in, week-out for these games and they were ready,” she told Caroline Barker and Tamsin Greenway.

Back-to-back wins over Wasps and Team Bath were perhaps the toughest tests that Lightning have faced so far this season and one of the stand-out stars against Wasps was Ella Bowen.

The talented Roses Futures defender came on for Fran Williams at goal defence as Lightning overturned a half-time deficit to beat the two-time champions on Sunday before following up with a win over Bath in the Monday Night Netball.

As Burgess explained it’s all about combinations, but there was something especially sweet about Bowen’s moment.

“I started coaching Ella when she was about 12 years old, up at Durham so it’s been really good to see her journey from grassroots, through the north-east pathway to taking the court against Wasps.

Training environment all important

Williams was back in the starting seven on Monday and her partnership with Alice Harvey and Beth Cobden has been key to Lightning’s defensive improvements.

It’s something Burgess says is forged away from the match-day pressures.

“We want the athletes to be pushing each other in those environments so in training sessions the goal keeper and goal defences are working together in different styles.

“It depends on what we come up against, we can evaluate people’s strengths and what we need from them in certain moments.”

Greenway highlighted the ability to turnover and hunt crucial ball as the key component in pulling away from Bath and Burgess is keen to underline the team ethic.

Bravery and trust

“It’s the work they do as a unit. Even at times when we didn’t win ball against Bath and Wasps we were forcing them to go back up the court.

“Brave for me is having that strength to sight something and give it a go. To trust each other that if you don’t get it, the person behind you has got your back and we build pressure that way.

“It’s not just one person being brave its the whole unit. It’s getting them in position where we want them to be so that we can run our feed, challenge for ball and have that trust that we can back each other up and build the pressure.

Lightning face Severn Stars this weekend looking to make it eight wins from eight games, but looming on the horizon is the game with Manchester Thunder in Round 10.

Responding under pressure

The 2019 champions are also perfect with eight wins from eight games and face in-form London Pulse on Saturday.

No titles are won this early in the season, and neither Thunder or Lightning are likely to look too far ahead or read to much into the result, but these are the types of tests crucial to building a championship contender.

“The last two games have been really positive for us as we’ve been put under pressure, Burgess adds.

“Derbies are always challenging and against Wasps I maybe wanted them to push on a little bit more but the competition bringing it to us meant we found that under pressure we can perform and we can be patient.

“We can know that we’ve experienced those games where we have lost quarters or have had tight quarters and we’ve been able to come back from that. It’s having that belief that when you haven’t delivered in one quarter you can push on a do better in the next one,” Victoria Burgess.

Watch Off the Court every week on the VNSL YouTube channel, where you can also see match highlights, features and interviews.

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