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The First Interview: Sophie Kelly excited for development at a fresh Team Bath

Sophie Kelly PICTURES: Clare Green

Sophie Kelly will be a new dog learning new tricks at Team Bath Netball this season.

The 18-year-old has joined Asha Francis’ side for her first stint as a contracted player in the Vitality Netball Superleague and is eager to develop her skills from some of the best netballers in the league.

Kelly will be part of a fresh-faced Team Bath, with an average age of just 22 years on their side and is excited to join the likes of Imogen Allison and Kadeen Corbin this season.

And doing it alongside one of her oldest friends on the court, Jadya Pechova just makes it all the sweeter.

Kelly said: “It’s so amazing that I get to play with such cool players. I didn’t really know too many of them before this.

“One of my friends, Jayda, who I do club netball with – we’ve been playing together since we were 13 – is coming as well so that will be really exciting.

“But getting to play with all these experienced players like Imogen and Kadeen is going to be really fun and also I get to learn so much from them.

“Kadeen’s always stood out and she has flair and hopefully she can teach me some new tricks.

“I’m super excited. Team Bath have a really long history of being a really successful netball team.

“I haven’t actually been a contracted player, I’ve only been a training partner before so I’m really excited for that as well.”

Kelly will be part of a new-look Team Bath that has seen a shake-up over this signing window, with the likes of Layla Guscoth and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis departing the West Country, but the England youth player admitted that their hunger to win is as strong as ever.

In the attackers’ eyes, the youthful nature of the team is a benefit as they grow together and shape themselves into a competitive and winning side.

She said: “Having young players in the team makes everything way more exciting.

“We all have different experiences throughout our netball career, you might think of different things, we can bring in new stuff to the team.

“But also it’s really good, because when you join a team so young, you tend to want to stay as much as possible as you’re developing everyone together to hope you can then go and have a really successful season.

“We’re looking to do a lot, there’s quite a lot of change in the team and the starting line-up will look very different.

“It’s just about growing together as a team.”

For the past two seasons, Kelly has been a training partner for fellow VNSL team Surrey Storm, learning from the side lines and through her training camps at the Roses Academy.

But moving to Bath University to study Business Management this September has given her the opportunity of a lifetime to join Team Bath in her first-ever contracted player position.

She said: “I’m really excited to hopefully get some more court time.

“Being part of the team you get a different perspective.

“I think being part of the 12 as well you get more consistency, rather than when you’re a training partner you can suddenly get pulled into a squad the day before a match starts.

“So hopefully I can get more structure and play better and be prepared for matches.”

With the 2023 season looming in the near future, Kelly is looking forward to meeting up with her old teammates again in a Team Bath versus Surrey Storm match-up that’s sure to set off sparks.

She said: “I’m definitely most excited for the rematch against Storm, that’s going to be really nice.

“I’ll get to see everyone at Storm again and they’ve got a great team this season so it will definitely be a hard and well-competed match.”

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