Loughborough Lightning claimed their fourth win in a row in Cardiff on Saturday, after a dominant display over home side Celtic Dragons, sealing a 70-57 win.
Lightning went into the ninth round of the Vitality Netball Superleague sitting in the top four after a string of wins over Pulse, Thunder and Storm however their spot was far from safe with Bath and Thunder eagerly chomping at the bit to work into the top four. The match therefore became a crucial win for Lightning before they faced league leaders Wasps the following week.
A fast-paced start to the match saw Lightning firing on all cylinders to bring the ball safely down court and into the circle. Long passes into an airborne Cholhok saw the scoring tally rack up quickly. Dragons defence soon teamed up to apply pressure to Cholhok, leaving Clark an open circle to sink her famous long bombs. At the other end of the court meanwhile, Panagarry’s loud encouragement and Keenan’s sheer determination began to rattle the Dragons attacking circle despite the dominance of Chelsea Lewis.
End of Quarter 1: Loughborough Lightning 19-12 Celtic Dragons
Taking no time to slow the game down, Lightning returned to court and continued to keep up the speed and dominate the game. Tips on the circle edge from Oyesola and Panagarry halted the ball in getting to Dragon’s shooters whilst Shaw and Joseph worked the ball round the circle, disorientating the opposition before firing it into Cholhok and Clark who sank the shots. A series of calls from the umpires turned the ball back and forth before Lightning claimed the point and ended the first half with a strong eight-point lead.
Half-time: Loughborough Lightning 35-27 Celtic Dragons
A shaky start to the second half for the home side saw Dragons start with six. Despite moving Panagarry to centre and bringing on Loughborough Student Caroline Tarnowski at wing-defence, lightning ignored the home-sides need to regroup and pressed on. Chasing their tails, Dragons increased the physicality of the game resulting in much of the points being scored off penalties. Holding back their frustrations, Lighting pushed on and provided support at every level of the court to work it into the circle.
End of Quarter 3: Loughborough Lightning 54-40 Celtic Dragons
With a heightened lead of fourteen, Lightning came onto court confident and eager to bring home the win. An increased lead on the home side allowed Head Coach Sara Bayman to make changes on court and give the bench players vital game time. First onto court was Lucy Parize who took up the GA spot from veteran Clark with ease, allowing Lightning to continue with their progression. Boosted by the ease of her change, Bayman soon brought on Annabel Roddy at GD and Amy Clinton to GS who once again took no time at all to settle into the match and add more points to the board. The final change of the night was the reintroduction of Shaw to WA, allowing Hannah Joseph a well-earned rest. The clock soon ticked down and the final whistle confirmed victory for Loughborough Lightning.
Full-time: Loughborough Lightning 70-57 Celtic Dragons
Head Coach Sara Bayman explained how key the win was in gaining momentum for her side.
“We knew it was going to be tough travelling to Cardiff but I think we showed a lot of grit and determination tonight.
“We had really good patches and some not so great but at the end of the day the final score is what counts.
“I think securing our fourth win in a row was crucial as we head into the next fixture vs Wasps.
“We’ve talked a lot about momentum and how key it was to go into that Wasps fixture off the back of a good run.”
She also mentioned the importance of giving bench players more experience as the season goes on.
She said: “It was really good to give as many players as we could some court time tonight and those that did come off the bench played well, came on, did their job and slotted in nicely.
“Tonight’s match was the perfect example of why we need to be giving ourselves a nice early lead in order to bring those younger players on and give them key experience on court in different situations.”
Lightning’s next fixture is one of the most anticipated of the season as they welcome reigning champions Wasps to Loughborough on Monday 18th March. Broadcast live on sky, the girls in purple will be looking to put one past the opposition, who currently sit at the top of the table, in front of a home crowd.
Tickets to the clash are selling fast so if you want to witness all the action from Sir David Wallace Arena, secure your seats now by visiting www.loughboroughlightning.com
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