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TeamBath Netball 2018 - Bailbrook House 

Team Bath Netball determined to bounce back quickly

Team Bath Netball will be looking to take inspiration from one of their best performances of the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague season so far when they take on top-four rivals Loughborough Lightning in a crunch home match on Friday (7.30pm centre-pass).

The Sitec-sponsored Blue & Gold produced an eye-catching display to convincingly win the reverse fixture back in February. Since then both Team Bath and Lightning have enjoyed excellent winning runs – of six and seven games respectively – to put themselves firmly in contention for a coveted semi-final spot as they sit third and fourth respectively, level on 27 points.

Those runs come to an end this week, with Team Bath going down 61-46 at reigning champions Wasps on Saturday and Lightning losing 63-59 at home to Surrey Storm on Monday, but Blue & Gold Head Superleague Coach Anna Stembridge is expecting a cracking contest on Friday as both teams seek an instant response.

“It obviously wasn’t the result we were looking for at Wasps but I am confident the team will bounce back accordingly and apply themselves in training this week to put things right,” she said.

“Historically it has always been a great game against Lightning. We had a really good performance against them in the reverse fixture, one of our best this season, but we are very aware of the form and results they have achieved recently so we are expecting a great display of netball between us.

“We have a really exciting final month of the Superleague season coming up with five massive matches. I say all the time that any result is possible in this league and we saw it again at the weekend as London Pulse beat Saracens Mavericks so it doesn’t matter who you face, you really can’t take anything for granted.

“No team has an easy run-in and I wouldn’t want one either, you want to earn your place in the top four.”

Team Bath remain three points clear of fifth-placed Mavericks despite their setback against second-placed Wasps, who opened up a 16-10 lead at the end of Saturday’s first quarter and were able to build on that throughout despite a tireless effort from the visitors.

“For me, the game was won and lost in the first quarter when Wasps had quite a long run of uninterrupted scoring,” said Stembridge. “They were able to establish a six-goal lead and it set the tone for the game overall.

“We tried various combinations to see if we could disrupt their flow but Wasps were more clinical than in recent weeks and we were unable to force the defensive turnovers that have been a key part of our game this season.

“There were many positives to take, though. Imogen Allison and Serena Guthrie have really established themselves as a great mid-court unit and they stuck to their task well, while Sophie Drakeford-Lewis worked tremendously hard once again in both attack and defence.”

Team Bath will be cheered on by another four-figure crowd against Lightning but more tickets have been made available for Friday’s big game – visit netball.teambath.com/fixtures to purchase for both that match and the finale of the regular season against London Pulse on Saturday, May 4 (6pm centre-pass).

Tickets are now available for the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final!

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BATH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Mikki Austin of Surrey Storm gives a team talk after the Vitality Netball Superleague match between Team Bath and Surrey Storm at the University of Bath on January 28, 2019 in Bath, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images for England Netball)

Storm end Lightning’s winning streak

Storm ended Lightning’s seven-game winning run in spectacular style with perhaps their best performance of the season.

Only in the third quarter did Storm appear in danger of losing their lead, but a fourth quarter resurgence – inspired by the return from injury of Director of Netball, Mikki Austin – saw them close out a vital victory.

Sigi Burger inevitably took most of the plaudits, shooting at over 90% to inspire Storm to a precious early advantage, but this was a fantastic team performance, full of energy, vitality and commitment built on a bedrock of brilliant defending.

Burger was 100% throughout Q1 as Storm hit their assured stride to implement Austin’s high-intensity gameplan. A seven-goal lead at the first break soon doubled to 14 halfway through the second quarter as Burger’s height and movement continued to allow her to dominate the Lightning defence.

Thereafter, though, Lightning began their comeback. As Reah Dixon replaced Yasmine Hodge-England at GA, Storm held out for a 10-goal lead at half-time. That was maintained at the start of Q3 but Lightning’s own defence, led by Vicky Oyesola, soon began to exert greater influence.

Mikki’s return at Centre, in place of Emily Gulvin, went some way to steadying the visitors’ ship but Storm’s lead was down to three at the end of Q3. Yet maintaining an advantage, however slender, would prove crucial in the final reckoning.

It was stretched back to seven early in Q4 as Storm re-asserted themselves, but Lightning were proving a hard habit to break. Yet even some particularly physical defending failed to stifle Burger’s prolific form and Storm still led by five with three minutes left.

Only then did Lightning finally sense that this would be their first defeat in two months; one which Storm’s all-round team play ensured was a deserved one.

Tickets are now available for the Vitality Netball Superleague Big Easter Weekend!

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Katie Harris goal

Wasps beat Team Bath in top four clash

Wasps Netball maintained their pressure on league leaders Manchester Thunder with a dominant 61-46 win against Team Bath.

Mel Mansfield’s side were on top throughout the game, winning every quarter and capitalising on turnovers forced by their high-pressure defence.

The win against top-four rivals Team Bath puts Wasps six points clear of fifth place with five games left of the regular season.

Mansfield said: “That was potentially our best performance over the full 60 minutes tonight against really strong opposition.

“We stuck to the gameplan and trusted it throughout, winning every single quarter which I’m really happy with.

“I’m so pleased with the defence, they worked so hard to limit Bath all over the court and that made a real difference.

“It’s amazing what a win does for the mood in the camp and to beat a top team in a pressurised game like this will do wonders for the players’ confidence.

“The top four is so tight and I think we really stamped our authority with a win like this.”

Wasps enjoyed a fast start to the fixture with Jade Clarke orchestrating play from the mid-court.

Clarke continued to disrupt the opposition and spark attacks, linking up well with Katie Harris to create goalscoring opportunities.

Rachel Dunn and Harris were in great form in the shooting circle, taking advantage of the chances developed by the Wasps mid-court – with Bath struggling to slow down Bongi Msomi.

The Black and Golds did well throughout the first-quarter to limit the impact of Serena Guthrie, highlighted by a well-timed interception from Amy Flanagan.

The home side continued to put the pressure on the visitors in the second-quarter, with Bath forced to move Eboni Usuro-Brown to Goal Keeper to combat the free-flowing Wasps attack.

Wasps soon led by double figures but were immediately pegged back by Bath with two quickfire goals.

Fran Williams worked tirelessly to shut down the Bath offence – nearly forcing turnovers on three consecutive attempts – yet the visitors were still able to score.

Dunn continued her shooting clinic in the final possession of the half, scoring on the buzzer to extend her side’s lead to 11.

Bath opened the second-half with two unanswered goals, but Williams was there again to halt their momentum with an interception.

Dunn continued to win her battle with the Bath defenders, despite being put under pressure, and scored to maintain Wasps’ advantage.

Bath struggled to rein in their hosts, as both sides went goal-for-goal, until the last three minutes when Wasps pulled out to a 14-goal lead.

Josie Huckle and Tamsin Moala were introduced in the final-quarter as Wasps maintained their intensity to secure a 61-46 win.

Tickets are now available for the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final!

Make sure you’re following the Vitality Netball Superleague on Twitter for the latest news and updates!

Photo credit: Clive Jones

Image 1 - credit Andrew Taylor

Stars defeat Sirens to secure back-to-back wins

Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, praised her side as they secured their first back-to-back wins of the season last night (April 6), defeating Strathclyde Sirens 49-40 at the University of Gloucestershire Sports Arena.

Stars had maintained a narrow lead from the early part of the match, but in the last quarter were able to pull away decisively when they needed to in order to secure the win.

Bird said: “I’m really happy with our first back-to-back win. I was very pleased with how the girls finished the last quarter as they had a run of nine.”

Stars, who were initially hasty in their attack, struggled to push through the court, which allowed Sirens to secure the first goal of the game. During the first quarter there were lots of defensive contacts from both sides, with Sirens putting on early pressure. However, after some incredibly quick centre passes and long feeds from centre Lucy Harris, Stars managed to secure the first quarter leading by two, at 13-11.

The team managed to maintain their early lead after a successful attack finished by goal shooter Georgia Rowe, but Sirens persisted and Stars found it difficult to penetrate the attacking third, which kept the score close throughout. Sam Cook and Ella Powell-Davies maintained a strong defence, forcing Sirens to play the ball around much more, which saw Stars maintain their narrow lead going into the half-time interval, 26-25.

After a close first half, Stars’ new signing, Leah Kennedy, made her debut at goal keeper. Bird made further changes, moving Cook to goal defence and Jodi-Ann Ward to wing defence. Although the team maintained an active defence, with Cook securing six turnovers, Sirens did not let go. There were three minutes of no goals with turnovers at both ends, as Stars struggled to get the ball to Rowe. The last 30 seconds of the third quarter were frantic, as both teams tried to force the long ball into their shooters, both unsuccessfully, leaving the score at 36-34.

There were no changes heading into the final quarter for Stars, who successfully secured a run of four, but Sirens disrupted their flow by swapping out their centre and wing defence and called for a new ball. After some great feeds by Harris and Rowe alongside a strong defence by Cook, who secured three clean rebounds in succession, Stars pulled ahead and secured their 49-40 victory.

Severn Stars will face top of the League Manchester Thunder on Saturday (April 13) away.  Their next home game is against third placed Team Bath on Saturday April 20, at the University of Gloucestershire Sports Arena.

For tickets visit www.ticketline.co.uk/netball-superleague-severn-stars#bio.

Tickets are now available for the Vitality Netball Superleague Big Easter Weekend!

Make sure you’re following the Vitality Netball Superleague on Twitter for the latest news and updates!

Image credit: Andrew Taylor