Strathclyde Sirens Vs Loughborough Lightning

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Team Bath v Manchester Thunder
01/03/19
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Busy home run for Team Bath Netball

Team Bath Netball go into a busy period of three Vitality Netball Superleague home games in nine days with the momentum of back-to-back victories but seeking more consistency after a mixed performance at London Pulse on Monday.

The Blue & Gold won each of the first three quarters at the Copper Box Arena as they built up a healthy 54-42 advantage but then allowed league newcomers Pulse back into the contest in the last 15 minutes and saw their final winning margin cut to 64-60.

Head Coach Jess Thirlby said she was pleased to get the win but is looking for improvements ahead of Saturday’s Severn derby at the Team Bath Arena against Welsh franchise Celtic Dragons (5pm centre-pass).

“We anticipated a highly-contested match against Pulse, who have stayed with quality sides and contested for much of their games despite their current league position,” she said. “No team can be underestimated and we were pleased with showing some grit and ‘finding a way’ last night as its tough to go on the road and play away from home.

“We had some great passages of play and some of our best stats for the season in terms of chances converted and few errors made. Games like these are excellent preparation for the tough tests to come and ultimately we want to be put under pressure so we learn how to thrive on it as we continue to work hard to secure a top-four finish.

“It was great to have Serena Guthrie back on court and Mia Ritchie was brilliant when she came off the bench. Leila Thomas contributed positively in defence and we were really pleased to get Abi Robson out on court. She has been one of our most consistent performers in training and it was great to be able to reward that.”

Both Thomas and Robson are U21 players and another young Blue & Gold talent to catch the eye was University of Bath student Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, who was named as Player of the Match for the second successive game.

VNSL Head Coach Anna Stembridge said: “Sophie has been sublime in the last few weeks. She is building a real connection with Rachel Shaw and Kim Commane in attack but her defending from the front and all-round contribution has been outstanding. She is quiet and unassuming off the court but is developing into a real leader on it.”

MJ Church Ambassador Drakeford-Lewis, who is also supported by a Bill Whiteley Scholarship, added: “Credit to the players around me, they fill me with confidence. The Superleague is incredibly tight this season but we are building momentum and we need to keep that up in the next few home games.”

As well as Dragons on Saturday, Team Bath are also at home to Strathclyde Sirens on Friday, March 22 (7.30pm) before entertaining local rivals Severn Stars in a rearranged fixture on Monday, March 25 (7pm).

“It’s going to be a good run of games and we can’t wait to have the home crowd behind us again,” Stembridge added. “We have had such amazing support this season and the fans were absolutely critical in helping us see out the victory over Manchester Thunder in our last home match.

“We beat Dragons 58-41 at Super Ten on the opening day of the season but I think they will be a different proposition. Bethan Dyke is back for them after injury, which makes a big difference, and they have had some good results and performances.

“I was at their game against Loughborough Lightning last weekend and while the result didn’t go their way, they played well and we will have to be on our game. Hopefully we will be able to produce that consistent performance across 60 minutes that we have been looking for.”

Tickets for the matches against Dragons, Sirens and Stars are on sale now – visit netball.teambath.com/tickets for further details.

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Photo credit: Clare Green for Matchtight

Kim Commane 2019

Team Bath storm to emphatic win at Loughborough

Anna Stembridge has hailed Team Bath Netball’s biggest Vitality Superleague win of the 2019 season so far – Saturday’s 75-50 victory at Loughborough Lightning – as a “performance to be proud of”.

The Blue & Gold were dominant right across the court as they produced the perfect response to their disappointing home defeat to Surrey Storm in their previous game and moved level on points with Saracens Mavericks, who they visit in a televised fixture on Saturday (February 16, 6.30pm centre-pass).

“The girls really got their heads down after the Storm game and it was pleasing to see them respond like that, they put out a performance to be proud of,” said Team Bath Netball Superleague Head Coach Stembridge.

“Loughborough have had some personnel changes but they are still a really good side and the final scoreline doesn’t reflect what a well contested game it was.

“For me, what was most pleasing was the way we built throughout the match. It was quite close for the first ten minutes but once we found our feet, we really clicked into gear and finished the first quarter brilliantly to lead 22-12.

“They came back at us during the second period but it is important that we demonstrated we are comfortable when going goal for goal with a team and that was certainly the case on Saturday.

“We had a game plan that we stuck to for most of the game and we brought real intensity right across the court. We were relentless in defence as a team and we were slick in attack, displaying some really good ball speed.

“There was no sitting back on the lead either – we won all four quarters and maintained a high level of performance throughout, with the players who came off the bench – Leila Thomas for her debut, Mia Ritchie and Beryl Friday – all making an impact.”

Team Bath named the same starting seven that had lined up against Storm, with University of Bath student Chartie Curtis once again forming a good partnership with Summer Artman in defence.

Imogen Allison and captain Serena Guthrie continued to forge an excellent understanding just in front of the back two, breaking up play and linking brilliantly with the dynamic attacking trio of Rachel Shaw, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane.

Australian shooter Commane was in ruthless form as she converted 43 of her 45 shots as Team Bath continued to pull away, going 39-25 up at half-time and stretching their advantage to 56-37 in the third quarter before wrapping up an emphatic victory.

“Kim was sensational on Saturday, both in terms of creativity and her shooting,” Stembridge added. “A 96 per cent conversion rate is outstanding and she demonstrated great leadership at critical times as well.”

It was Team Bath’s third away win of the season and they will be looking to maintain that perfect record on the road when they visit the University of Essex to face fourth-placed Mavericks, who were edged out 54-50 by table-topping Wasps on Monday.

“There has always been a great rivalry between Team Bath and Mavericks over the years and some memorable matches,” said Stembridge.

“We have done our homework and will be looking to put out a well thought-out game plan for the full 60 minutes. Mavericks are creative and athletic in attack and are rangy and deceptive in defence, so we will have to be smart with our approach. We’re looking forward to the match, it should be a good contest.”

Team Bath’s next two home matches – against Wasps on February 22 and Manchester Thunder on March 1 – have sold out but tickets are available for the five other scheduled fixtures at the Team Bath Arena. Visit netball.teambath.com/fixtures for more information.

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Blue and Gold “ready to peak at right time”

Anna Stembridge believes that Team Bath Netball are ready to achieve their full potential in the 2018 Vitality Netball Superleague – and is backing her players to do just that when they face Wasps in the semi-finals on Saturday.

The Blue and Gold completed their regular season by going toe to toe with fellow semi-finalists Manchester Thunder in an absorbing encounter, with nothing to separate the teams until the last five minutes when the home side managed to crank up the pressure and secure a 54-47 victory.

Team Bath’s place in the top four was already confirmed, though, following benecosMavericks’ 49-47 defeat at UWS Sirens on Thursday and Superleague Head Coach Stembridge said the performance against Thunder should give her players confidence as they enter the knockout stages.

And she is hoping that the Blue and Gold fans will turn out in force for Saturday’s semi-final against table-topping Wasps (5.45pm centre-pass), which is being played at the University of Worcester Arena.

“The slate is wiped clean now and, as we have seen many times in the past, anything can happen in a semi-final,” said Stembridge.

“We would have liked to go into the game on the back of a win at Thunder but we can certainly take huge positives from the way we performed for 55 minutes of that match against a team that has been in great form in recent weeks.

“We have to do it for 60 minutes but I am really excited because I know that our best performance is still to come and what better time would there be to do it than in the knockout stages?

“We have produced moments of brilliance against all of the top teams in the past couple of weeks and we are more than capable of beating them if we stick to our gameplan and play with confidence and belief.

“My belief in this squad has never wavered and if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. I know we have the ability to do that.

“The fact we are playing the semi-final at Worcester is an amazing opportunity – it is the next closest thing we could get to having a home semi-final as it isn’t too far for our fans to travel. They have been incredible this season and it would be brilliant if they could get behind us again – we’d love to see and hear them there.”

Team Bath have been given an additional boost in the build-up to the semi-final by the return of Jess Shaw, who had been sidelined by an ankle injury since early May.

She was straight back into the thick of the action against Thunder as Mia Ritchie suffered a heavy fall at the start of the second period and had to be withdrawn as a precaution.

“To come on at centre in such a physical, fast-paced match after five weeks out and have the impact that Jess had was absolutely fantastic,” said Stembridge. “It was a real baptism of fire but she dealt with it brilliantly and it’s great to have her back at this critical stage of the season.”

A top-quality Superleague contest saw Team Bath go goal for goal with Thunder before the hosts edged into a 28-24 lead at half-time. They stretched their advantage to eight at one point but the Blue and Gold responded brilliantly and won the second half of the third quarter 10-3 to cut the gap to 38-37 going into the final period.

The visitors then drew level and had a chance to take the lead but the opportunity was missed and Thunder took full advantage.

“It was disappointing how the scoreline blew out like that but it was a brilliant game and great preparation for the Wasps match,” said Stembridge.

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Anna Stembridge

Anna Stembridge says players will learn from loss

Team Bath Netball Head Coach Anna Stembridge says her players will learn valuable lessons from Friday’s 62-37 home defeat to Vitality Superleague rivals Manchester Thunder.

The visitors got off to a flying start and never looked back as they maintained their 100 per cent record with a convincing victory, underlining their dominance by winning the last quarter 16-8.

Stembridge said: “Credit to Thunder in terms of the way they started and finished the game. It’s disappointing that the scoreline blew out in the final quarter – to lose it 16-8 was not good enough and a bad day in the office in that respect.

“We knew tactically what Thunder would do and we looked to counter that but they executed their game plan very well.

“But we can only grow from this kind of experience. The players are really disappointed but they will learn from this and move forward.”

Both teams went into the match – played in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,600 fans – with confidence high after winning their opening two matches. However, it was the visitors who made the brighter start and they quickly raced into a 5-0 lead.

It was three minutes until Team Bath were able to produce their first attack, finished by Chelsea Lewis, and they remained on the back foot for much of the opening period.

Thunder’s high-tempo approach and slick passing, combined with the unerring shooting of England duo Helen Housby and Natalie Haythornthwaite, saw them establish a commanding 17-6 lead.

Team Bath’s best spell of the period, including a great aerial feed by Rachel Shaw, saw them pull four goals back and Lewis scored right on the buzzer to close the gap to 19-11.

The hosts needed a strong start to the second period but instead it was Thunder who turned the screw with an unanswered run of nine goals, stretching their lead to 29-12.

Lenize Potgieter came off the bench to replace Lewis at GS and quickly found her range, scoring six times as Team Bath gave the vocal home crowd something to cheer.

Asha Francis also scored on the stroke of half-time but Thunder were still firmly in the driving seat as they led 32-20.

With Liana Leota and Sara Bayman providing some outstanding feeds to the attacking duo of Housby and Haythornthwaite, Thunder were able to increase the gap to 36-21.

However, Team Bath were much improved in the third period – both in attack and defence – and were able to provide a more consistent feed to player of the match Potgieter.

The deficit was 44-31 going into the final quarter but any hopes of a Surrey Storm-style comeback were dashed as Thunder pulled away once again to win by 25 goals in a match sponsored by The Royal High School, Bath.

Carter Jonas are Team Bath Netball’s property partner, Surridge are the Team Bath kit supplier and Skins provide the team with compression wear.

Team Bath will be looking to bounce back in front of their home fans on Friday (February 19) when they entertain Team Northumbria (7.45pm).

Ticket-holders for that match will have access to an exclusive coaching masterclass from Team Bath Netball Head Coach Anna Stembridge and Director of Netball Jess Thirlby, taking place from 6-7pm.

Tickets for that game, as well as the other remaining home fixtures, are available from http://www.teambath.com/events/ticketline/ or by calling 0844 888 4412.

Match stats

Team Bath Netball

Starting seven: GS: Chelsea Lewis; GA: Asha Francis; WA: Rachel Shaw; C: Mia Ritchie; WD: Claire Brownie; GD: Karla Mostert; GK: Eboni Beckford-Chambers. Bench: Lenize Potgieter, Amanda Varey, Jo Vann, Alana John, Sarah Penny.

Changes: Q2: Lewis – GS to bench, Potgieter – bench to GS. Q4: Francis – GA to bench, Shaw – WA to GA, Vann – bench to WA, WA to C, Varey – bench to WA, Ritchie – C to bench.

Team Bath Netball Superleague squad 2016: Eboni Beckford-Chambers (C), Samantha Cook, Claire Brownie, Shaunagh Craig, Asha Francis, Nicole Humphrys, Alana John, Chelsea Lewis, Karla Mostert, Sarah Penny, Lenize Potgieter, Mia Ritchie, Rachel Shaw, Amanda Varey, Jo Vann.

Manchester Thunder

Starting seven: GS: Helen Housby; GA: Natalie Haythornthwaite; WA: Liana Leota; C: Sara Bayman; WD: Laura Malcolm; GD: Jodie Gibson; GK: Malysha Kelly. Bench: Ellie Cardwell, Amy Clinton, Emma Dovey, Gabby Marshall, Kathryn Turner.

Changes: Q4: Gibson – GD to bench, Dovey – bench to GD.

Manchester Thunder Superleague squad 2016: Kerry Anne Almond, Sara Bayman (C), Amy Clinton, Ellie Cardwell, Emma Dovey, Jodie Gibson, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Rebecca Hoult, Helen Housby, Malysha Kelly, Paige Kindred, Liana Leota, Laura Malcolm, Gabriella Marshall, Kathryn Turner.

Quarter scores (Team Bath first)

Q1: 11-19. Q2: 20-32 (9-13). Q3: 31-44 (11-12). Q4: 37-62 (6-18).