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