Severn Stars Head Coach, Sam Bird, says expectations are high among her squad as they make their final preparations for a third season in the Vitality Netball Superleague.
Excitement is building with the season due to kick off early in the New Year, with Stars showing impressive form in pre-season, winning three out of their four matches.
Bird, who is returning for her second season at the helm, said: “I am pleased to have secured four pre-season matches against opposition that we will play in the League. We have played a number of combinations and have been able to integrate new players with existing players. Whilst we have performed well, all the squad have raised the bar in terms of expectations of ourselves and will be pushing harder in the New Year, motivated by the potential we have.”
England international Gibson, who was part of the Gold-medal winning Commonwealth Games side and also studies at the University of Worcester, said: “I am really excited by this squad. There is no reason why we can’t make that top four and really challenge. We have taken three wins from four and have lots of international experience to come in. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
An early pre-season run-out resulted in a victory over former Superleague champions Surrey Storm. Despite Stars missing several key players through international duty, injury and illness, Stars took the win 53-41 in Guildford.
Stars, a joint franchise between the University of Worcester and University of Gloucestershire, then came away with a narrow one point victory over Strathclyde Sirens at home in Worcester. A young Stars side overcame the physical Scottish team and held out for an important 45-44 victory. New Stars signing and England youth international, Paige Reed, remained cool throughout under the post. At the other end, there was a stand-out performance from another new recruit and England youth international, Halimat Adio, who largely shut down the experienced New Zealand international goal shooter, Cat Tuivaiti.
Stars were then at the Copper Box Arena, in London, to complete pre-season matches with a tri-tournament against Celtic Dragons and London Pulse. Despite missing Stars captain, Maryka Holtzhausen, away on international duty, and experienced defenders, Sam Cook and Jodie Gibson, Stars took a convincing win over Dragons 38-26. In her first appearance for the side, new signing, Jamaican international, Jodi-Ann Ward, made an immediate impression, showing her speed and athleticism in turning over numerous balls.
Stars then took on the home side, London Pulse, in the decider. With standout performances from Adio and Wales international, Georgia Rowe, a tight game went goal for goal right up until the final whistle, with Pulse ultimately taking the game 33-31.
Stars will kick off their Vitality Netball Superleague season on January 5, when all 10 teams will be playing at the Birmingham Arena, with Stars set to face new club London Pulse. The first home game will be at the University of Gloucestershire Arena against Celtic Dragons on January 25, with the first game at the University of Worcester Arena on February 9 against Manchester Thunder.
To buy tickets or for more information visit www.severnstars.co.uk.
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