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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.

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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.

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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.

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Image credit: Andrew Taylor

Ella Powell-Davies - clivejonespr.com

Powell-Davies can’t wait to play in front of home crowd

Severn Stars defender Ella Powell-Davies says she cannot wait to play in front of her home crowd during this Saturday’s fixture against Strathclyde Sirens.

The Severn Stars take on Scottish outfit Strathclyde Sirens on Saturday 6 April (6pm centre pass) at the University of Gloucestershire Sports Arena.

After a final quarter comeback against Celtic Dragons last Saturday (30 March) in Cardiff, Stars will be looking to follow this up with another win against the team who are one place below them in the Vitality Netball Superleague table.

Powell-Davies said: “We had a great comeback against Dragons, showing true grit, and that gives us confidence heading into this weekend as we know we can put out strong performances and we are getting better game by game. We have had a great training week this week looking at how we can improve and keep growing as a team. We are looking to focus on the process and our game plan to put out a strong performance against Sirens.”

Twenty-year-old Ella, who found her love for netball when playing for Chosen Hill School in Churchdown, is looking forward to impressing in her home city of Gloucester. “I love being able to play in Gloucester. My friends and family always come to support me and it really motivates me to want to play better and put out a good performance.”

Powell-Davies, says Severn Stars are a very different team to what they were last year. She added: “The thing I love about Stars is how close we all are as a team. We have progressed so much this year in our performances and we are a hard working group who always want to be better. We are excited for this weekend and I can’t wait to see everyone at the Arena.”

Severn Stars have also taken steps to bolster their squad by signing former England Rose, Leah Kennedy. With Commonwealth Games Gold medallist Jodie Gibson still out of action following a knee operation earlier this year, the coaches were keen to bring in the services of Kennedy who has previously played Superleague Netball for Strathclyde Sirens and Team Northumbria. Twenty-six-year-old Kennedy, who plays GD/GK, played for the England Roses in 2016 and 2017, as well as the Fast5 England Squad in 2016, before taking a year out due to a shoulder injury.

Newcastle-based Kennedy said: “I am so excited to be part of the Severn Stars squad. The buzz around the Stars this season and the setup is something I can’t wait to be involved in.  I’m very lucky that I know quite a few of the players from my time with Roses.  I played with Sam [Cook] in the circle when I made my England debut.  Also I am very excited to be back in a team with George [Georgia Rowe], from when she played with me at Team Northumbria for a season a few years ago.  It’s great to see how she has grown at Stars and I can’t wait to catch up with her and the rest of the squad.”

Addressing the upcoming match, she added: “Most of the Sirens squad haven’t changed since last season and so I reckon I can bring my experience of training weekly with the girls and knowing how to counteract what they do.”

Tickets for the Severn Stars home games can be purchased via 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: clivejonespr.com