News

Team Bath v Manchester Thunder
01/03/19
www.claregreenphotography.com

Team Bath’s semi-final fate in their own hands

Team Bath Netball’s Vitality Superleague semi-final destiny remains in their own hands after they recorded an excellent 56-53 victory at second-placed Manchester Thunder in a must-win match on Saturday.

With Loughborough Lightning and Saracens Mavericks having already won their matches, defeat in the last fixture of the day would have seen the Blue & Gold drop out of the top four with just one round to go.

However, they responded to the pressure superbly by producing one of their most complete team performances of the season when they needed it most to take three vital points and maintain their grip on third place in the table.

Team Bath now know that victory in their final game of the regular league season – at home to newcomers London Pulse on Saturday, May 4 (6pm) – will guarantee them a place in the semi-finals.

Tickets have almost sold out for the big game and Team Bath Netball Head Coach Jess Thirlby says the support of the home fans will be crucial when they take on a Pulse outfit whose performances have improved significantly in recent weeks.

“Saturday’s result at Thunder was obviously incredibly pleasing and has kept our destiny in our own hands but we are all aware that it will mean nothing if we don’t back it up against Pulse,” she said.

“There is still a lot of work to do and, despite their league position, Pulse will be a dangerous team. They beat Mavericks a couple of weeks ago and only lost by five in a high-scoring match against Lightning on Saturday. The return of former Team Bath player and England captain Ama Agbeze from injury has given them a massive lift and they will want to sign off their debut season with a statement of intent.

“That’s why the fans have such an important role to play again this weekend. The home support has been outstanding this season, both in terms of the numbers turning out and the atmosphere they have created, and there is no doubt they have helped us over the line in a lot of close matches.

“It would be great to have another sell-out crowd behind us on Saturday and hopefully we can put on a really good show for them.”

Following defeat to fifth-placed Mavericks on Easter Sunday, the pressure was on the Blue & Gold when they travelled north for their showdown with a Thunder side who had also lost their previous match against Lightning.

The hosts settled quickest, racing into an early 7-2 lead and holding a 16-12 advantage at the end of the first quarter, but Team Bath responded superbly and turned the game on its head in the second quarter.

They showed great composure and resilience right across the court to take a 27-24 lead into half-time, then held off a Thunder fightback in the third quarter to maintain their three-goal advantage before seeing out an excellent victory – their second over Thunder this season.

“We were obviously aware of the ramifications going into the match but we had prepared well and had a good training week, so we just remained focused on ourselves and the task at hand,” said Thirlby.

“The start was not ideal and maybe reflected the nervous energy surrounding the match but there was a determination about the team and once we had settled we were able to really build momentum and belief.

“We were clinical in attack and in possession, which you have to be against a team like Thunder who don’t give up many turnovers, and we made very few errors. They came back at us in the third quarter but you have to expect that against top teams and we didn’t let it affect us – it was perhaps the most composed and calm I have seen this group.

“It was the kind of performance we expect of ourselves and know we are capable of, and it came in a must-win game against top-four opposition which was incredibly pleasing.”

The result means that Thunder, Team Bath and Lightning are all level on 36 points, three clear of Mavericks who have a strong goal difference.

Team Bath, Lightning and Mavericks are all at home in their last game – to Pulse, Celtic Dragons and Strathclyde Sirens respectively – while Thunder are away to Surrey Storm. All matches start at 6pm on Saturday.

Remaining tickets for the Pulse match can be purchased at netball.teambath.com/fixtures or by calling 0844 888 4412.

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!

Image credit: Clare Green for Matchtight

Dragons vs Storm

Dragons win in Kyra Jones’ final home game

There were emotional scenes in the Sport Wales National Centre following the full-time whistle in Round 17 of the Vitality Netball Superleague. Not only did Celtic Dragons secure a 58-51 victory over Surrey Storm to go 7th in the league, but Kyra Jones, the indefatigable Wales and Dragons centre, had just played her home final game in the green dress.

Storm came into Round 7 with one victory more than Dragons, but only a slender one-goal advantage of the home side. The return fixture earlier in the season saw Dragons prevail in a pulsating final quarter by just 2 goals, having led by as many as 9 during the first quarter. Those in attendance were always guaranteed of a close encounter and so it proved.

Dragons started well, Kalifa McCollin nailing the first goal and Dee Bolakoro getting an early tip in from Storm’s centre pass. Captain for her final home game, Kyra Jones was composed throughout and when Dragons were able to turn the ball over, she put herself in the right place at the right time to fire a route-one feed up to Chelsea Lewis. Early changes for the visitors did not bode particularly well and it was taking Surrey a long time to move the ball from centre pass to goal.

The second quarter belonged to the defence as Nia Jones made a close-up interception and Stacian Facey tracked well around the circle to pick off some of Storm’s looser feeds. As a result, Dragons had plenty of ammunition to fire up court and led by eight at one point. However, a couple of mis-fired feeds gave the visitors an out as half time approached and they made no mistakes as the game remained close.

The ball was turned over both ways early into the third quarter. However, once again, Stacian was immovable in defence and forced the opposition feed out for a backline pass. Dragons were not quite able to run away with the game but they looked in control at all points and played with the patience that head coach Tania Hoffman has been emphasising all season. Ahead by six at the quarter-time whistle, fans who remembered the away trip to Surrey – and similarly the home game against Severn Stars – knew that the game wasn’t done yet.

Dragons kept their discipline well and were careful not to slip into any unforced errors as Storm looked to pilther a victory. Once again, Dee Bolakoro was in flying form and when Lucy Howells came on for Nia Jones at wing-defence she made an immediate intercept as Storm’s hopes quickly faded.

Celtic Dragons victory not only sees them go seventh in the league, but it also means that they have secured qualification for the British Fast5 All Stars tournament for the very first time. Taking place in London on 12 October further information about the event can be found here: http://www.fast5allstars.com/ 

Image credit: Sporting Wales

twitter-In-Stream_Wide___Wasps Netball 93

Knights believes Wasps are peaking at the right time

Wasps Netball captain Hannah Knights says her side are peaking at the right time as they head into the final two games of the regular season.

The league leaders confirmed a top-four finish in the Vitality Netball Superleague last weekend and will travel to Glasgow to face Strathclyde Sirens on Friday 26 April (7pm centre-pass).

The Black and Golds are unbeaten in their last five matches and four-time Superleague champion Knights believes it is important Wasps keep developing with the semi-finals on the horizon.

“It’s a really good feeling to have secured that semi-final spot,” said Knights.

“I think we’ve managed to put ourselves in a good position as the season comes to a close.

“Consistency is so important for us moving forward so that we can build on the momentum we have at the moment, and take that into the semi-final.

“It’s really important not to take your eye off the ball, we still need to go out in these next two games and beat those teams.

“Obviously we will be watching the other results and seeing who we might come up against in the semi-finals, but at the moment we are still focused on building our own game.”

Wasps came away as convincing winners when they last met Sirens, securing a 61-34 victory at Ricoh Arena.

The win came before the reigning champions’ first defeat of the season, which sparked a tough run of form.

But Knights says the team is stronger now than they were when they last met Sirens, and has grown as a result of those mid-season losses.

She said: “We’ve come off those defeats stronger, particularly mentally, and we know how to finish out games. We have now built more resilience to come back from behind.

“The last few games have been great for us and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time of the season. To come out of the tough games we’ve been in with wins has been great.

“We’re looking forward to the game on Friday and hopefully we can put into practice some of things we have worked on in training.

“It’s always difficult coming up against a team that has nothing to lose, Sirens have everything to gain and there isn’t any pressure on them.

“The pressure sits with us. You have to learn how to absorb that pressure and play through it when you’re top of the table.”

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!

Maryka Holtzhausen 1 - Andrew Taylor

Chance to see how far we’ve come, says Stars’ captain

Severn Stars’ captain, Maryka Holtzhausen, says this weekend’s match against Saracens Mavericks is a chance to see how much her team has progressed since their last encounter.

Though Mavericks came away the victors then and now sit fifth in the table, Holtzhausen believes that when Stars put out a good performance they are capable of beating anyone.

She said the players are also keen to redress the mistakes made the previous time around as they face Mavericks, away at the University of Essex, in Colchester, on Saturday (April 27) at 4pm.

“I’m very excited for our match against Mavericks,” said Holtzhausen. “It will be a good opportunity to see how far we have come since the first round against them.

“We are expecting a tough encounter, but looking forward to match ourselves against one of the top teams.”

Stars were left disappointed in the home fixture against Mavericks, which they lost 46-64 back in March.

But since then, the team has been on a good run, with five wins, including against Manchester Thunder, a one-goal loss against Loughborough Lightning, and pushing defending champions Wasps Netball close.

Their recent form has seen them take four wins in the last five games.

Holtzhausen said that the victory against Manchester Thunder earlier this month had been key.

“A winning team is a happy team – as the saying goes,” she said. “Getting that win over Thunder has really put the squad into a new gear.

“We are positive in everything we do, because we are capable of beating any team. We just need to put out a good performance.

“I think that first performance against Mavericks was something we knew we didn’t want to repeat again and we have been working very hard to not make the same mistakes again. Saturday will be a great opportunity to have a better overall performance.

“Mavericks are very physical in defence and have a lot of speed in their attack. We will need to take care of the ball, retaining possession and capitalising on any turnover we get.

“We know our defenders can win ball, we just need to look after that bonus possession as best as possible.”

Stars emerged from the Vitality Netball Superleague’s Big Easter Weekend, in which all teams played twice, with one win, but were hampered by several players suffering from illness or being ruled out on medical grounds.

Though they were defeated by Team Bath 42-53, they responded with a win the next day against Surrey Storm, 46-51.

“I think we performed well over the weekend, considering we have a few niggles in the squad,” said Holtzhausen. “I would have liked to run Bath closer on Saturday, but I am really proud of the way we played against Storm, which was a really important match for us.”

Reflecting on the season so far, with two games to go, Holtzhausen added: “After another slow start to the season, we really picked up our performances over the last few rounds.

“We obviously wanted to still be in the running for the top four, but we have had some great performances to be really proud of.

“We are definitely going into these last rounds with a positive mindset.

“Focusing on the performance we put out, rather than the outcome.  Consistency is key and at the forefront of what we want to achieve in the last two rounds.”

Stars are next at home again for their last game of the season against Wasps Netball, at the University of Worcester Arena, on Saturday May 4, at 6pm.  For tickets visit www.ticketline.co.uk/netball-superleague-severn-stars#bio.

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

Image credit: Andrew Taylor