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Severn Stars v Celtic Dragons

Severn Stars’ captain inspires team to first win of the season

Severn Stars’ captain, Maryka Holtzhausen, returned from international duty with South Africa to inspire the team to a memorable home victory over Celtic Dragons.

There was a sell-out crowd at the new University of Gloucestershire Arena to see Severn Stars take on Celtic Dragons in the Vitality Netball Superleague.

Stars were looking for their first win of the season, having lost narrowly in rounds one and two so far. But it was perhaps the Dragons who might have been expected to start the more confidently, having taken maximum points in round 2 against London Pulse.

However, with the excited Gloucestershire crowd roaring them on, it was the home side who started strongest. The international break seemed to have rejuvenated the Stars, who also welcomed back captain, Maryka Holtzhausen into attack, fresh from starring for South Africa in the International Quad Series. Her experience and game control immediately shone through and her combination with Iona Darroch, at wing attack, was scintillating at times.

Meanwhile at the defensive end, Jamaican international and player of the match, Jodi-Ann Ward showed the home crowd exactly what Stars have signed, as she turned over ball after ball in the first five minutes, stunting the Dragons attack. Ward formed a formidable partnership at the back with Gloucester local, Sam Cook, and together they continually rebuffed the advances of the Dragons’ attack. Dragons began to grow into the game as the quarter wore on, but Stars’ strong start meant they led 11-8 as the first quarter came to an end.

The second quarter continued in much the same fashion, as Welsh shooter, Georgia Rowe, rapidly becoming a Stars’ favourite, slotted away goal after goal, despite the physical attention of the Dragons’ defence. Another player in her first season at Stars, Lucy Harris began to show just why Sam Bird was keen to sign her. Her constant work rate and defensive commitment at centre made it difficult for Dragons to gain any momentum and Stars went in at the half time having extended their lead to 28-21.

After the break, Stars looked determined to carry on where they left off and they continued to pile the pressure on the travelling side. The defensive trio of Sam Cook, Ward and Ella Powell-Davies, on her first ever start in the VNSL, proved tough for the experienced international attack of Dragons and although they ticked over their scoreboard, it was hard-work for the Welsh side. Stars extended their lead once again to finish 43-32 at end of quarter.

Head coach, Sam Bird, made use of her bench in the final quarter, maximising the opportunity to try new combinations as the win began to look secure. There were appearances also for England A internationals, Halimat Adio and Paige Reed, as well as a brief cameo for Welsh international, Cara Lea Moseley against her former club. Stars completed a confidence boosting 57-40 win with a complete four quarter performance, winning every quarter in Gloucester in front of a delighted crowd.

Goal shooter Georgia Rowe felt the crowd played their part in the victory. Georgia said: “The crowd was awesome, the atmosphere was really good and I think that is what kept us going. We just kept building and building. A really good performance.”

Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, echoed these thoughts, remarking: “I am really pleased with the performance. The Gloucester crowd was great. Maryka coming back has given the group a lot of confidence and lifted the level of every player. We were solid in every position throughout the court and we have some great depth on the bench now too.”

Stars next travel to Team Bath Netball on Friday 1 February before returning for their next home game against Manchester Thunder at the University of Worcester Arena.

For tickets visit www.ticketline.co.uk/netball-superleague-severn-stars#bio.

Image credit: clivejonespr.com

Lindsey Dowthwaite Photography

Stars set sights on fifth consecutive home win

Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, is hoping her team can make it five wins in a row at home in their last game of the season.

Stars’ recent positive form has seen them win four home games in a row, including the largest winning margin in the club’s history last weekend against Team Northumbria.

Now Bird is keen to see a fifth against Celtic Dragons at the University of Worcester Arena on Monday (June 25, 7.30pm), to close out the season on a positive note for their fans.

“We are really keen to obviously give our fans a great performance in our last home game,” she said. “We love playing at home. We like to be able to prepare and we’re really looking forward to it. It’s really important that we go out and perform how we can to just round everything up. It’s the last chance for the players to play this season and will be an emotional day for me as I’m so proud of how far the squad has come.

“Our fans have been fantastic this season, sticking with the team despite some tough losses earlier in the campaign, and it is great that we have been able to repay their loyalty and enthusiasm with some winning performances as the season draws to a close.”

Last Saturday (June 16) saw the team defeat Team Northumbria by 30 goals, 63-33.  Bird said she believed such a result showed the team’s progress over the course of the season.

“For us we could do with a couple more fixtures really and I think we’d be up there challenging,” she said. “Not even teams at the top are necessarily winning by these massive margins. It shows where we want to be and how to push on for next year.”

Bird added that, despite their winning form, Stars were prepared for a tough test against Welsh side Dragons.

“Dragons are a competitive and physical team,” she said. “They are truly passionate and are always a determined and challenging team to compete with.”

Image credit: Lindsey Dowthwaite Photography

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Stars looking to end season on a high

Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, says she wants her team to end the season on a high with their final three back-to-back home games and show their fans how much they have progressed as a side.

Stars face UWS Sirens, a team they defeated away from home 66-46 earlier in the season, at the University of Worcester Arena, on Monday (June 11) in the first of the three home fixtures to close out their Vitality Netball Superleague campaign.

Bird said this end to the season was a chance to consolidate Stars’ position in the table and said the crowd would play their part in bringing about results.

“I want the team to put out some very good performances up to the end of the season,” she said.

“It’s lovely to have three back-to-back games at home. We have obviously been on the road a lot so it’s nice to get to play at our Arena and have our home crowd and really make it a difficult place for the opposition to come.”

She said it was important to strengthen Stars’ position in the table towards the end of the campaign.

“We have been playing so well so we expect to challenge in every match,” she said. “We’re very positive going into the remaining three games. They’re all at home so it will be great to have a home crowd and we’re looking to showing everyone how much we’ve improved. 

“It’s fair to say Sirens have improved as well since we last played them.  We won’t be underestimating them; they have put in a couple of good performances recently as well, but we’re looking forward to playing them at home.”

Stars’ Captain, Laura Malcolm, added: “We want to finish as high as we can on the table so we want to make sure we secure every win that we can and control what’s in our control.

“Sirens will be another tough game, both teams want to get points on the board so I think it will be very competitive, but we’re up for the challenge.”

For tickets to the match against UWS Sirens visit www.severnstars.co.uk.

The race to reach the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final is heating up – don’t miss out on the season-ending spectacular and get your tickets now!

Photo credit: Razorlight Imagery

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Recovery Key in Double-Header, Says Stars’ Coach

Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, says recovery will be key as to who comes out on top as they go into a double-header, in which they will play the same team twice in four days.

She said that the fixtures, which sees Stars play Surrey Storm at the University of Worcester Arena tomorrow (Friday May 25) and then away at Surrey Sports Park on the Bank Holiday Monday (May 28), present a great opportunity to not only secure six points but also a position in the top end of the Vitality Netball Superleague table.

Stars had been set to host Storm back in early March, but the snowy conditions put paid to that. After a frustrating two-month wait, Severn Stars’ Head Coach Sam Bird says her team are up for the challenge.

“We want to play Storm,” said Bird. “We were frustrated we couldn’t play them when it snowed. The players are really looking forward to getting two big games down against Storm and we’re really up for it. Two matches against the same team in three days is unusual though for the teams and coaches.

“Recovery will be key for the second match away in Surrey. The travel always adds extra logistical challenges but our away performances have improved significantly over recent weeks and Monday should be no exception to that improvement. It’s a challenge preparing for a match against the same team in short succession as we have less time to review and examine the first performance. But I will be working overtime to push on for a second and stronger performance from our squad.”

Stars, a joint franchise between the University of Worcester and University of Gloucestershire, come off the back of an agonising 55-49 defeat to Manchester Thunder. Despite bringing the score back to within just three goals in a nail-biting finale, Thunder managed to hold on. But Bird, who said she was pleased with her side’s performance, is looking for a result this weekend. She revealed the team had had an extra training session this week in order to develop some of the key strategies they would need to deploy against Storm and to develop their own strengths and game plan.

“The weekend presents the chance for six points on the board and to secure us in the top half of the table,” she said. “Storm are a good team with a good history of success in the competition, but we have been performing strongly and we are looking to push on with that level of high performance this weekend.”

The race to reach the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final is heating up – don’t miss out on the season-ending spectacular and get your tickets now!

Photo credit: Razorlight Imagery