Wasps Netball Vs Celtic Dragons

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Loughborough Severn Stars 1 - clivejonespr.com

Severn Stars have more belief under pressure

Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, says her team has greater belief in being able to play well under pressure, after coming from behind to win their last match, as they face high-flying Loughborough Lightning this weekend.

Stars will face the Vitality Netball Superleague’s fourth-placed side, who are only three points behind the top spot, at the University of Worcester Arena on Saturday 23rd March at 6pm.

Bird said she was not underestimating the challenge her team faces, acknowledging that a neutral would have Loughborough as favourites, but said her side has the ability to challenge any team when they are consistent.

“Loughborough will be a tough match,” said Bird.  “They have won their last five matches and beat leaders Wasps by one goal on Monday.  However, we performed well against London Pulse and when we play with consistency we can challenge any team, including Loughborough.  The squad has more belief now that it can perform well under pressure.”

She said the two sides did share some similarities.

“Loughborough, like us, have a very tall goal shooter and she will be hard to break down, but we also have this strength so I think the key will be how well the team looks after the ball and capitalizes on the other’s errors,” she added.

Stars, a joint franchise between the University of Worcester and the University of Gloucestershire, were boosted by an impressive win on the road against London Pulse last Saturday, coming from behind 25-28 at half-time to win the match 60-51.  Sam described the way her team responded in the second half as “fantastic”.  Stars also performed well the week before, pushing champions Wasps, despite the defeat.

“For the first time we came from behind against Pulse to win by nine,” she said.  “If we focus on the process and keep the quality in our play a strong performance will surely follow.”

For tickets to this game or other Stars home games click here.

Photo credit: Clive Jones

Sam Bird - clivejonespr

Stars ready for Wasps

Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, believes her team matches up well against Wasps Netball, as the sides face each other in the Midlands derby this weekend.

Stars come off the back of a tough loss at home on Monday night against second placed Saracens Mavericks, but are looking to bounce back against the Coventry-based league leaders, when they play at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 10th March, at 4pm.

“I actually think we match up quite nicely to Wasps,” said Bird.  “I think they play quite a lateral game, they don’t have that aerial capacity that Mavericks have at the back, so I’m looking forward to playing them.   We know they are strong through the court, but I think we match up well player for player, particularly at the ends of the court.

“We also play them at a time when they have had a busy week, with their third match in a week, so we have to try and take every advantage against them when we play them on Sunday.”

She also praised her players’ reaction to the Mavericks defeat.

“The players bounced back into training Tuesday morning and I’m so impressed with their desire to learn and improve,” she said.  “It’s a pleasure to see the commitment to the Club by this squad and I’m convinced that their hard work and attitude will lead to better performances in the coming weeks.”

Bird was left disappointed by Stars’ performance at the University of Worcester Arena, falling to a 64-46 loss to Mavericks.  She highlighted in particular the first quarter of the match when the team had been level but then let the opposition score several goals in a row, leading to a seven goal deficit after the first 15 minutes.  She put this down to a lack of concentration and said her team needed to play well for longer periods in the game

“It wasn’t good enough really and we have to look long and hard at that,” she said.  “When you have a new team, and it’s another new combination this year, it’s just giving them the belief to trust each other when they play.”

However, Bird was pleased with the way her team, which is a joint franchise between the University of Worcester and the University of Gloucestershire, had defended against Mavericks’ attacking line-up and is hoping for more of the same against Wasps.

She said: “That’s a Roses attack, and that’s a really strong attack, so I was really pleased with how our defence shut them down on occasions and did win the ball so there’s lots to be positive about there.”

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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.

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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