Strathclyde Sirens Vs Loughborough Lightning

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Sophie Drakeford-Lewis shooting for goal

Last-quarter push sees Team Bath overcome Severn Stars

Team Bath Netball moved back into the top four of an incredibly competitive 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague table after a strong last quarter saw them finally shake off a determined challenge from South West rivals Severn Stars at the Team Bath Arena tonight.

The Blue & Gold had seen their four-goal half-time lead cut to two going into the final quarter of this rearranged derby and Stars had a couple of chances to draw level before good pressure right across the court helped the hosts regain some breathing space.

Five unanswered goals in the closing stages saw Team Bath secure a 53-43 victory, their fifth win in a row, and move up to fourth in the table – three points behind leaders Manchester Thunder and level with Saracens Mavericks, Wasps and Loughborough Lightning as an intriguing semi-final battle heats up.

Anna Stembridge, Team Bath Netball Head Superleague Coach, said: “It was important to build confidence, get the three points on the board and keep the momentum going.

“Credit to Stars, particularly in that third quarter, and we were asked a few questions but ultimately we are very confident about the way in which we want to play the game.

“It’s just important that we prepare game to game and don’t get ahead of ourselves as we have seen how competitive this league is.”

Defender Summer Artman, who was the Genuine Car Services Player of the Match, added: “It was a real hard fight and credit to Stars, they really pushed us, but that’s our fifth win on the bounce and we’ll definitely take that into the next game.

“We are back in the top four so we’re going to celebrate that tonight but not too much as we have a lot of matches to go.”

Both teams went into the game – rescheduled after being postponed in February due to snow – on the back of close-fought contests over the weekend, Team Bath beating Strathclyde Sirens 51-47 on Friday and Stars being edged out 54-53 by Loughborough Lightning on Saturday.

The first quarter here was also tightly contested, with both teams forcing plenty of turnover ball but struggling to make the most of it. Team Bath were rushing passes in attack but, with co-captain Eboni Usoro-Brown urging her team-mates to keep calm, they began to settle as the quarter went on and looked to be building momentum when they opened up a 9-6 lead.

Stars fought back strongly, though, and Maryka Holtzhausen scored with the last shot of a well-contested quarter to level the scores at 11-11.

It remained evenly matched in the opening stages of the second quarter but the Team Bath defence of Usoro-Brown, Imogen Allison and Artman, who was relishing her battle with rangy shooter Georgia Rowe, began to get the upper hand.

Accurate finishing by Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane from good supply by Mia Ritchie and Rachel Shaw saw the hosts stretch their lead to five but Stars – who introduced former Team Bath attacker Paige Reed as part of a reshuffle – refused to let the game get away from them and cut the gap to 26-22 at half-time.

The Blue & Gold made two changes at the interval, introducing Serena Guthrie at C and Beryl Friday at GS, and they got the third quarter off to a flying start, stretching their lead out to seven, before Stars fought back once again.

Errors crept back into Team Bath’s play as the visitors closed the gap to 35-34 and had two chances to level the score but both were squandered and a couple of nerveless finishes at the other end from Friday, plus great defence right across the court in the closing seconds, ensured the hosts had their noses in front at 37-35 going into the final quarter.

Stars forced the first turnover of that period and had another chance to make it all square but a wonderful reach from Usoro-Brown retrieved possession for Team Bath, who went on to stretch their lead to four following another flying interception from Artman.

It remained nip and tuck for a while but, midway through the quarter, Team Bath finally began to pull away as strong defence was complemented by some fantastic finishing from Friday and Drakeford-Lewis. A run of five unanswered goals in the closing stages ensured the final score was 53-43.

After their run of three successive home games, Team Bath go back on the road for back-to-back visits to Surrey Storm on Monday, April 1 (7.30pm) and defending champions Wasps on Saturday, April 6 (6pm).

They are then back at the Team Bath Arena for what is shaping up to be a crunch clash in the race for a top-four finish – the visit of Loughborough Lightning on Friday, April 12 (7.30pm).

Tickets for that match and the Blue & Gold’s final home game of the season – against league newcomers London Pulse on Saturday, May 4 (6pm) – are on sale now at netball.teambath.com/fixtures.

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: Bryn Vaile for Matchtight

Stars’ defence in action as Loughborough Lightning attack (in possession of the ball) with Becky Oatley

Stars narrowly lose to high-flying Lightning in final seconds

Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, praised the “outstanding” performance of her team as they narrowly lost 53-54 to high-flying Loughborough Lightning by a goal in the dying seconds of the game.

Stars were level with their Midlands rivals with two minutes to go at the University of Worcester Arena after an exciting fourth quarter comeback, showing great strength to claw back an eight-goal deficit.

But Lightning intercepted the ball with just 20-seconds left to go in the game, allowing them to transition quick up-court and score the winning goal.

“That’s the best performance we have put out this season,” said Bird.  “I’m really proud of the players and they will be kicking themselves that they had the ball in hand with 20 seconds to go.  But the level of performance tonight against a very strong Loughborough side was outstanding.  The crowd were amazing; they were loud and we could feel their energy.”

Stars had stormed to an early 3-1 lead, after a lovely feed into the circle from wing attack, Iona Darroch, found shooter, Georgia Rowe.  But it was not long before the away side found their feet, as Hannah Josephs connected well with goal shooter, Mary Cholhok, to level the game, 7-7.  Stars’ defender, Sam Cook, made two consecutive defensive stops, which allowed Stars to regain their feet.

Cook and fellow Stars defenders, Jodi-Ann Ward and Becky Oatley, continued to impress allowing Stars to edge ahead 11-8.  Stars looked to neutralise the pressure that Lightning were inflicting in attack, but ended the first quarter behind, 14-16.

Lightning scored four consecutive goals without response at the start of the second quarter, but a beautiful interchange between Darroch and shooter, Maryka Holtzhausen, allowed Stars to add another to their tally.  Cook produced another fantastic defensive stop at the other end and Stars capitalised, scoring two quick-fire goals, bringing the score to 20-22.

But Lightning were able to keep their neck in front thanks to Jess Shaw, who continued to pull the strings in attack, leading 27-32 at half-time.

After a flying third quarter start by Lightning, Stars rang the changes as Darroch and Harris swapped positions.  But Lightning continued to pressure, extending their lead to 10.  Defender Oatley responded by finding Rowe with a beautiful long range pass.  This ignited the Stars attack and they reduced the deficit, ending the quarter 39-47 behind.

Stars began a fourth quarter comeback, as wing attack, Darroch, found Rowe with a stunning ball into the circle.  The home side pressed on, reducing the gap, and the crowd in the Arena roared as Cook tipped Cholhok’s shot, allowing Stars to quickly transition down court and reduce the deficit to three.

Ward produced a critical interception preventing Lightning from taking the game away from Stars and Holtzhausen scored two quick-fire goals to level the game at 52 all.

Rowe showed great composure as she put her team ahead by one goal with a minute left.  It was a frantic final minute as Lightning levelled, before stealing the ball in the dying seconds.  They closed out the game on the buzzer with a composed shot for the 54-53 win.

Stars now have a quick turnaround ahead of their next game against Team Bath on Monday (25 March).  Bird said: “It’s all about how we recover now.  Bath have had one extra day recovery than us as they played yesterday.

“The players have improved game on game since that heavy loss to Saracen Mavericks. They’ve turned a corner and played well in every match since, so the belief is there that we can go out and take Bath on Monday.”

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: Andrew Taylor

Loughborough v Saracens

Lightning suffer away defeat

Loughborough Lightning took home a difficult defeat on Saturday night after a physical battle on the road with Saracens Mavericks clinching the 54 – 41 win in round three of the Vitality Netball Superleague.

The match started with a fairly even playing surface, Ugandan Shooter Mary Cholhok claimed her first Superleague start, whilst Lightning veterans Clark, Panagarry and Joseph continued to claim the starting mid-court spots. Facing an equally experienced side with England Roses sisters Sasha and Kadeen Corbin feeding directly into two-time superleague champion shooter Georgie Fisher.

Eager to impress their home fans for their first home match of the season, newly named Saracens Mavericks got off to a flying start, claiming the first four goals. But Lightning were soon making their mark in the game closing the gap. With both circle defenders keeping close to Cholhok, in an attempt to disrupt Joseph’s drop balls, it was up to Clark to sink the first shots against her old side.

End of Q1: Loughborough Lightning 12 – 17 Saracens Mavericks

Beginning the second quarter with the same line-up Lightning were wide awake and ready to rewrite the opening fifteen minutes and get themselves on top of the home side. With both teams increasing the speed and physicality, much to the delight of the sold-out home crowd, every single ball was fought tooth and nail to be kept in possession. Fancy footwork from Cholhok and dominance in the D from Oyesola and Keenan saw Lightning double their points before the half-time break.

Half-time: Loughborough Lightning 24 – 35 Saracens Mavericks

Moving Panagarry to WD and bringing on Shaw to centre, Lightning needed to muster all their remaining energy to turn the fate of the game around in the second half. The physicality and aggression on court ramped up yet again and both sides sought every opportunity to wreak havoc and disrupt the flow of the game. Their best quarter of the game saw Lightning close the gap to just four goals with 5 minutes left in the quarter.

End of Q3: Loughborough Lightning 37 – 44 Saracens Mavericks

A huge fifteen minutes stood between Lightning and the end as the final quarter got underway. An unchanged Lightning side mustered all they could to once again close the gap to just four however a series of mistakes opened up the opportunity Mavericks were looking for to run away with the ball and widen the gap once and for all to seal the win.

Full-time: Loughborough Lightning 51 – 64 Saracens Mavericks

Head Coach Sara Bayman was keen to highlight the game’s positives, despite the final score;

“I think today was frustrating because we did some really good stuff but we gave too much ball away. We knew today was going to be tough, Mavericks have been named one of the favourites this season but we also knew we had the game and determination to match them. I think we proved that in parts tonight but I think if you give a quality side like Mavs too much opportunity they’re going to use it to their advantage and run away with it as they did tonight.”

Regardless of the extreme physicality of the game, causing multiple cautions for both sides, Bayman was pleased with the effort put in from her side;

“I think Ella Clark had a really strong game, our defensive unit grew throughout the game seeing Vicki and Tuaine coming out with a lot of ball towards the end. Our mid-court generally just grafted which we wanted from this game but I think across the board everyone needs to take individual responsibility for their own errors tonight.”

Looking ahead to next week’s fixture, Bayman cited Sirens new signing as their secret weapon;

“I think Sirens is an exciting one as they’ve improved massively from last year and I think they’ll upset a few teams this season. They’ve got a massive target shooter in terms of Cat Tuivaiti so we’re going to need to win ball a bit earlier up the court. Hopefully, we can fix a few things in training this week and go into next week feeling confident.”

Lightning are back in action next weekend on home turf as they welcome Strathclyde Sirens to Loughborough University. The match will form part of the Pink Party event where we’ll be aiming to raise as much money as we can for Cancer Research UK. Fans are encouraged to wear pink and come early to join in all the games and activities before the main event at 6pm.

Tickets are selling fast so secure yours now: www.loughboroughlightning.com

Photo credit: Loughborough University 

team-bath-wasps-150618-640x387

Robinson and Varey confirmed!

Rising star Abi Robson and experienced international Amanda Varey are the two latest players to be confirmed in the Team Bath Netball squad for the 2019 Vitality Superleague season.

Nineteen-year-old Robson, a Geography student at the University of the West of England in Bristol, made her Superleague debut last season and plays at both wing-defence and centre.

She has international age-group experience with England, helping both the U17 and U21 teams to victory in Netball Europe competitions and touring New Zealand with the Roses at U19 level.

“I learnt so much during my first season and I’m looking forward to gaining more opportunities in the year ahead. It is a great squad to be part of, everyone gets on so well, and it is an incredible training environment.”

Varey – who played for Wales at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games – is returning for her fourth spell with Team Bath having previously won the Superleague title in Blue & Gold in 2010 and 2013.

The wing-attack spent last season with Celtic Dragons but continued to do some of her training at the University of Bath and is thrilled to be back in the colours she first represented 12 years ago while combining netball with studying Pharmacy.

“I feel incredibly honoured to have the opportunity to be back in the Blue & Gold dress this season,” said Varey, who is now Lead Critical Care Pharmacist at the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath.

Jess Thirlby, Head Netball Coach for Team Bath, added: “Abi is one of our bright young talents and has been improving year on year for the last few seasons. She has a great attitude to learning, a great work ethic and she leads by example.

“Abi is a determined defender who applies herself to any challenge thrown at her. She is a great role model for all those athletes in our Academy and beyond, and has a bright future with this team.

“We are so pleased to welcome Amanda back after spending time with Celtic Dragons to support her national squad aspirations with Wales, which we are very proud of. She is one of the longest serving and most loyal Team Bath players of all time.

See Team Bath in action at Super 10 – get your squad together and head to the season opener on Saturday 5th January 2019 at Arena Birmingham!

You can view all Team Bath home games and ticket information at netball.teambath.com/tickets