Wasps Netball Vs Celtic Dragons

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Mikki Austin excited for Big Easter Weekend

Surrey Storm head to Coventry buoyed by two fantastic wins and excited at the prospect of a Big Easter Weekend on the road.

Storm face joint Vitality Netball Superleague leaders Wasps Netball on home turf at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday, followed by Sky Sports’ live game against Severn Stars on Sunday – and Mikki Austin is feeling the nervous anticipation as the season draws to a thrilling climax.

“It’s really stressful, I won’t lie,” she only half-jokes at the prospect of preparing for two games in 24 hours. “I’m sure it’s a bit of an unknown quantity for us all, but you have to get behind any event where we can showcase the ferocity and intensity of our sport, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Austin knows that both games will provide a stern test of Storm’s excellent recent form but, she recognises, the pairings have also provided valuable opportunities. “Luckily, we’re playing two opposition who play slightly similar styles, so our game plan will be more based around us and our ability to execute better in our core areas. When we’re facing two completely separate opposition, we can’t break them down this closely back-to-back.”

The old adage of letting the opposition worry about you surely also applies, after two hugely impressive wins earned in contrasting circumstances, against Loughborough Lightning and London Pulse.

“I was probably more proud of our victory versus Pulse, for completely different reasons,” admits Mikki, who saw her team come from behind to snatch a late win for the first time in 2019. “We went to Lightning with zero pressure, but then Pulse was one of the most topsy-turvy games we’ve been in this season. We’re really impressed that we managed to grind out a performance and for the last four minutes click our minds into gear!

“For that I’m really proud, and I told the girls that we will learn more about ourselves and each other from winning that game than we will any other game.”

The next two fixtures follow a similar pattern – one side, Wasps, chasing Vitality Netball Superleague glory; the other, Stars, finding form after a disappointing start to the season – and Mikki is well aware that the end of the season will perhaps come at the wrong time for Storm.

“After this weekend we’ve got two games left and that’s it. I can’t believe that! It’s that old wives’ tale of not wishing your life away,” she laughs. “But it’s ‘shoulda woulda coulda’… had we have found our form marginally earlier, what would we have done? I don’t think we’ve ever lacked form in the whole, I think it’s just been tying that together for 60 minutes.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of the next four rounds. There’s a lot of stress in making sure we’re well prepared and we see improvement. We constantly want more, but what happens in two weeks’ time when I don’t have a game to prepare for? To be honest, I’m a little bit scared of that.”

At least this weekend offers up a rare first in Mikki’s 10 years in the Vitality Netball Superleague – the prospect of an overnight stay and a chance to enjoy the company of her team-mates away from the court.

“We’ve literally never had a Storm sleepover! At NPL level you tend to go away and stay over but you don’t really ever do it in the Vitality Netball Superleague, because you’re all working full time, so I’m really looking forward to that.”

Inevitably, though, Mikki’s attentions will soon turn back to Sunday afternoon rather than which Saturday night film to enjoy.

“I’ve tasked a couple of the girls with games night or movie night, whilst I’ll be really unsociable doing video analysis and stats. That’s why I get to call myself the Director, unfortunately… it’s a blessing and a curse all wrapped up into one!

“But I’ll be good it’ll be good for us to spend some time together away from netball, to give us that mental refresh going into the second game,” she highlights, knowing that fatigue can be in the brain as much as in the body.

“As seriously as we take it, it’s important that we give ourselves a mental break and have that downtime, because then ultimately they give me and the team their best when they step out onto court. This league is brutal and unforgiving, and being able to give that extra one percent might be the difference.”

Tickets for both days of the BIG Easter Weekend are still available – click here for full details.

Image credit: Surrey Storm 

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Wasps out to secure top-four finish

Wasps Netball are looking to secure a top-four finish this Easter weekend in a Vitality Netball Superleague double-header at Ricoh Arena.

The Black and Golds are currently in second position in the table and trail league leaders Manchester Thunder on goal difference.

Mel Mansfield’s side face Surrey Storm on Saturday 20 April (5pm centre-pass) and challenge Celtic Dragons the following day (2pm centre-pass) – with both games taking place at Ricoh Arena.

The fixtures form part of the bumper Big Easter Weekend in Coventry, which will see six teams compete in five matches across the weekend.

Head Coach Mansfield says her team come into the weekend in fine form and in the perfect position with four games remaining in the regular season.

“We’re in a really good position and it’s in our hands,” said Mansfield.

“To go into Easter weekend joint-top, with two goals separating us from the league leaders, you can’t ask for more than that.

“The win against Saracens Mavericks on Monday was huge. Beating Team Bath prior to that was vital too. We have played some brilliant netball recently and the team are very confident right now.

“Now we’re looking to keep that momentum going. Our performances have been by no means perfect, and it’s up to us to fix that in training so we are at our best come the semi-finals.”

This weekend will be the only occasion this season that Wasps have played Superleague fixtures on consecutive days.

The two matches will mark the final regular season games of the campaign at Ricoh Arena for Wasps.

Mansfield is looking forward to the challenge and says it will give her players a chance to spend time with each other away from the court.

She said: “It’s a great opportunity for us to have some social time together in Coventry.

“One of the reasons why this group has seen success in the last couple of years is that they all enjoy each other’s company – which contributes to a strong team culture.

“We’ve got great strength in depth in our squad and that is a big bonus for us this weekend. It allows us to use that depth to give players adequate rest and recovery.

“We’re well aware that facing Surrey Storm and Celtic Dragons will be tough fixtures as we look to secure that top-four spot.

“Storm come into the weekend in good form and Dragons are coming off a win too. They will both throw everything at us and we have to be ready for that.”

Saracens Mavericks and Celtic Dragons will feature in the second match on Saturday, with Surrey Storm v Severn Stars and Team Bath v Saracens Mavericks completing the schedule on Sunday.

For Big Easter Weekend tickets at the Ricoh Arena click here

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Saracens Mavericks 51-58 Wasps Netball

Wasps Netball opened up a nine-point gap on fifth-place Saracens Mavericks with a 58-51 win in Milton Keynes.

The Black and Golds trailed following the first-quarter but Mel Mansfield’s side came back strongly in the second period to build a decisive advantage.

The hard-fought win sees Wasps go level with Manchester Thunder at the top of the Superleague and take a big step towards a top-four finish.

Mansfield said: “We said this was a big game and it’s a really important win for us to pick up.

“I was really impressed with the defensive effort from the entire team out there but particularly the circle defence.

“We played a really smart game and adapted well to the changes Mavericks made in their attack.

“Fran Williams and Hannah Knights were excellent for us. They were aggressive and were really brave forcing a lot of turnovers.

“We’re in a good position now, being joint-top on points at this stage of the season. We’ve got two big games at Easter at Ricoh Arena and we’re looking forward to them.”

The hosts were fast out of the blocks and rushed out to an early three-goal lead.

Fran Williams forced an interception to halt Mavericks’ momentum and Rachel Dunn capitalised at the other end.

Mavericks were able to open up a four-goal lead, but Wasps immediately reined them back in, inspired by Bongi Msomi’s mid-court creativity.

The hosts pushed the ball back up the court to score before the buzzer and take a one-goal lead into the second-quarter.

Wasps scored first in the second-quarter through Dunn to level the scores and soon the Black and Golds led by two after a quickfire double.

Amy Flanagan and Hannah Knights produced interceptions on successive possessions to give their side a foothold – capitalising on sloppy play from the hosts.

Mavericks composed themselves, with ex-Wasp George Fisher enjoying a clinical shooting quarter, going goal-for-goal with Dunn.

The visitors finished the half strongly with the duo of Dunn and Katie Harris exerting their influence to help Wasps to an eight-goal advantage.

Mavericks forced two turnovers as they looked to reduce the deficit at the start of the third-quarter.

Sasha and Kadeen Corbin linked up well for the hosts, but Wasps kept working to limit attacking opportunities and were able to maintain their lead.

Mavericks enjoyed the best of the action, finding their shooters well, yet still trailed by seven goals as the fourth-quarter began.

Wasps started the final-quarter firing on all cylinders and within minutes led by 12, with Hannah Knights forcing a contact call to gain a key turnover and Jade Clarke following up with a tipped pass for the interception.

A late rally from Mavericks saw the hosts register three unanswered goals to put the pressure on Wasps with a minute to play, but the reigning champions kept their composure to secure a 58-51 victory.

Tickets are still 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: Steve Porter

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Wasps look to go nine points clear of fifth

Tamsin Moala says every win is crucial as Wasps Netball look to take a big step towards securing a top-four spot in the Vitality Netball Superleague on Monday night.

The Kiwi shooter, who was born in York, joined Wasps this season and has enjoyed increased court-time in recent fixtures.

Wasps travel to Milton Keynes to take on Saracens Mavericks on Monday 15 April (7pm centre-pass).

The Black and Golds currently sit second in the Vitality Netball Superleague and a win on Monday would see Wasps build a nine-point advantage over fifth-place Mavericks.

Moala, who signed for Wasps from Team Northumbria, has been benefiting from the tutelage of fellow shooters Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris this season.

She enjoyed significant court-time against London Pulse and also played a key role in closing out the win against Team Bath last time out.

Moala said: “We had been working hard on delivering a strong performance for a full 60 minutes, so it was nice to execute that against Bath.

“I think that it was a product of having good training and sticking to the game-plan, which will serve us well in the last few games of the season.

“Every game is important now because it’s so tight in the top four you can’t afford to have an off-night at this stage in the season.

“I’ve had some chances to perform in the last few games and every time I get an opportunity to show what I can do I really appreciate it – because we have such a talented squad here at Wasps.

“I really do feel like I’m learning and developing as a player and you can’t help but improve with players around you like Rachel and Katie.”

With five games left to play in the regular season, the race for a top-four finish is on, and Mavericks will be looking to secure an important three points to keep the pressure on the sides above them.

Mavericks suffered a shock defeat last time out against London Pulse and Moala believes they will be determined to bounce back in this fixture.

“The league is really tight at the moment and there are shock losses every week, we know Mavericks will be looking to come back with a strong performance,” she said.

“On any given night every team in this league has the potential to come away as winners – such is the quality of the competition now. You have to bring your A-game to every game.

“I’m really loving it here at Wasps. The team culture here is really strong and it’s a great set-up to be a part of.

“A win on Monday would of course help us in the push for a top-four finish but every game is important now.

“We have got to stay focused on us and keep doing what we can every week in training to achieve our goals come the end of the season.”

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!