ROUND 4 of the Vitality Netball Superleague will see an unprecedented top-of-the-table clash on Monday night to finish off the round, with Team Bath and London Pulse facing off for top spot. On the other end of the spectrum, eighth ranked 2019 finalists Wasps Netball will take on ninth-placed Severn Stars in the opening match of the round in what will be a real test for Stars and a real make-or-break game for Wasps.
Severn Stars v. Wasps Netball
In a massive start to Round 4, Wasps will look to redeem themselves from a slow start to the season, with the side sitting in eighth on only one win and two losses for the season already after only conceding the four losses overall in 2019. While the opening rounds don’t necessarily speak for the season, the Wasps will want to take advantage of taking on a side lower than them and use this opportunity to work their way up the ladder. Stars are in the unprecedented position of being only one behind Wasps on the ladder but will know not to come into this match too cocky or expectant, with the Wasps known for their cleanliness and consistency in defence. Interestingly, both sides have come up against two of the same sides at this early stage, with both teams going down to Manchester Thunder, Wasps by seven goals and Stars by nine, making for an intriguing battle if Stars can stay close. The real difference however is the sides’ different reactions to taking on the Mavericks, with Stars going down twice with big margins compared to Wasps’ four goal victory. Rachel Dunn has been the key player for Wasps this season with all attention turned toward the veteran goal shooter with accuracy and precision. Meanwhile, Iona Christian in wing attack has been a handy addition to the side, slotting in smoothly with Jade Clarke and Dunn. Stars’ Towera Vinkhumbo may not be the cleanest player but has certainly had an impact in defence, working well with Ella Powell-Davies while the likes of Ama Agbeze can enter the contest when required and have an immediate impact. In goals, Georgia Rowe has been the main target for Stars with the experience of Liana Leota in wing attack able to provide pinpoint feeds into the circle.
Surrey Storm v. Manchester Thunder
Surrey Sports Park
Manchester Thunder will look to go four from four with a win in this match, with the potential of moving to the top of the ladder if results on Monday go their way, making this a big match for the reigning premiers. Surrey Storm on the other hand have had a shaky start to the season with only the one win on the board back in Round 1, and that was only by the one goal over Celtic Dragons. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska and Katy Hughes will be in for a tough one against the attacking combination of Joyce Mvula, Kathryn Turner and Ellie Cardwell, with the trio creating a massive threat for Thunder. The three shooters have combined seamlessly across the opening rounds, sharing the load in goals and all offering different options which is what makes them such a difficult opposition. In goals for Storm are Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin who have had a fairly solid start to the season, and while Hankin’s accuracy has left something to be desired, Bailey’s height has proven useful with her rebounding ability. The midcourt battle is set to be an interesting one with Mikki Austin at Storm’s helm, leading from the front with her agility and footwork, taking on the likes of Amy Carter and Caroline O’Hanlon, with both players able to have an impact through the midcourt. Defensively, the consistency of Emma Dovey and Rebekah Airey will be tough for Storm to break through, especially with the likes of Loreen Ngwira also in the mix and able to switch up the circle monumentally. Meanwhile, the calm but consistent effort of Laura Malcolm in wing defence is sure to keep the pressure on.
Loughborough Lightning v. Saracens Mavericks
Sir David Wallace Arena
The match between Lightning and Mavericks is set to be a real interesting one, with both sides impressive in their own right though Lightning – just like last season – have struggled to put their skill and pressure out on the court at this early stage of the season. While the Mavericks sit in the top four on two wins from three matches, Lightning sit in seventh on only one win but having lost to ladder-leaders Team Bath and 2019 premiers, Manchester Thunder, making this a relatively even contest. Meanwhile, Mavericks have played Surrey Storm twice in as many weeks meaning they haven’t had a real opportunity to prove themselves thus far thanks to match scheduling. Mavericks’ Razia Quashie will have the tough task of taking on Lightning goal shooter Mary Cholhok, who is as imposing as they get with her height and strength making her a key cog for Lightning’s defence. Quashie is just as impressive with her aerial ability making her an exciting player to watch, able to create intercepts out of nothing and lead from the back. The midcourt battle will be a real interesting one with the sides relatively well matched through the centre, though the real test for Lightning will be stopping the likes of Georgia Lees who has a tried and true combination with George Fisher and Kadeen Corbin in goals, with the duo continuing to be a threat. Lightning will rely on leadership from Nat Panagarry through the midcourt, while Lightning’s constant defensive rotation could come in handy against a side like Mavericks which relies on poking holes in defensive units, though could also go the opposite way entirely if Mavericks can take advantage early.
Celtic Dragons v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sports Wales National Centre
The Dragons come into this match sitting at the bottom of the ladder, with a one week suspension to key pickup Latanya Wilson making for a rough start to the season. While the Sirens have only got the one win on the board for the season, it is more about their lack of four quarter effort that sees them losing so far rather than an inability to win, as displayed by an impressive effort over Surrey Storm last round. While the Dragons have only gotten close to a win in the one match so far this season, they went without a goalkeeper for part of their Round 2 encounter with Team Bath and then missed Wilson’s pressure and presence on Monday against Pulse – the current top two sides. Dragons’ Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson did a solid job sharing the load last round but were in short supply of ball into circle, meaning the likes of Shona O’Dwyer and Sophie Morgan will want to be right on circle edge this round against a much more even competitor in Sirens. Defensively, Wilson will want to heed the warnings she’s had in past rounds to ensure she doesn’t leave her side in the lurch again this round, while Dee Bolakoro and Abigail Tyrrell will also want to maintain constant pressure in the circle. Sirens’ Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher impressed at the post last week with their cleanliness and ability to find the ball in the goal circle, with the circle work from Nicola McCleery and Gia Abernethy critical for the side in attack. Natalie Bright and Zanele Vimbela have created a formidable defensive unit, with Emily Nicholl a handy inclusion from the bench if need be.
Team Bath v. London Pulse
Team Bath Arena
Wrapping up the round is one of the more exciting matches to start the season, with both Team Bath and London Pulse undefeated thus far in 2020. While Pulse had an unsuccessful start to their Superleague campaign, only getting two wins on the board in their inaugural 2019 season, the side has already surpassed last years form with three wins on the board and will look to run down an impressive Team Bath this round. While Bath made it to finals last season they had a somewhat rocky season, finding some solid form in patches but ultimately unable to push all the way. This season however they have proven considerably more consistent, winning by an average of 15 goals across the first three rounds of the season. While Pulse also remains undefeated, they only got over the line by a two and one-point margin in Rounds 1 and 2, making for an interesting battle. Pulse will be in for an interesting time against the dominant defensive pressure of Bath, with the likes of Imogen Allison, Khanyisa Chawane, Tash Pavelin and Summer Artman working flawlessly through defence to apply pressure and deny easy ball into the circle. Up the other end, the combination of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has improved tenfold since the 2019 season, making the side a real force to be reckoned with. Bath’s real problem will be limiting the impact of star Pulse shooter Sigi Burger, whose offensive pressure and height under the post makes her a critical name in the lineup. Burger’s movement for her height is impressive, making it easy for the likes of Michelle Drayne, Adean Thomas and Ashleigh Dekker to feed into the circle and run the ball down while defensively the likes of Lindsay Keable, Halimat Adio and Funmi Fadoju have put in some impressive efforts this season so far.