Tag: beth cobden

VNSL Round 20 – Monday wrap

THE final round of Vitality Netball Superleague action is done and dusted for the season, with two huge upsets completing the home-and-away season on a high. Whilst one matchup saw two sides playing out their final fixtures of the year without any finals in sight, the second saw top four positions at stake in a battle of two of the leading sides, with Loughborough Lightning taking out the win and the minor premiership in the process.

Surrey Storm (39) defeated Wasps Netball (35)

Player of the match: Felisitus Kwangwa (Surrey Storm)

Surrey Storm finished their season on the ultimate high, winning one last match for retiree Karyn Bailey, and in the process handing the Wasps their worst ever ladder finish. It was a huge performance from the Storm, who have struggled to find the offensive pressure this season, but had no issue firing in the final round limiting the Wasps in attack and finding ways around the mess at their own front-end. Despite quiet second and final terms, the work was done in the first for the side to have the half-time ascendancy (22-17) and hold onto that momentum to pile on the pressure during the third once more. Despite a 6-12 final term, the Storm proved far more fired up throughout the contest with nothing to lose, as their defensive end hummed and produced turnovers aplenty.

While the Storm racked up more penalties (15-7) and unforced errors (8-7), they made the most of their turnovers to apply offensive pressure, cleanly transitioning down court. It was a show-stopping performance from Zimbabwean Felisitus Kwangwa, who starred out in goal defence for a second straight match and piled on the pressure alongside Leah Middleton, with the likes of usually composed duo Katie Harris and Rachel Dunn appearing shellshocked by the hunt the defensive combination displayed. Gezelle Allison was also given a run out in goal attack, such was the pressure within the circle, while Storm’s Niamh Cooper and Mikki Austin provided great hands over pressure on the outer, blocking Leah Goss‘ vision on the feed. Amy Flanagan put in the hard yards for two of the Wasps’ three intercepts out in centre, while it was Yasmin Parsons who led the charge in the Storm front-end, threading the needle around reliable Wasps defenders Fran Williams and Josie Huckle, with the two collating two and one turnover apiece in a shaky day for the defensive unit. Bailey finished off her career with a 32-goal haul, ably assisted by Emma Magee (seven goals from nine attempts) in what was a full court effort from the Storm.

Loughborough Lightning (54) defeated by Team Bath (35)

Player of the match: Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)

An outstanding four quarter effort from the Lightning told the tale of this clash, overcoming an uncharacteristically shaky Team Bath outfit to finish the season. With consistency, firepower and defensive pressure on show, the Lightning came out firing and did not relent throughout the entire matchup, and while Bath were by no means inaccurate, they struggled to find entries to the goal circle at all. The Lightning starred with their clean hands, and despite registering one more penalty (44-43), the side combined for just five unforced errors through the contest as their entire outfit hummed across the court, adding to their tally each quarter and dulling down the usually potent Bath attack. Whilst Bath trailed by just eight at the main change and had their chances, they struggled to return to their first quarter work rate, eventually going down by 19 goals.

Beth Cobden put on a masterclass in wing defence, dulling Rachel Shaw‘s spark and cutting off her every move to block easy access to the circle, finishing with nine deflections and three turnovers. It was a battle of Roses in centre as Serena Guthrie and Nat Panagarry went head-to-head, with both providing excellent defensive backup and neither really winning the battle, while Imogen Allison had her moments but also struggled to contain the speed and energy of Hannah Joseph who earned the upper hand to finish with two turnovers. Mary Cholhok continued on her merry way, in fine form all season and not slowing down here with 40 goals from 45 attempts, while Ella Clark (10 goals) and Suzie Liverseidge (four) had little issue getting on the board. Layla Guscoth was a shining light for Bath, picking off some crucial passes to finish with three turnovers alongside Guthrie, while both Eboni Usoro-Brown and Summer Artman took their turn in goal keeper, working to shut down Cholhok to no avail. At the other end, the usually reliable Kim Borger (15 goals from 18 attempts) was unable to have her usual impact credit to the defensive effort of fellow Australian Sam May and goal defence Jas Odeogberin, who well and truly shut down playmaker Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (eight goals), which in turn shook up the Bath attack unit, with Betsy Creak having a bit more success with 12 goals in goal shooter.

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

2021 ANZ Premiership vs. VNSL Team of the Week: Round 10&20

THE final round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) action commenced over the weekend with a number of surprise results dictating this week’s Team of the Week. Meanwhile big wins to the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix sees those two sides dominate their Team of the Week.

ANZ Premiership:

GS: Ellie Bird (Mainland Tactix)
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Mainland Tactix)
WA: Peta Toeava (Northern Mystics)
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Northern Stars)
WD: Fa’amu Ioane (Northern Mystics)
GD: Karin Burger (Mainland Tactix)
GK: Anna Harrison (Northern Stars)

BENCH: Grace Nweke (Northern Mystics), Sam Winders (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic), Sulu Fitzpatrick (Northern Mystics)

Returning from injury Ellie Bird made no mistake under the post with the goal shooter using her height to carve up the court. Her strong holds and silky footwork to edge closer to the post made her a constant threat for the Tatix and was a key reason for her sides record breaking win in Round 10. Bird commanded the ball from the opening minutes of play and did not let up despite her brief time on the bench slotting 47 goals. Joining her in the goal circle is teammate Te Paea Selby-Rickit with the goal attack using her nous to play the ball around both inside the circle and out the front. The crafty goal attack was a real maestro using her deft touches to hit up Bird under the post while also backing herself to got to post finishing with 19 goals from 23 attempts at 83 per cent.

It was another stellar performance from Peta Toeava who seemed to have the ball on a string out in wing attack for the Northern Mystics. She was involved in just about every single passage of play, crafting the ball down the court and doing damage both from the top of the circle or in the pocket to deliver pinpoint passes into the circle. Northern Stars centre, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan is back in the side after another strong showing through the centre with her impressive timing and defensive work to win ball back. She was a real menace thanks to her three-foot marking and ability to contest around circle edge while her take-off speed allowed her to fly down the court racking up 20 goal assists. Another player returning from injury but this time for the Northern Mystics was Fa’amu Ioane. The wing defence well and truly left her mark on the match with her athleticism coming to the fore in the defensive third while her closing speed also brought plenty of excitement. Ioane was in the thick of things from the get-go and did not relent on her pressure, staying tight throughout the game and niggling away to finish the match with four deflections and a gain.

Karin Burger only continues to get better for the Mainland Tactix with the goal defence showcasing her impressive read of the play and aerial ability to wreak havoc down back. She was in just about everything, constantly hustling for front position and using her closing speed to shut down the space and win ball back. Burger was not only picking up intercepts and deflections recording six apiece but was also imperative through transition slicing through the opposition defence. Alongside her in defence is none other than Anna Harrison with the goal keeper having a field day out on court with her long arms doing a wealth of damage. It was a phenomenal effort from Harrison who like a cat continuously landed on her feet to spring into action recording a whopping 10 gains four of which were intercepts.

On the bench is Grace Nweke with the goal shooter once again prolific while Sam Winders was a real workhorse for the Magic for the entire 60 minutes. Unlucky not to get the nod in goal keeper, Sulu Fitzpatrick slots into the bench with the goal keeper getting plenty of hands to ball.

VNSL:

GS: Joyce Mvula (Manchester Thunder)
GA: Paige Reed (Severn Stars)
WA: Amy Carter (Manchester Thunder)
C: Beth Ecuyer-Dale (Saracens Mavericks)
WD: Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)
GD: Emma Dovey (Manchester Thunder)
GK: Felisitus Kwangwa (Surrey Storm)

BENCH: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning), Serena Guthrie (Team Bath), Kerry Almond (Manchester Thunder)

There is no denying that Joyce Mvula was in ripping form as she guided Manchester Thunder to victory. Her 40-goal performance under the post was impressive as she used her heights and body positioning to withstand her direct opponent and shoot freely. Earning the nod out in goal attack for the first time this season is Paige Reed with the Severn Stars goaler utilising her timing and clever court play to her advantage. She was not afraid to back herself on the shot nailing 23 goals from her 25 attempts highlighting her prolific nature and ability to command the ball.

Through the midcourt, Amy Carter proved her wares out in wing attack. She impressed with her ability to open space up while her drive through the attacking third also did not go unnoticed. Her continuous give and go was crucial for Manchester Thunder as she threaded the needle into the goalers time and time again while also picking up a wealth of defensive ball with four intercepts and two deflections. Beth Ecuyer-Dale was a staple through the midcourt providing a sense of composure and calmness for the Saracens Mavericks. Her two-way running and overall netball smarts allowed her to have an impact at both ends of the court. It is no surprise that Beth Cobden secured the wing defence role with the Loughborough Lightning midcourter using her three-foot marking, foot speed and body work to impose herself particularly around circle edge. Her hunt and tenacity was undeniable as she collected nine deflections in what was yet another strong showing.

Emma Dovey was on song down in defence for the Thunder with the goal defence wreaking havoc with her hands over pressure and tenacity. She finished with an impressive five intercepts and five deflections to her name showcasing her ability to cleanly contest for the ball and be a real commanding presence down back. A stellar win from the Surrey Storm sees Felisitus Kwangwa make her way into the Team of the Week with the zippy defender using her read of the play and quick movement to disrupt the play. Her ability to force turnovers and confuse the space was on show throughout the match as she worked in overdrive to win ball back for her side.

The bench consists of a couple familiar names with Mary Cholhok and Kerry Almond who were both solid performers for their respective sides. The final spot goes to Serena Guthrie with the Team Bath centre imposing herself with her two intercepts and two deflections.

VNSL 2021: Round 20 preview – Final round sees intriguing clashes emerge

VITALITY Netball Superleague (VNSL) Round 20 is here, and thus the end of the season has emerged with the closest campaign in recent years proving exciting and unexpected from start to finish. While the top four was prematurely decided following a positive COVID-19 case amongst the Leeds Rhinos playing group, the top three sides still have top spot to play for following unprecedented Round 19 results, whilst a quest for bragging rights remains for lower sides.

Round 19 ladder update: What is required from each top three side?

SUNDAY, JUNE 20

Saracens Mavericks v. Surrey Storm

With fifth, sixth and seventh positions still in contention, Mavericks need a win here to at least settle the score that they could have made finals if things played out differently this season. At the same time, the Storm have absolutely nothing to lose and have played out some big results over the past few rounds, making this one an intriguing clash to say the least. With some great developing players amongst the playing group the Storm will look to test the Mavericks, although the Mavericks’ newfound versatility and depth on the bench should pay off to put one last win in the book.

While Razia Quashie has already been ruled out of this matchup after suffering a potential Achilles injury last round, the Storm front-end does not have it any easier with both Jodie Gibson and Jo Trip forging a great connection throughout the season to really slam home the pressure and create exciting defensive moments. Both able to play a flashy game with their aerial leap or settle to a classic and physical one-on-one contest, Karyn Bailey and Emma Magee will have their work cut out for them against the Mavericks defensive duo. Through the midcourt expect plenty of speed from Yasmin Parsons with Gabby Marshall set the test of limiting the crafty wing attack, while two experienced heads in Mikki Austin and Sasha Corbin will go toe-to-toe. At the other end, the Mavericks boast a couple of viable options to post which allows them to avoid becoming too predictable, with Kadeen Corbin, Ine-Mari Venter and Britney Clarke all reliable and strong.

Manchester Thunder v. Strathclyde Sirens

Whilst neither team necessarily needs a win to complete their season given the Thunder has already secured a top three finish and the Sirens are out of the running for finals, it is safe to say this clash could be very interesting. Something worth keeping in mind is that the last time the Sirens and Thunder played, it was the opening weekend of VNSL action for the year. Whilst the Sirens went down by a hefty 17 goal margin in that encounter, the side had not yet found its footing in the competition meaning anything could happen here.

When it comes to this clash, there is no shortage of firepower. Expect a huge matchup between the two exciting Malawians, with Sirens goal keeper Towera Vinkhumbo one of the leading goal keepers in the competition and taking on compatriot Joyce Mvula – who is arguably one of the most consistent goalers in the league. But one of the big tests the Thunder front-end poses is the consistency of Thunder’s attack, with Ellie Cardwell able to both playmake and hand off the attempts to Mvula, or carry the load herself. This versatility could really shake the Sirens defence with Emily Nicholl and Taylor Cullen really needing to create a defensive buffer and deny the likes of Caroline O’Hanlon and Laura Malcolm pride of place on circle edge. Malcolm, O’Hanlon and Amy Carter will need to limit the speed in transition from Cullen and captain Gia Abernethy, while Beth Dix has been a livewire feeding into the circle, with Thunder’s Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey needing to put on the speed and creative flair to limit the impact of Emma BarrieBethan Goodwin and Niamh McCall to post.

Celtic Dragons v. Severn Stars

Expect a big clash here between the Dragons and Stars with both sides sitting on the lower end of the ladder, but the Dragons well within their chances to get a second win on the board and close out their season on a high. Whilst the Stars got the chocolates last time they met, the Dragons have produced some solid performances over the past few rounds and have somewhat found their form in the front-end which could challenge the Stars. Realistically, Stars should still take out this victory, although expect the Dragons to give them a run for their money.

The likes of Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson have been fairly consistent performers all season, usually lacking confident ball into the circle but proving relatively accurate to post when they do find the ball. It will be up to Shona O’Dwyer and Laura Rudland to confidently bypass the defensive effort from the likes of Iman ThomasLucy Herdman and Malysha Kelly, while Nia Jones and Kyra Jones play a vital role through the midcourt, transitioning well with their turn of speed. Dragons’ Clare Jones has played a crucial role back in wing defence for the Dragons, utilising her change of direction to create deflections, with the likes of Lucy Harris and playmaker Paige Reed both needing to apply some real offensive pressure to propel ball into Georgia Rowe and escape the long limbs of Dragons defenders Abigail Tyrrell and Annika Lee-Jones.

Tips: Mavericks by 12, Thunder by 8, Stars by 2

MONDAY, JUNE 21

Surrey Storm v. Wasps Netball 

A big matchup will wage between the 10th ranked Storm and sixth ranked Wasps to open Monday’s proceedings, not necessarily because of an expected result, but because the Storm will officially say goodbye to their attacking pillar Bailey, who announced her retirement during the week. The Australian goal shooter has been with the club since 2019, and played her first VNSL season at Mavericks the year prior, closing out a solid career in both Australia and the UK. Nevertheless, the Wasps were only pipped of a finals position this week, just like Mavericks and Sirens, meaning the side will be out hunting to get one last win on the board to prove what might have been.

For the Wasps, expect Fran Williams and Josie Huckle to pile on the pressure and not make life easy for Bailey and Magee at the post, while Lily-May Catling will need to be in tip-top form to disrupt the ease with which Parsons goes about her business. Iona Christian has really elevated her game this season alongside Amy Flanagan, so expect the duo to be a tough barricade through the centre and drive up the court with speed, with Niamh Cooper likely tasked with stopped Christian’s pinpoint passes into the circle. Defensively, Storm will hope to have the services of livewire Alima Priest back at their disposal, while without Priest, Felisitus Kwangwa and Leah Middleton will need to be switched on to force errors from the confident combination of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris.

Loughborough Lightning v. Team Bath Netball

These two sides have not played since Round 1/2, making for an enticing clash given there is no more recent encounter that could play in with their respective form. Both sides come into this matchup off the back of unprecedented Round 19 losses, opening up a real question of which side has the intent and ability to bounce back well here. Both renowned for their ability to play a full court defence and shut down attacking forays, both Lightning and Bath will have their work cut out for them, with the side that is quickest to play its own game most likely to command control throughout and claim the points.

As is often the case between two similarly strengthened teams, the winner of this match will be the side which controls the centre third. Whilst Team Bath boasts

 in the centre and Jess Shaw and Imogen Allison on either wing, the Lightning can match them for defensive intent credit to the workrate of Nat PanagarryBeth Cobden and Hannah Joseph. Both sides have another viable wing attack each who can slip into the position to have an impact, while in the attacking neither side has a real hole in their offence with Lightning boasting Mary Cholhok, Ella Clark and Suzie Liverseidge, while Bath’s combination of Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis is backed up by an in-form Betsy Creak. Defensively, Sam May and Jas Odeogberin will have their work cut out for them against the Bath versatility, while Bath’s own backline in Layla Guscoth and Eboni Usoro-Brown is also hugely influential.

Tips: Wasps by 15, Bath by 3

2021 ANZ Premiership vs. VNSL Team of the Week: Round 9&19

VITALITY Netball Superleague returned this week with the finals race front and centre while Round 19 of the ANZ Premiership rolled around. There were plenty of impressive performances from players across both leagues as Draft Central compiles two teams of the week from the respective leagues.

ANZ Premiership

GS: Grace Nweke (Northern Mystics)
GA: Jamie Hume (Northern Stars)
WA: Peta Toeava (Northern Mystics)
C: Maddy Gordon (Central Pulse)
WD: Renee Savai’inaea (Southern Steel)
GD: Karin Burger (Mainland Tactix)
GK: Taneisha Fifita (Southern Steel)

BENCH: George Fisher (Southern Steel), Sam Winders (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic), Elle Temu (Northern Stars)

There is no denying that Grace Nweke has all but solidified her role as the starting goal shooter in our Team of the Week with the Northern Mystics representative a pillar of consistency. Her ability to hold strong under the post and use her footwork to claim prime position is second to none, not to mention her accuracy and volume finishing the game with 57 goals from 61 attempts. Alongside her in the goal circle is Northern Stars goal attack Jamie Hume who well and truly stepped up to the plate in Round 9 of the ANZ Premiership. The quick footed sharp shooter made her presence felt from the opening minute and shouldered the load. She backed herself from range and boasted a confident aura throughout the clash with her clever drives and hot hand coming to the fore to finish with 18 goals at 86 per cent.

There is speed to burn through the midcourt with Peta Toeava starring in wing attack with her quick give and go and vision. The Mystics midcourter set the court alight with her drive and positioning around circle edge to fire off pinpoint passes racking up a whopping 38 goal assists. Speaking of speedsters, Maddy Gordon had her time to shine in at centre for the Pulse with her tenacity speaking volumes. A real competitor with a high endurance base, Gordon plied her trade effectively up both ends of the court to feed the ball into the shooters and also rack up the intercepts herself. She could transition down court in a heartbeat such is her speed while her quick hands were also prominent. The wing defence position falls to Renee Savai’inaea and while she did not register a wealth of stats her work off the ball was tremendous, keeping her opponent off circle edge.

Down back it is hard to go past Karin Burger with the goal defence continuing to impress. In her first year with the Tactix, Burger has well and truly found her place using her closing speed and deceptively long arms to create deflections aplenty and disrupt the attacking rhythm for opposition teams. Her read of the play was also at the forefront of her performance collecting four intercepts for her efforts. Youngster Taneisha Fifita secured the goal keeper position with her ability to compete in the air and at ground level. The Southern Steel defender got hands to ball and used her body work to out-manoeuvre her opponent and reel in wayward passes.

Elle Temu was unlucky not to get the nod down back after putting out a stellar performance. The defender was in just about everything using her aerial capacity and quick feet to win ball back time after time. Also on the bench is George Fisher with the goal shooter a rock under the post while the final spot goes to Sam Winders with the Magic captain a real driving force in both attack and defence.

VNSL

GS: Ine-Mari Venter (Saracen Mavericks)
GA: Eleanor Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder)
C: Gia Abernethy (Strathclyde Sirens)
WD: Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)
GD: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)
GK: Towera Vinkhumbo (Strathclyde Sirens)

BENCH: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning), Serena Guthrie (Team Bath), Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)

Goal shooter, Ine-Mari Venter was in dominant form and was a key reason for the Mavs win using her strength to hold off her opponent. Able to read the play and position accordingly, Venter was able to go score with ease posting 31 goals. It was a strong performance by Eleanor Cardwell with the goal attack controlling the tempo in attack for Manchester Thunder and subsequently earning the starting position. Her ability to weave her magic down the court, hit the scoreboard at an accurate rate only missing three of her 26 attempts and create attacking forays was second to none.

Caroline O’Hanlon secured the wing attack position with the Manchester Thunder midcourter using her knowledge and experience to have a profound impact around circle edge. Not the quickest player out on court, one thing you can rely on is O’Hanlon’s ability to deliver well-weighted passes and nous to find space in the attacking third. Strathclyde Sirens captain and centre, Gia Abernethy was on song throughout her outing using her gut-running and slick hands to have an influence at both ends of the court. Abernethy had a hand in just about everything picking up a number of intercepts and deflections to lead the way for the Sirens. Beth Cobden takes out the wing defence position with the Lightning stalwart able to ply her trade and use her closing speed to clog up space.

London Pulse goal defence, Funmi Fadoju was in scintillating form in both games across Round 19 of the VNSL and while she got her fair share of whistle she made up for it with her ball winning capabilities. She was a real energiser bunny down in defence, throwing herself at everything that came her way and most importantly winning ball back whether it be through intercepts or deflections. Towera Vinkhumbo was at her damaging best for the Sirens getting hands to ball and staying away from the whistle. Her skill to stay in play and mount pressure was imperative in her side’s win as was her tenacity to win ball back and make life hard for opposition teams trying to enter the defensive circle.

There are a number of key players on the bench with Mary Cholhok a commanding force once again under the post for the Lightning with her height and prolific nature to post putting her in good stead. Razia Quashie also impressed with her defensive pressure and tenacity before she was struck down with injury, while the final spot goes to Serena Guthrie with the centre imposing herself in defence and attack credit to her hunt and sheer athleticism.

VNSL 2021: Round 19 – Monday wrap

TWO more matches completed Round 19 of Vitality Netball Superleague action on Monday night, with huge results seeing one side dealt a devastating blow to their finals potential and the other a dent to their confidence ahead of their finals campaign.

London Pulse (46) defeated Saracens Mavericks (33)

Player of the match: Ashleigh Dekker (London Pulse)

For the two sides coming into their second clash of the weekend off the back of wins on Sunday, a tight matchup was expected especially given the confidence of the Pulse and the Mavericks dealt a devastating blow with Razia Quashie succumbing to a season-ending potential Achilles injury the match prior. While the Mavs looked the goods still heading into the matchup, the Pulse came out with a point to prove and extended their winning form to three, ultimately putting a huge stop to the Mavericks’ finals chances now with just one match left to play. Whilst the Mavericks got off to a hot start to lead at the first break, the Pulse flew out of the blocks in the second and continued adding to their scoreline throughout to knock the Mavs down a peg. The Mavs failed to score double digit quarters after the first testament to the Pulse’s defensive effort and ability to force errors from the attack, seeing the Pulse claim the huge 13-goal victory.

It was an absolute feeding showcase from Ashleigh Dekker, earning player of the match accolades for her ability to spot the combination of Olivia Tchine and Lefebre Rademan inside the goal circle. The tactical decision for Sigi Burger to sit out following her effort on Sunday proved how impressive Tchine has been this season, taking over the goal shooter role seamlessly, adding 35 goals straight to her tally while Rademan assisted well with 11 from 13 attempts. Defensively, the Mavericks struggled missing their pillar of Quashie, with Jodie Gibson and Jo Trip piling on the pressure but unable to faze the goalers to post. Gabby Marshall was her usual workhorse self but could not have an impact on Dekker, while Ine-Mari Venter and Kadeen Corbin failed to fire on all cylinders under the heavy workrate of Lindsay Keable and Funmi Fadoju, with Zara Everitt showcasing her long arms out the front blocking Georgia Lees‘ vision on circle edge.

Loughborough Lightning (46) defeated by Manchester Thunder (60)

Player of the match: Kerry Almond (Manchester Thunder)

The second match of the day saw just as surprising a result as the first, however in a very different way as the Thunder blew the Lightning out of the water from the get-go. It was the Thunder’s ability to keep the foot on the pedal that allowed them to retain the lead throughout the entire encounter, with the 30-20 first half speaking for the huge amount of defensive pressure the Thunder piled on. With both sides’ final berths secured already, this match was all about bragging rights, and sets up a huge final round with both teams now in a position to hunt for top spot on the ladder, or at the very least change up positions within the top four ahead of finals in a couple weeks.

Defensively, the Thunder starred limiting Mary Cholhok‘s impact in the goal circle and forcing Ella Clark and Suzie Liverseidge to step up. Kerry Almond was instrumental and was a deserved recipient of the player of the match award credit to her ability to cause a nuisance for the towering Cholhok, who still managed 32 goals but at a lower accuracy than usual, as Clark and Liverseidge combined for 14 from 18 attempts. Almond’s five turnovers from three intercepts and five deflections were critical, while Emma Dovey played her role well out the front in tandem with both Rebekah Airey and Elia McCormick. At the other end, the attack was huge proved by the rotation of both Berri Neal and Emilia Roscoe at times, with Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell able to share the shooting load with 29 and 23 goals respectively. Just Nat Panagarry and Sam May picked up an intercept for the Lightning, with Beth Cobden‘s usual ball-winning ability and defensive presence nullified by the workrate of Caroline O’Hanlon.

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 19 preview – Penultimate round sees do-or-die clashes

A HUGE penultimate round of Vitality Netball Superleague action is upon us, with one side in Wasps potentially taking the court for the final time this season as Leeds Rhinos earn the week off and the remaining nine sides go head-to-head, with London Pulse and Saracens Mavericks both taking the court twice.

SUNDAY, JUNE 13

Surrey Storm v. Wasps Netball 

Expect a huge clash between the Storm and the Wasps, with this matchup the Wasps’ final encounter for the home and away season and their last chance of securing enough points to make the finals series. While they are still more than capable of making finals they will really want to put the foot down against the Storm who have been showing some real fighting spirit over the last few rounds and will want to do anything in their power to stop the Wasps from achieving that last finals position.

The real test in this one will be whether Surrey Storm’s developing attack-line can defeat the tough buffer of the Wasps defensive combination in Josie Huckle and Fran Williams. While Karyn Bailey is capable of holding down the goal circle on her own she will need consistent assistance from Emma Magee in goal attack and hard drives from Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin to ensure she puts up a sufficient scoreline. Young defender Alima Priest has really come to the fore in the last couple of weeks alongside Leah Middleton although the duo will have their work cut out for them taking on experienced combination Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris, especially given the exciting form of Amy Flanagan and Iona Christian and the viable impact option of Gezelle Allison and injection of Lily-May Catling over the past few rounds.

Strathclyde Sirens v. Celtic Dragons 

Like the Wasps, the Sirens really need a win this weekend and they should achieve that with relative ease over Celtic Dragons. While the Dragons have actually shown some really great intent and hunt for the ball over the past six or so round in particular, the Sirens have a real pep in their step this season after a few seasons towards the bottom end the ladder and will really want to prove that their season has been enough to allow them a chance at finals, especially given their consistency throughout. 

The Sirens have undoubtedly been one one of the most improved teams this season and that is down to their exciting circle combinations. The attack has benefited from a rotating circle with Emma Barrie, Bethan Goodwin and Niamh McCall combining, which will be the real test for the Dragons with Annika Lee-Jones and Abigail Tyrell sure to have their work cut out for them. At the other end Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson are capable of turning on the excitement factor for the Dragons, however they will have a really tough time coming up against Towera Vinkhumbo in goalkeeper, especially considering the extra ball-winning ability of Emily Nicholl and Taylor Cullen out the front, and the drive down court from captain Gia Abernethy.

Team Bath Netball v. Saracens Mavericks 

This could be a do-or-die clash as the Mavericks take on Team Bath, although they do actually come in holding the mantle over Bath as the only side to have defeated the ladder-leading team all season. That being said. Bath certainly did not give the Mavericks the credit they deserved last time they met and are sure to come out firing this time around. The Mavericks have looked switched on over the past few rounds though so do not underestimate the side which is still potentially in with a chance of making finals.

It is safe to say that Serena Guthrie will be the barometer in this matchup with Sasha Corbin and Gabby Marshall having their work cut out for them, although the midcourt duo will be bolstered by a huge defensive line with Jodie Gibson, Razia Quashie and Jo Trip all more than capable of holding their own defensively. At the other end it is safe to say the defensive combination of Imogen Allison, Layla Guscoth and Eboni Usoro-Brown is hard to stop, with each individual a workhorse driving the ball down and combining seamlessly week on week. While the defensive matchup is fairly even, the difference here will likely come down to the goal circle units of both sides with Bath’s tried-and-true combination of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Borger sure to set the court alight.

London Pulse v. Severn Stars

Expect an intriguing clash between London Pulse and Severn Stars given the shaky season that both teams have had this year. While Stars have had moments of brilliance they have been unable to convert that into consistent four quarter efforts, however it is also safe to say that Pulse have also really missed the mark this year and have struggled to keep up with the teams above them on the ladder. While the Stars are sure to bring the heat, the Pulse are on a roll and will want to ensure that continues as they wrap up their season and try to get a couple more wins on the board.

Both the Stars and Pulse have been showcasing some great upcoming talent with the likes of Paige Reed and Georgia Rowe consistently standing up for the Stars. The experience of Kyra Jones and Liana Leota has consistently stood up while Nia Jones has showcased her plentiful tricks of the trade heading up a young looking back line. In the absence of Halimat Adio, Pulse has had a real chance to showcase the explosiveness of their own defensive line, with Zara Everitt and Funmi Fadoju standing up alongside Lindsay Keable, and even young gun Peace Akinyemi finding her way onto the court last round. The real difference in this match will be the Pulse’s front-end firepower, with Sigi Burger a huge target in the goal circle while Lefebre Rademan and Kira Rothwell work hard out the front to provide an edge. 

Tip: Wasps by 8, Sirens by 15, Bath by 6, Pulse by 3

MONDAY, JUNE 14

London Pulse v. Saracens Mavericks

 Kicking off Monday’s matches is another big match between Pulse and Mavericks as the two sides shape up for their second matches of the round. The Mavericks will be either brimming with confidence or on shaky legs following a huge matchup with Bath, while the Pulse will want to do everything in their power to limit the Mavs of an extra win which could bump them into finals contention. Realistically, the Mavericks need this win here regardless of whether they get the win over Bath to even have a small sniff of making the postseason series.

The Mavericks will want to ensure they use the strength and evasive speed of Britney Clark in the circle in this match with the goal shooter an excellent target and creating a really versatile goal circle alongside Kadeen Corbin and Ine-Mari Venter. While Burger has been a consistent threat for the Pulse, the elevated form of Olivia Tchine has paid off in spades with the goal shooter proving she is more than capable of holding her own in the circle and offering a great impact option. Both sides match up defensively very well with livewires at either end, who are able to spark action with just one aerial leap. It is safe to say Fadoju and Quashie are sure to provide some exciting elements to the big matchup, with plenty of creative flair set to be on show, while Adean Thomas is another excellent feeder who will want to utilise her class and delivery.

Loughborough Lightning v. Manchester Thunder

The final match of the round is a battle between two and three – ultimately one of the most tantalising matches of the entire round. Lightning sit in second with just two losses on the board for the season while Manchester has three losses and sit on a just as comfortable winning streak as the Lightning do. Neither side has a weak spot and both have plenty to prove as they look to showcase just how powerful they are, especially given they could be a finals clash waiting to happen. 

There are a number of hugely important matchups in this match with the midpoint of both sides really coming to the forefront when thinking of where the match will be won and lost. The Thunder boast the likes of Laura Malcolm, Amy Carter and Caroline O’Hanlon through the centre, while there is no doubt that they are matched up on very well by Nat Panagarry, Beth Cobden and the likes of Hannah Joseph and Hannah Williams. Defensively, Lightning’s combination of Annabel Roddy, Jas Odeogberin and Sam May will look to make life hard for Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell while the other end expect a huge one-on-one between Mary Cholhok and Kerry Almond as Emma Dovey looks to shut down the easy delivery from Ella Clark. Expect neither side to give an inch throughout a huge contest, with the real proof in the pudding likely coming down to that midcourt and the adaptability of each side.

Tip: Mavericks by 9, Lightning by 2

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 17/18 – Friday/Saturday wrap

IT was a blockbuster start to the double round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) action with matches played in front of a crowd for the first time this season. The Friday and Saturday games gave fans plenty to cheer about as Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning continued their winning ways.

Celtic Dragons (30) defeated by London Pulse (51)

Player of the match: Lefebre Rademan (London Pulse)

It was a relatively low scoring match but in the end it was London Pulse that got the job done against the lowly Celtic Dragons. Pulse led from start to finish and steadily added to their margin throughout the game. London were not afraid to ring in the changes to keep the Dragons on their toes and guessing what was going to be thrown their way next.

South African goal attack, Lefebre Rademan plied her trade effectively for the Pulse earning Player of the Match honours for her efforts out on court. A crafty player with ball in hand, Rademan created a wealth of attacking forays while also impressing under the post. She adapted on the fly playing with both Sigi Burger and Olivia Tchine while the ever-changing midcourt combination of Kira Rothwell and Adean Thomas was exciting to watch. Funmi Fadoju was her consistent self, applying strong hands over pressure and hunting for any loose ball such is her tenacious nature. Peace Akinyemi made her debut for the Pulse with the defender showcasing her array of talents to congest the attacking third. For the Dragons, Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson worked tirelessly in the goal circle while Annika Lee-Jones used her long limbs to apply pressure on the Pulse goalers.

Severn Stars (32) defeated by Team Bath (45)

Player of the match: Kim Borger (Team Bath)

Team Bath just go from strength to strength and this game was no different. Although the Stars pushed them throughout the contest, Bath stuck to their structures to keep finding ways to score and keep the Stars on the back foot. The Stars did work gallantly both in defence and attack to cause headaches for Bath who did not have everything their own way, but in the end the top team could not be beaten.

Serena Guthrie pulled out the party tricks once again with the Team Bath centre using every ounce of her athleticism and class to keep the ball in play and dish it off to none other than Kim Borger under the post. Borger was a rock under the post, holding her own against Lucy Herdman and Iman Thomas to out-position her opponent time and time again. Her connection with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis was another crucial element in the sides win as the duo used their quick hands and fancy footwork  to exploit their opponents in the circle. Liana Leota had her work cut out for her against Imogen Allison with the wing defence renowned for her physicality and ability to contest each and every pass. Tash Pavelin got the nod in goal defence to start the game and made the most of her chances with her defensive pressure well and truly coming to the fore.

Loughborough Lightning (59) defeated Celtic Dragons (35)

Player of the match: Suzie Liverseidge (Loughborough Lightning)

Unfortunately it did not get any better for the Dragons as they came up against the second placed Loughborough Lightning who made light work of them. The Lightning are a well-oiled unit and this performance was no different as they capitalised on their opportunities and suffocated the Dragons in attack. By half time the Lightning had established a commanding 19-goal lead and did not look like relenting, such was their pressure across the court and desperation to collect another win as they ran out 24-goal victors.

Making her debut Jess Haynes made an immediate name for herself with the defender impressing with her ability to read the play and go out hunting for the Lightning. It was a strong performance from Suzie Liverseidge as the goal attack nailed 16 goals at 94 per cent playing a strong role alongside Ugandan goal shooter Mary Cholhok as the two rotated the circle with great ease. Lee-Jones and Abigail Tyrrell had a tough time competing in the goal circle while Clare Jones worked hard to shut down the likes of Nat Panagarry through the midcourt. Beth Cobden continued on her merry way out in wing defence with her ball-tracking abilities and hunt to stop the ball in its track and propel it back down the court.

Manchester Thunder (55) defeated Severn Stars (43)

Player of the match: Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder)

Manchester Thunder racked up another win as the Severn Stars fell to their second loss for the round. The Thunder snuck out to a lead early and controlled the flow of play with their key cogs in each third dictating the tempo. Severn Stars struggled to combat Manchester despite their copious changes with the class of the Thunder coming through. The win was a monumental one to say the least as the Thunder secured a spot in the semi-finals with the reigning champs able to contest for another title next month.

Paige Reed and Georgia Rowe were back at it in this clash as the two worked in overdrive in the goal circle to create space and inch closer to the post. Rowe was a commanding pillar under the ring but the tried and tested Thunder combination of Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond were up to the challenge as the defensive duo implemented some strong hands over pressure. Joyce Mvula was at her damaging best in attack for the Thunder with her clever body positioning and accuracy to post while partner in crime Eleanor Cardwell chimed in both on the scoreboard and out the front to dish off pinpoint passes to the goal shooter. The Stars were forced to defend for long periods of time with Adi Bolakoro using her fancy footwork to confuse the space while wing defence Nia Jones plied her trade out the front to limit the influence of Caroline O’Hanlon. But it was to no real avail as the wing attack seemed to have the ball on a string for large patches of the game.

Strathclyde Sirens (37) defeated by Team Bath (48)

Player of the match: Rachel Shaw (Team Bath)

Team Bath made it two from two downing Strathclyde Sirens in convincing fashion. It was all one–way traffic once Bath got going using their silky connections down court to bypass the Sirens and pile on the scoreboard pressure. Holding onto top spot Bath proved why they are competition favourites to ride the wave and deliver under pressure to shut down the Sirens attacking forays and cause disruption in attack. This win marks Team Bath’s ninth victory on the trot showcasing their overall dominance on the competition as their superstars continue to find a way to drag their side to wins.

There was no shortage of star performances from Team Bath as Layla Guscoth showcased her defensive nous to pickpocket passes and use her closing speed to wreak havoc while fellow defender Eboni Usoro-Brown also impressed with her body work against Emma Barrie. The battle between Guthrie and Gia Abernethy in the midcourt was tantalising with neither player willing to take a backwards step as Taylor Cullen fought hard to reduce the impact of Rachel Shaw around circle edge. Shaw had a game to remember with the wing attack finding the top of the circle with edge and releasing pinpoint passes into the circle with great ease, finding Borger and Drakeford-Lewis continuously.

Photo credit: Ben Lumley

VNSL 2021: Round 17/18 preview – Crowds return as last double round arrives

CROWDS return to the Vitality Netball Superleague for the first time this season in a blockbuster double round of action, as the ladder continues to heat up with just one spot within the top four still up for grabs. There is no doubt plenty to play for this round, with home fans expected in droves and hoping to sway the results their way. With 10 matches playing out across the final double round of netball for the season, expect plenty of excitement across the court.

FRIDAY, MAY 28

Celtic Dragons v. London Pulse

An intriguing battle with wage between the Dragons and Pulse with both sides sitting at the bottom end of the ladder but showing some promising signs towards the latter stages of the season. Whilst the Dragons have only won one match this season, they have a real chance here against the Pulse who certainly have not hit the heights expected of them this year, especially in front of a home crowd. That being said, the Pulse still boast some hugely influential players who can turn the tides of a match with ease, and should still have the class to get their fourth win on the board for the season this week.

For the Dragons, the attacking combination of Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson has really stood up in recent weeks, not only with their willingness to go to post, but also convert from range. That being said, Pulse’s defensive unit has not taken a backwards step since losing Halimat Adio and have tightened up immensely in her absence, as Funmi Fadoju continues to star rotating through wing defence and goal defence, aided by Lindsay Keable and Zara Everitt and looking to really test the Dragons front-end. Expect an intriguing contest at the opposite end as Annika Lee-Jones takes on the Pulse front-line, with Olivia Tchine showcasing some great form in Sigi Burger‘s absence, while both Lefebre Rademan and Kira Rothwell have been playing a significant role out the front.

Severn Stars v. Team Bath

Team Bath has not skipped a beat this season, and this round should be no different as they take on the Stars. While the Stars have had patches of form and boast some exciting players, Bath has no shortage of class or depth and most importantly, has remained consistent throughout the entire season. Whilst Bath has already more than secured its finals position, the side will want to win the remainder of its matches as Lightning is gaining on them. Stars will want to put out a consistent four quarter effort here to get in the head of Bath.

While there are some intriguing battles across the court, one to watch is New Zealand veteran Liana Leota taking on Bath livewire Imogen Allison, with both players known for not giving an inch. Leota has been finding Paige Reed and Georgia Rowe inside the circle with ease, although the two goalers will have their work cut out for them against Roses duo Layla Guscoth and Eboni Usoro-Brown. The real test for the Stars will be in stopping the tried and true combination of Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, with the two goalers rarely stopped to post, especially given the speed in transition down court from Serena Guthrie which does not allow defensive units to set up. The Stars have struggled with finding a consistent duo to man the goal circle each round, instead relying on a rolling selection to catch attackers off guard.

Tip: Pulse by 9, Bath by 17

SATURDAY, MAY 29

Loughborough Lightning v. Celtic Dragons

The Dragons have a much bigger test ahead of them when they face the Lightning, who are on the hunt for every single win they can get as they chase down Team Bath in top spot. In a battle between second and last on the table, this matchup looms as a fairly simple task for the Lightning, and while Dragons have shown some real intent and improved form, it is unlikely they will be able to get the chocolates here with so little winning experience in comparison.

Lightning’s front-end has fired on all cylinders all season, and is unlikely to let up any time soon with the like of Mary Cholhok continuing to star out the front. Ella Clark continues to play a significant assisting role, as does Suzie Liverseidge, while the Dragons’ midcourt will really have to kick up a gear in this encounter given the impact Beth CobdenNat Panagarry and Hannah Joseph can have. It will be up to Laura RudlandShona O’Dwyer and Clare Jones to make it hard for the Lightning mids to find circle edge, and take off some of the pressure off Lee-Jones and Abigail Tyrell. Defensively, Lightning’s Alice Harvey, Sam May and Jas Odeogberin will look to make life hard for Clinton and Robinson and render the duo inaccurate.

Manchester Thunder v. Severn Stars

Expect Thunder to leave no stone unturned in this matchup, as they look to keep pressing their agenda within the top four, while the Stars have laboured away toward the bottom end of the ladder for majority of the season. They are just one win behind Lightning and will be doing everything in their power to take the Lightning out of second on the ladder, and this matchup with the Stars should go a long way for the Thunder in their chances of doing just that.

Thunder have star players punctuating each third of the court, with the combination between Ellie Cardwell and Joyce Mvula one of the most influential in the competition, and certainly piling a heap of pressure onto the defensive unit of the Stars, with Lucy HerdmanAdi BolakoroMalysha Kelly and Iman Thomas all viable options to slot in the back-end. While all four players provide a different element to the defensive unit, Cardwell and Mvula are highly versatile players who flourish under pressure, so will need to be stopped from the get-go if the Stars are of any chance  of giving Thunder a scare. Stars’ returnee Kyra Jones will look to have an impact if required, while Jane Taylor is a viable option to slot into goal attack if the likes of Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey can get inside the head of Reed and Rowe.

Strathclyde Sirens v. Team Bath

Expect another huge matchup here, not only in terms of talent but also in terms of form and ladder positioning. While Bath have certainly been one of the benchmark sides in the competition this season, the Sirens are on the verge of their first ever VNSL finals foray and will not go down without a fight. The Sirens realistically need to win all four of their remaining matches to make it there, and while it will be hard, they are not out of the race yet. That being said, Bath have been in scintillating form and will not want to relent to the up and coming Sirens.

Bath’s defensive approach to the game will be their weapon in this matchup, as the back unit of Guscoth, Usoro-Brown and Allison – and to an extent Guthrie and Tash Pavelin – work to keep the likes of Emma BarrieNiamh McCall and Bethan Goodwin quiet to post. All three goalers have proven more than capable of piling on offensive pressure from range, while Gia Abernethy and Beth Dix‘s precise passes into the circle have been crucial. At the other end, the Sirens’ backend in Towera VinkhumboEmily Nicholl and Taylor Cullen will look to really shut down the efficient movement of Borger and Drakeford-Lewis, as well as the ability for the likes of Rachel or Jess Shaw to find circle edge.

Tip: Lightning by 18, Thunder by 16, Bath by 6

SUNDAY, MAY 30

Loughborough Lightning v. Leeds Rhinos

This matchup is a crucial one for both Lightning and Rhinos, with the hosts still on the hunt for top spot, though Rhinos have had an excellent second half to the season and are more than capable of stealing the last position in the final four. Last time these sides met the Rhinos still had significant injuries plaguing them, with that match nowhere near an indicator of the blockbuster this matchup should be. While Lightning will have the home crowd behind them and the consistency to take out this one, the Rhinos are charging for a spot in the finals and will not go down easy.

Cholhok will look to be her usual impactful self for the Lightning, although she should be well attended to by the likes of Rhinos defenders Tuaine Keenan and Vicki Oyesola who are unafraid of a bit of physicality, so will look to really get in Cholhok’s head. Expect star-studded matchups across the court with Jade Clarke expected to go head-to-head with Panagarry, while Brie Grierson has been in great form out the front for Rhinos and takes on Cobden in a huge test. The real test for Lightning will be limiting the huge impact of Donnell Wallam at the post, with no prior experience against the Australian goal shooter. Whilst the defensive unit has had plenty of time to practice on Cholhok, Wallam has a very different take on the position and in turn provides a difficult task, especially if Rhea Dixon is firing out in goal attack.

Saracens Mavericks v. Strathclyde Sirens

Expect a hard fought battle between the Mavericks and Sirens, as they go head to head in what could be a do-or-die battle when it comes to finals chances. Sitting in seventh and sixth heading into this round, there is plenty on the line with their last encounter finishing in a draw showcasing just how tight the matchup should be this time around. Both sides have everything to lose and plenty of gamechangers across the court even despite a couple of injuries that could throw a spanner in the works, making for a huge battle and what could be one of the matches of the round.

For the Mavericks, Jodie Gibson has really stepped up over the last few rounds, especially in the absence of Razia Quashie. Her combination with Stephanie Collard and Jo Trip continues to test opposition sides, something that will be critical when they face Barrie and McCall at the post, with McCall in particular very adept from range. Gibson’s newfound versatility speaks a lot for the form of the team though, with many players able to adjust accordingly, as Gabby MarshallGeorgia Lees and Sasha Corbin look to command the midcourt, lining up fairly well against Abernethy, Dix and Cullen. Expect the real test for the Mavericks to be in their attack, with the circle not quite gelling consistently and seeing regular changes across Ine-Mari VenterBritney Clarke and Kadeen Corbin, which could let in chances for Vinkhumbo to fly for intercepts amongst the confusion.

Manchester Thunder v. Surrey Storm

Whilst this match should go the way of the Manchester Thunder, it could also bump them into second on the ladder dependant on the Lightning versus Rhinos matchup earlier in the day, making this contest all the more important. In comparison, the Storm have struggled to string consecutive performances together this season and will have their work cut out for them this round with Thunder’s class and composure with ball in hand presenting a real test for the 10th ranked side.

The Storm will really look to their experienced heads in this matchup, with Karyn Bailey and Mikki Austin required to step up across the court. They will also hope to have another Australian in Leah Middleton back to add another layer to their defence, with Thunder’s combination of Mvula and Cardwell sure to cause a heap of issues down back for the Storm. Alima Priest has stepped up in recent rounds, as did Felisitus Kwangwa in Round 16 with Middleton unavailable, while Niamh Cooper will want to really stand up against the highly experienced Caroline O’Hanlon, who has pushed forward with Amy Carter standing strong in centre and Laura Malcolm wreaking havoc from wing defence, and Rebekah Airey also a viable option rotating between wing and goal defence. What makes the midcourt unit so influential is their ability to change up roles and still provide an impact, making this section of the court the real test for the Storm.

Tip: Lightning by 1, Sirens by 3, Thunder by 10

MONDAY, MAY 31

Leeds Rhinos v. Surrey Storm

The Rhinos will look to really cement their finals chances in this matchup with the Storm, with the two sides only separated by five positions on the ladder but realistically on opposite ends in terms of form. Rhinos went through a rough patch but have become a really threatening side with their ability to score quickly and efficiently, whilst the Storm are also a solid attacking side, but have failed to hold up defensively to really test offensive-minded sides. Expect the Rhinos to come away with this one fairly convincingly, although the Storm will be hoping to test them across the court.

Rhinos will want to back up with another win here, especially against the Storm who have struggled to put consistent performances together. Both sides boast tall-timbered Australians to post as well as players with plenty of flair. Expect Dixon and Wallam to be up to their usual tricks out the front, while Sienna Rushton has proved to be more than capable of stepping up where required. No doubt Priest will look to continue her exciting run of form down back, pairing well with both Kwangwa and Middleton to find plenty of turnover ball. Emily Hollingworth will likely be tasked with shutting down the likes of Yasmin Parsons or Austin, while Bailey will command attention at the other end of the court and looks to hold strong in goal shooter for the Storm, able to combine well with any rotation of Emma Magee or Frankie Wells, with both goal attacks able to slot in fairly easily.

Saracens Mavericks v. Wasps Netball

This is the Wasps penultimate match for the season and one of their last chances to make a stand for their position on the ladder, meaning this is ultimately another do-or-die encounter with the Mavs realistically needing a win here too to remain in the hunt. The two sides have already played out a close-fought and low-scoring battle this season proving just how strong they both are defensively, and they match up very well across the court. the Mavs will be hoping they can go on a run here to finish off, while Wasps will hope they can make use of the Mavericks’ fatigue coming in off the back of another game.

The Wasps have really missed the leadership of Sophia Candappa out the front, however the form of Iona Christian is paying off in spades with the midcourter pushing forward a lot more and looking to really challenge Marshall with the duo fairly well matched for speed and intensity. Meanwhile, Amy Flanagan and Lily-May Catling also line up fairly well against the Mavs, although the challenge will be whether their transitional play down court converts to goals with Katie HarrisRachel Dunn and Gezelle Allison sure to be well held by the versatile Mavericks defensive unit. At the other end, Josie Huckle and Fran Williams will look to really bring the heat against the Mavericks’ attack, with Catling’s reach outside the circle sure to test the Mavs’ ability to finding easy avenues to goal.

Tip: Rhinos by 15, Wasps by 3

Picture credit: Morgan Harlow

VNSL 2021: Round 16 – Monday wrap

MONDAY’S Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) matchups were nothing to scoff at, as two huge clashes proved just how close the race is to the final four. Wasps and Thunder played in their respective second matches for the round, with the former making it two losses for the weekend as the Thunder continued their winning streak wth two wins. Both winners were rendered less potent than usual, with neither losing side willing to let their opposition run away with a significant margin.

 Wasps Netball (47) defeated by Manchester Thunder (53)

Player of the match: Joyce Mvula (Manchester Thunder)

Unfortunately for the Wasps, they could not replicate their excellent Round 5/6 victory over the Thunder as they went down by six goals to the side. It was a tight contest throughout though, and given Thunder’s recent form and Wasps’ injury woes, it could well have been a much more significant margin, proving just how tight the season is shaping up to be. Unfortunately for the Wasps, this allows the fifth and sixth teams on the ladder to remain within touching distance. It was only the third quarter where the Wasps really left something to be desired, as the Thunder came out hunting in the second half after sitting 24-all at half time. A 29-23 second half showcased the third-ranked side’s ability to hold out under pressure, and despite compiling more penalties, were able to ride the momentum to the very end.

Joyce Mvula has had some excellent form for Thunder, and this match was no different as the Malawian piled on another 37 goals to star at the post. While she did register five penalties, Eleanor Cardwell provided a viable option too finishing with 16 from 17 in another classy effort as Amy Carter and Caroline O’Hanlon starred around circle edge. O’Hanlon was tested at times by Lily-May Catling who finished with two intercepts to her name, while Hannah Leighton got the goal keeper bib over the injured Josie Huckle and lived up to the role, creating four deflections and an intercept, finishing with three turnovers to lead her side. Rachel Dunn was consistent and dangerous as ever with 30 goals from 31 attempts while Gezelle Allison piled on 13 from 17 attempts but also had four unforced errors and earned a caution, seeing Katie Harris enter the contest but to little avail as she only put on four goals. Defensively, the tried and true combination of Emma Dovey, Rebekah Airey and Kerry Almond was hard to stop, especially with the services of Laura Malcolm shutting down effective feeds from her position in wing defence, having a day out without the efforts of Iona Christian feeding into the Wasps goal circle.

London Pulse (35) defeated by Loughborough Lightning (42)

Player of the match: Sam May (Loughborough Lightning)

An intriguing matchup played out between the London Pulse and Loughborough Lightning to complete the round, with Pulse really testing the Lightning throughout to only come away with a seven goal deficit as the match came to a close. It was only the first half effort from Pulse that really let them down in this one, scoring 17 goals to the Lightning’s 24. But while the Pulse could not whittle down the margin, they also made it tough for Lightning to add to it as the match went on, going even in the second half and forcing missed attempts from the usually dominant Lightning shooting end which booked a confirmed finals appearance with this victory. It was really the unforced error count that hurt the Pulse in the end, with 19 to the Lightning’s eight, despite Lightning topping the penalty count 57-48.

It was Lightning’s Sam May who deservedly won player of the match accolades for her huge effort to shut down feeds into Olivia Tchine at the post, while both Kira Rothwell and Lefebre Rademan had their turn in goal attack to release some of the pressure but were negated by the ever-difficult Jas Odeogberin. May’s four intercepts showcased plenty of hunt forcing hesitance from Adean Thomas and Rothwell feeding in, making it hard for the Pulse to score with ease as Odeogberin assisted well. Regardless, Tchine piled on 25 goals as Rothwell put on seven from seven. Mary Cholhok was defended superbly by Lindsay Keable and Funmi Fadoju with the former sacrificing her stats sheet to focus on the Ugandan, who was rendered inaccurate to finish with 33 goals from 43 attempts at 75 per cent, also creating five offensive penalties. Fadoju was an absolute livewire against Ella Clark, keeping the goal attack to nine goals and picking up six intercepts in the process. Beth Cobden continued her excellent form in wing defence for the Lightning, creating three intercepts.

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

2021 ANZ Premiership vs. VNSL Team of the Week: Round 5/16

IN the next edition of our new series, Draft Central has composed two Teams of the Week with one side each hailing from the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) and the other from the ANZ Premiership.

ANZ Premiership:

GS: Grace Nweke (Northern Mystics)
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Mainland Tactix)
WA: Shannon Saunders (Southern Steel)
C: Claire Kersten (Central Pulse)
WD: Maddy Gordon (Central Pulse)
GD: Elle Temu (Northern Stars)
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic)

BENCH: George Fisher (Southern Steel), Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Northern Stars),  Anna Harrison (Northern Stars)

It was a one woman show in the Mystics goal circle with Grace Nweke paving the way with her volume to post. The goal shooter inflicted plenty of pain on the scoreboard with her aerial abilities on full display as she toyed with the defenders. Nweke finished with a round high 59 goals from 63 attempts at an impressive 94 per cent. Te Paea Selby-Rickit was not the most accurate goaler this round but it was her match-winning goal and composure under pressure that saw her earn the spot in the starting seven. Classy with ball in hand, Selby-Rickit controlled proceedings for the Tactix in attack and most importantly was not afraid to go to post when it counted finishing with 20 goals from 29 attempts.

Southern Steel captain, Shannon Saunders was influential around circle edge to deliver pinpoint passes into the goalers and use her change of direction to keep her opponent guessing. Playing in wing attack, Saunders attacking mindset came to the fore with her hot hand and silky footwork to dance around the perimeter on full display throughout the game as she racked up 23 goal assists. The centre bib goes to Claire Kersten who was once again a pillar of consistency through the midcourt for the Pulse with her hard two-way running, slick hands and defensive nous. Kersten was involved in just about every passage of play whether it be attack or defence and the stats back it up as she recorded 18 goal assists, two gains and an intercept. Teammate Maddy Gordon takes out the wing defence position as the tenacious midcourter flexed her muscles around circle edge with her sheer athleticism. Able to ply her trade in defence and then flick a switch to transition the ball down the court in a blink of an eye is what gifted Gordon the start.

Elle Temu is back in the side for her second week in a row with the defender impressing and utilising her closing speed and physicality to win back her fair share of ball. Her netball smarts were on full display, attacking the ball with the outside arm and taking advantage of her leap to cleanly contest in the air racking up six gains and three intercepts. The goal keeper position goes to Temalisi Fakahokotau with the Magic defender working in overdrive to try and reduce the speed with which the ball was entering the goal circle while her ability to attack the rebound was also impressive. Although her side did not get the win she rendered her opponent inaccurate and created a wealth of chances for the Magic to forge forward.

England international, George Fisher put up another strong performance under the post with her clever body positioning, silky footwork and accuracy to post helping guide her side to a win. Joining her on the bench is Mila Reuelu-Buchanan with the centre a master with ball in hand. Her spatial awareness, deft touch and lightning quick footwork a couple of prominent features of her game play. The final spot goes to Anna Harrison who was once again an excitement machine down back with her long ranging arms creating a wealth of turnover ball.

VNSL:

GS: Donnell Wallam (Leeds Rhinos)
GA: Niamh McCall (Strathclyde Sirens)
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder)
C: Gia Abernethy (Strathclyde Sirens)
WD: Imogen Allison (Team Bath)
GD: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)
GK: Eboni Usoro-Brown (Team Bath)

BENCH: Joyce Mvula (Loughborough Lightning), Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning) Vicki Oyesola (Leeds Rhinos)

It is hard to go past Donnell Wallam who stood tall for Leeds Rhinos in their sole outing. Acting as the get out of jail free card under the post, Wallam made the pass look good into the circle and most importantly converted at a relatively high rate to walk away with 52 goals for the game. Joining her in the circle is Sirens goal attack Niamh McCall who had a game to remember posting 19 goals and only missing two showcasing her impressive accuracy and also her workrate to keep the scoreboard ticking over, putting up goals from anywhere within the circle.

Caroline O’Hanlon secured the wing attack position with her efforts across both games to hit circle edge with precision and showcased her impressive timing. Her confidence on the delivery was also prominent as she backed her execution and intuition into the Thunder goalers. Strathclyde Sirens centre, Gia Abernethy got the nod given her stellar game across the court. Her work both ways was second to none but her defensive tendencies really shone through in the clash as amassed two intercepts and a deflection. The wing defence position falls to Imogen Allison with the speedy midcourter employing some strong hands over pressure and impressive read of the play to pick-up three intercepts. She was a key cog through the midcourt for Team Bath able to mount pressure down back and then provide that release and reset pass in attack.

Funmi Fadoju had a day out for the Pulse with her tenacity and closing speed on full show. although she racked up a couple more penalties than she would have liked, the goal defence made up for it with her ability to win ball back amassing six intercepts and six deflections. alongside her in defence is none other than Team Bath goal keeper, Eboni Usoro-Brown. The Team Bath player was in scintillating form once again as she got hands to a wealth of ball to disrupt the attacking rhythm of the opposition collecting four deflections.

Looking to the bench and a couple of Loughborough Lightning teammates pair up with Joyce Mvula starring under the post with her split and nous to edge closer to the ring while Beth Cobden was a real workhorse down in wing defence credit to her ability to grind out games. The final spot goes to Vicki Oyesola who worked tirelessly down back for Leeds Rhinos consistently buttering up to throw herself into the contest and win ball back.