Tag: chiara semple

What if….. The VNSL introduced the Super Shot?

THE introduction of the two-goal Super Shot to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) has been the biggest shock to the netball community in recent history. Coaches, players and the biggest names in netball across the world have come forward with their thoughts on the introduction of the controversial rule change. But what would happen if the UK followed in the footsteps of the SSN and introduced a reward for long-range shooting?

No team would benefit more from this rule change than Wasps Netball. Renowned as the “long bomb queen” Rachel Dunn has a habit of slotting them from anywhere in the circle, and even from outside when it comes to Fast 5. She was the MVP at the British Fast 5 All Stars in 2018 and just missed out on that title in 2019 to the formidable Jo Harten. Backed up by Katie Harris and Alexia Baker, Wasps would be unstoppable if they managed to keep the score close during the first ten minutes of each quarter. With the experienced Dunn at the post, and their exciting defensive line of Fran Williams and Hannah Knights creating plenty of turnover ball, they would be back on top as the team to beat.

London Pulse’s Chiara Semple is another master of the long bomb. With good accuracy from range and the typical New Zealand confidence to post, Semple would most likely benefit from the Super Shot rule, as she typically shoots from distance anyway. With Sigi Burger standing at 6′ 5″ under the post for the rebound, Pulse could fire these off all day long. Especially given their exciting form at the start of the 2020 season, this would add another advantage to the already improving side. Another team with confidence in their attack end is Team Bath. You would expect youngster Sophie Drakeford-Lewis to rise to the challenge of a two-goal shot if it were introduced, and her connection with Kim Commane would provide a strong starting point.

Two England Roses who do not shy away from a long ranger are Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher for Manchester Thunder and Saracens Mavericks respectively. These two have such great composure on their shot and have both been going from strength to strength over the past few seasons. Whilst Fisher usually takes the majority of her shots from under the post, she is accurate from anywhere, memorably sinking one from near the transverse line in Fast 5. For Thunder, Cardwell has so much strength on the hold and knows how to create space for herself to find good mid-range shooting position. Given her skill in the circle, it would not be hard for her to transition into an exciting long-range shooter. Both of these teams benefit from strong and experienced shooting partnerships, Fisher with Kadeen Corbin, and Cardwell with Kathryn Turner, giving them the edge over teams with only young blood in the attacking end. Saracens Mavericks also have the advantage of defensive mastermind Razia Quashie, as well as tall tower Jo Trip, to scoop up any stray shots and build pressure at the back.

Both Celtic Dragons and Severn Stars have potential secret weapons when it comes to shooting from further away from the post. Jamaican import Rebekah Robinson has fantastic movement in the circle for Dragons and is a playmaker with the ability to shoot long when needed. England Fast Nets player Lucy Herdman delighted fans with her distance shooting at Fast 5 in 2019, leading Dragons to their first-ever semi-final in the competition. She now plies her trade for Severn Stars and while we did not see much of her on court during the short 2020 season, Herdman would be a valuable asset for Stars to have up their sleeve.

The remaining teams would probably struggle to keep up based on their current shooting strengths. Loughborough Lightning’s Ella Clark does have the experience shooting from range due to her basketball background, however her accuracy can sometimes falter when she is under heavy defensive pressure. Another team that would need to improve their accuracy to post are Strathclyde Sirens. Lynsey Gallagher can be a real threat, and as a shorter goal attack, she does tend to take shots from further out. However Sirens are usually less accurate than other teams on their goal conversion, and in a situation where shots are worth more than one point, this could really hurt their chances. For Surrey Storm, their issues lie in other areas of the court. Karen Bailey typically shoots from under the post, and while Sophie Hankin is a possible threat from further out, Storm would need to stay in touch with other teams to secure wins. After a shaky start to 2020 they will be rebuilding, and hopefully will have secured some of their structures by the time netball resumes.

Netball fans in the UK, like many in Australia, are generally not keen for the introduction of the Super Shot in the VNSL. Sara Bayman has been openly critical of the decision on the Netball Nation podcast, stating that the rule change moves even further away from the international game. She accused the new rule of “sabotaging your own national team” and believes it is likely to bring more bad news for the Diamonds. However, Tamsin Greenway has claimed this is a chance for netball to evolve and suggests we will see a move away from the tall holding shooter slotting them in from under the ring. Clubs in the UK may be glad this is being trialled down under and not in the VNSL during such a time of uncertainty for netball in the UK. Due to the backlash from netball fans in the UK, it seems unlikely that such a bold move would be considered, especially when the influence of broadcasters in England is much lower than in Australia.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 2 – Team Bath continues hot start to season

THE second round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) brought plenty of controversy and close encounters with sides battling hard to claim early ascendancy. New recruits continued to make waves in their new colours while the tried and tested combinations of years gone by also proved to be the difference in narrow wins.

Severn Stars (56) defeated by Manchester Thunder (65)

The Thunder made it two from two to open the season downing the Severn Stars in convincing fashion. It was an even first term with only one goal separating the sides at quarter time before the Thunder started to hit their straps in the second to extend their lead. But a strong third quarter from the Stars kept them alive scoring 17 goals to reduce the margin and keep them in touch heading into the final quarter. However, the Thunder were not about to lie down piling on the pain in the final quarter with an impressing 19 goals to run out with a strong nine goal lead. Accuracy proved no issue for either side with a combined 14 shots missed while Manchester proved to be stronger under the post offensively with 11 rebounds.

It was a shooting showdown, with Stars goal shooter Georgia Rowe leading from the front with an impressive 43 goals from 45 attempts at 96 per cent. Rowe was strong under the post holding her space and using her hands to reign in passes that came her way. Up the other end, Joyce Mvula owned the circle with the Thunder goaler going about her business with 22 goals and Eleanor Cardwell doing even more damaging finishing with 32 goals to her name. Cardwell rotated between shooter and goal attack highlighting her endurance and skill under the post while Kathryn Turner also plied her trade in the goal circle with 11 goals. Through the midcourt Amy Carter and Ashleigh Neal combined well to feed the Thunder shooters while both Liana Leota and Bethan Dyke for the Severn Stars worked tirelessly in attack to hit the circle edge and provide good ball use to the shooters. Defensively Ama Agbeze stood tall with her experience on full display with Towera Vinkhumbo and Ella Powell-Davies also having an impact down back but not able to effectively shut down the Thunder offence.

Loughborough Lightning (59) defeated Strathclyde Sirens (53)

After a poor start to their first home game of the season the Lightning clawed their way back into the game and overran the Sirens who seemed to have all the answers in the opening term. Loughborough only managed a mere seven goals in the first 15 minutes of the game thanks to the Sirens overwhelming pressure and ability to combat everything that the Lightning threw at them. But that quickly changed with Loughborough bursting out of the blocks in the second with 18 goals and returning the favour to their opposition limiting them to nine goals of their own. With momentum behind them the Lightning continued on that trajectory applying a wealth of scoreboard pressure with consecutive quarters of 17 goals apiece while the Sirens failed to recapture the same intensity they had in the first term gifting the Lightning a hard-fought win. To a certain extent the Sirens will be ruing their inaccuracy with 12 shots going astray while both sides will be pleased it was a relatively low penalty game with 45 and 35 apiece despite Samantha May receiving a warning due to her 14 penalties.

The Lightning were led by Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok with the goal shooter cool, calm and composed under the post only missing two goals and sinking an impressive 46 proving to be the go-to girl in her sides win. Cholhok was strong in the circle with Ella Clark playing a strong support role with 13 goals to keep the Lightning in the fight. Vicki Oyesola proved to the difference down in defence with her ability to read the play and take important intercepts or disrupt the attacking flow with her well-timed deflections. Up against Oyesola Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher showcased their strength and connection with clever shooter to shooter interplay. Goodwin was the dominant shooter with 31 goals from 38 attempts while Gallagher made an important 15 goal contribution while the seven goal cameo appearance from Niamh McCall was not enough to get them over the line. Zanele Vimbela continued her hot form in the defensive third with the defender racking up three intercepts pairing with Natalie Bright with ease. Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell were strong through the midcourt for the Sirens but wing Hannah Williams proved too much to handle with her clever touch around the circle edge.

Celtic Dragons (52) defeated by Team Bath (71)

The clash between the Dragons and Team Bath was filled with plenty of intensity and ferocity with Jamaican recruit Latanya Wilson order off the court after an ill-disciplined performance on the court. Down a player in the final term the Dragons found it hard to keep up with Team Bath who took it all in their stride and put on a show in the last quarter scoring a whopping 23 goals to 12 to run out with another strong win. It was an even start to the game with both sides sitting at 13 goals apiece before Bath got some separation in the second with a 19-goal term, a lead they were not willing to surrender despite their opponent’s best efforts. In the rebounding department, the ball seemed to fall Bath’s way credit to their positioning under the post winning both the offensive rebounds 12 to six and defensive nine to two.

After a stellar performance in her debut match Wilson tried to recreate her impressive form but struggled to stay away from the whistle. Her clumsiness and inability to play to the umpire’s call caused havoc, initially forced to the bench before re-entering the game and giving away a late penalty that was the final straw for the defender who found herself sent off for the remainder of the game leaving her side in the lurch. Abigail Tyrrel was a Trojan in defence working tirelessly to cover the slack left by Wilson but it was no match for the highly skilled shooting unit of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.  The load was relatively evenly split with Commane nailing 37 goals and Drakeford-Lewis posting 25 goals while newcomer Betsy Creak showed her hot hand with nine goals at 100 per cent. Co-captain Summer Artman was solid in goal keeper along with Imogen Allison and Tash Pavelin out the front. For the Dragons, the shooting combination of Amy Clinton and Brittany Coleman proved to be strong with Clinton nailing 31 goals and Coleman slotting 15 but it was not enough to worry the scoreboard. Shona O’Dwyer was a key cog in wing attack with her ability to feed the ball into the goalers.

Surrey Storm (50) defeated London Pulse (51)

It turned out to be a close contest between the Storm and Pulse with the latter prevailing thanks to their ability to ride the storm and hold strong under pressure. The Pulse well and truly blew the Storm out of the water with a staggering 19 to six goals opening term proving just how much power they have under the post. But the Storm were not about to be embarrassed fighting back hard in the second quarter giving the Pulse a taste of their own medicine with 18 goals of their own and keeping the Pulse to nine. With the margin at four goals at half time Surrey continued their hot form in the third quarter to take a slender one goal lead heading into the final change but failed to maintain that intensity falling agonisingly short. Storm had their fair share of chances missing 18 goals while the Pulse only missed seven shots. In terms of other key statistics neither side could be split with penalties 56-53 and intercepts seven to nine.

Sigi Burger has made herself at home in the new pink dress having an immediate impact under the post with her commanding height, good movement, holding ability and most importantly accuracy to post with 32 goals from 34 attempts at 94 per cent. She was ably assisted by goal attack Chiara Semple with 12 goals while wing attack Adean Thomas highlighted her ability to find space and thread the needle in the attacking third with her quick release. Wing defence Funmi Fadoju put up a strong performance for the Pulse doing her role to disrupt the attacking flow with four intercepts while goal keeper Halimat Adio plied her trade confusing the space and picking up three intercepts. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska proved that anything you can do I can do too with two intercepts combining well with fellow defender Katy Hughes. In the shooting circle, Karryn Bailey proved to have a hot hand with 35 goals while Sophie Hankin chipped in with 14 goals of her own.

Wasps Netball (57) defeated Saracens Mavericks (53)

In the final match of Round 2 the Wasps got on the winners list for the first time in 2020 after going down last week to reigning premiers, Manchester Thunder. Jade Clarke got things underway with the first centre pass of the game and that ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with the Wasps claiming an early lead in the first quarter and building on that as the game went on. A strong second quarter performance from the home side helped to set up the win with the Mavericks unable to get their noses in front despite reducing the margin after half time. It was an even performance under the post with each side only missing nine goals apiece while the rebounding column was won by the Wasps both in offence and defence.

England Roses and Wasps goaler Rachel Dunn led from the front letting her consistency and silky movement do all the talking while he volume was another key aspect of her game with 33 goals. Australian youngster Alexia Baker made her debut, pairing nicely with the experience of Dunn in the circle and showcasing just how much class she has with 11 goals from 13 attempts. Katie Harris also put in the hard yards in the circle with an important 13 goals to get the Wasps over the line. Jo Trip and Razia Quashie had their work cut out for them against high quality opposition with Quashie displaying her defensive prowess with four intercepts and two rebounds. Sasha Corbin was her usual solid self through the midcourt finding space and using her experience to weave her way through the traffic to deliver well weighted passes into sister Kadeen Corbin and George Fisher. Fisher was strong to post with a game-high 38 goals such is her dominance and skill while Kadeen managed 15 goals. But both were put under the pump thanks to Wasps’ defenders Fran Williams and Hannah Knights with the two collecting six rebounds and five intercepts between them.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 1 – Team Bath and Mavericks claim big victories

ROUND 1 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) started in style with reigning premiers Manchester Thunder keeping the good times rolling, while last years cellar dwellers London Pulse got an early win on the board.

Strathclyde Sirens (51) defeated by London Pulse (53)

It was a tight contest from the opening quarter with only three goals separating them at half-time credit to the high intensity from both sides and desperation to get the first win on the board. A strong 12-goal final quarter all but gifted the Pulse the win doing just enough to keep the Pulse at bay. It was hard to differentiate between both teams but the Pulse made the most of their opportunities under the post sitting at 51 per cent while defensively they gobbled up 100 per cent of rebounds that came their way. Meanwhile the Sirens showcased their defensive prowess with more intercepts.

Shooting duo Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher formed a strong partnership and although Goodwin slotted more goals with 31 compared to Gallagher’s 20 the load was relatively evenly spread. Goodwin showcased her vision as well collecting 13 goal assists and strength to take four rebounds. Through the midcourt Claire Maxwell showed her worth with two intercepts and a deflection but gave the ball away cheaply with 10 penalties and four turnovers to her name. Recruit Zanele Vimbela set tongues wagging with the highly touted South African defender picking up six intercepts and three deflections for her efforts. For the Pulse the addition of Sigi Burger paid dividends with the towering SPAR Proteas shooter nailing 44 goals proving to be a key target under the post. Chiara Semple played a good support role to Burger in the circle while Adean Thomas was impressive through midcourt. The defensive trio of Michelle Drayne, Lindsay Keable and Helimat Adio proved to be too much to handle with the three picking up six intercepts and two deflections between them.

Celtic Dragons (43) defeated by Surrey Storm (44)

A mere goal separated both sides at the final whistle with the Surrey Storm coming from behind to knock over the Dragons and secure their first three points of the season. The Dragons had all the ascendancy but let it slip right through their fingers in the fourth quarter with the Storm adding 13 goals to their total compared to the Dragons who only managed to slot another seven. The Storm had more unforced turnovers than their opponents but sat at a higher shooting percentage helping them to just sneak past the Dragons.

Amy Clinton proved to be the go-to-girl for Celtic Dragons with the goal shooter doing the bulk of the scoring with 26 goals while the goal attack position rotated between Brittany Coleman who posted nine goals and Jamaican Rebekah Robinson with eight goals. In her first game of VNSL Latanya Wilson took the competition by storm and claimed player of the match honours thanks to her impressive defensive efforts to repel the ball coming down the court and do the unthinkable with 10 intercepts, two rebounds and three deflections. For Surrey, it was Australian Karryn Bailey that led the way in the goal circle with 31 goals while both Sophie Hankin and Yasmin Hodge-England chipped in with four and five goals respectively to get their side over the line. Through the midcourt, coach/captain Mikki Austin got the ball rolling with her clever movement and impressive vision.

Saracens Mavericks (70) defeated Severn Stars (49)

It was a convincing second half performance by the Mavericks who did not look like giving the Stars any chance to work their way back into the contest. After being surprised in the opening term thanks to the Stars opening up a six-goal lead, the Mavericks wrestled back momentum and put the foot well and truly down. The Mavericks put on a show in the second quarter adding a whopping 23 goals to their total and establishing a nine-goal lead heading into half-time. That lead only grew as the match went on, eventually running away with a 21-goal victory. Accuracy proved to be no issues for the Mavs, while their defensive intent was also on display winning the intercepts battle. The unforced errors column leaned towards the Stars while in terms of turnovers the Mavericks had more.

Roses goaler, George Fisher did not put a foot wrong in her outing for the Mavs with the talented goal shooter nailing 51 goals credit to her silky footwork and strong holds under the post. Fisher provided a good release target while goal attack Kadeen Corbin got to work opening up space around her and hitting the scoreboard with 19 goals. Not only did she do the attacking role well but so too made her presence felt in defence with two impressive intercepts. Defensively goal keeper Razia Quashie was a rock down back using her read of the play to pluck off seven intercepts along with two deflections. Her partnership with Jo Trip was strong stopping Severn Stars shooters Georgia Rowe and Paige Reed any easy avenue to goal. Rowe top scored for the stars with 32 goals while through the midcourt Liana Leota used her speed to hit circle edge. New comer Ama Agbeze had her moments of magic but collected plenty of attention from the umpire with eight penalties.

Team Bath (72) defeated Loughborough Lightning (58)

After falling short of the grand final in season 2019, Team Bath came out with a real point to prove and unfortunately for the Lightning they were on the end of their scoring barrage. Bath put on the after burners in the second half putting on a 20 and 19-goal spectacle to all but seal the deal ultimately running the Lightning off their feet. It was relatively even in the first quarter with both sides working on their connections across the court but once Bath kicked into gear they could not be stopped despite not having the likes of Eboni Usoro-Brown and Serena Guthrie. In terms of accuracy, Bath was deadly under the post making the most of their opportunities. Not only was their attacking end on fire, but so too defence claiming more intercepts and rebounds than Loughborough.

Team Bath underwent a leadership change over the off-season with Kim Commane and Summer Artman at the helm after Usoro-Brown announced her pregnancy. The co-captaincy seemed to do wonders for Commane, with the Aussie goaler putting on a clinic in the goal circle with an impressive 55 goals, while youngster Sophie Drakeford-Lewis chimed in with a handy 13 goals to really punish their opponents. Betsy Creak also played a good cameo role with her four goals while through the midcourt Imogen Allison plied her trade in centre getting hands to ball and delivering well-weighted passes into the circle. Mary Cholhok was the dominant shooter for the Lightning putting up 48 goals with goal attack Ella Clark nailing nine goals but it was not enough to worry Bath’s defence end. Nat Panagarry and Jessica Shaw shared the centre position while down back Alice Harvey worked tirelessly collecting three intercepts and two deflections in trying conditions.

Manchester Thunder (62) defeated Wasps Netball (55)

In the grand final rematch it was once again the Thunder that got the wood over the Wasps with a seven-goal victory. The Wasps were never really in the match with the Thunder establishing an early lead and keeping them at arms-length throughout. Just like a well-oiled machine Manchester kicked into gear from the first whistle forcing the Wasps onto the back foot and shutting down any easy avenue to goal. The Thunder seemed to reign supreme in all areas over the court with their accuracy marginally better than the Wasps and collecting both more intercepts and rebounds than their opponents highlighting their increased hunt for the ball. Despite having a higher percentage of turnovers with 71 per cent compared to 29 per cent they managed to have an impact when they had ball in hand.

With plenty of deadly options under the post, Eleanor Cardwell got the start and did the most damage with the shooter putting on 40 goals while Joyce Mvula also showcased her explosiveness with 17 goals of her own. Kathryn Turner also hit the scoreboard with five goals highlighting the versatility they have in the goal circle. Through the midcourt both Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm used their vision and speed to have an impact across the court whether it be in defence or in transition. Defensively Loreen Ngwira was a rock picking up four intercepts showcasing her strength and read of the play. For the Wasps the tried and trusted combination of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris lived up to expectations with the two rotating through the circle nicely and complimenting each other’s style of play. Dunn was the top scorer with 34 goals while Harris showed her worth under the post with 20 goals. Jade Clarke was strong in wing defence while Fran Williams showed her impressive footwork and defensive mindset with two intercepts and six deflections.

Team Bath claims another pre-season tournament win

THE pre-season tournament between the Celtic Dragons, London Pulse and Team Bath gave sides one more chance for a final hit out before the Vitality Superleague kicks off at the end of the month. In the end it was Team Bath that came out victorious winning both of their games to claim early bragging rights and stamp their authority on the competition.

Celtic Dragons (26) defeated by London Pulse (33)

Despite scoring the opening goal of the game, the Celtic Dragons were unable to maintain that high intensity with the London Pulse using their ball movement and speed to punish their opposition. Pulse steadily increased their lead at each break heading into half-time with an eight-goal advantage thanks to the likes of South African goaler Sigi Burger sitting pretty under the post. Burger is deadly when on song able to use her footwork to manoeuvre her way around the goal circle and use her commanding height to hold strong. Goal attack Chiara Semple played a solid support role to the South African, while down the other end the defensive combination of Kate Lloyd and Halimat Adio proved too strong picking up a wealth of intercepts. With the odds stacked against them, the Dragons fought their way back into contention reducing the margin back to five goals. New recruit Latanya Wilson did not muck around making an immediate impact with her defensive intent and long reach. Paired with Dee Bolakoro the two made for a dominant force but simply could not contain Burger.

Team Bath (44) defeated London Pulse (32)

Both sides had plenty to prove with Team Bath hoping to get the early ascendancy and the Pulse aiming to make it two from two, however it was Bath that got the last laugh with a 12-goal victory. It was a hot contest with neither side able to be separated at half-time with 19 goals apiece despite Team Bath being up at quarter time. A slight lapse in concentration left the door open for the Pulse but an 11-goal third quarter and 14-goal final term all but slammed it shut. Kim Commane was strong under the post using her body positioning to hold her space while goal attack Sophie Drakeford Lewis went about her business using her speed and quick hands to full advantage. Wing defence Imogen Allison used her defensive pressure to swat balls away while goal keeper Summer Artman also made her presence felt down back with timely intercepts and her ability to confuse the space for the likes of Olivia Tchine and Semple. Jamaican Adean Thomas was strong through the midcourt able to hit the circle edge for Pulse pairing well with Michelle Drayne in centre but their influence was not enough to get the Pulse over the line with Team Bath running out with a 12-goal victory.

Team Bath (40) defeated Celtic Dragons (18)

In the final game of the tournament, Team Bath flexed their muscles to take home a 22-goal victory over the Dragons. Unfortunately, the Dragons failed to register a win in the tournament with Bath proving too strong from the get-go. They kept that momentum rolling throughout the game with the Dragons struggling to find answers after half time for their quick ball movement. Commane was unstoppable once again finding the net with ease and using her baseline drives to claim prime positioning. Fionnuala Toner owned the wing defence position while Khanyisa Chawane made her presence felt in centre running hard both ways and showcasing her defensive tendencies. Both sides were not afraid to empty the bench and give everyone a chance to pull on the bib and have an influence across the court. The fourth quarter was messy with intercepts galore for both sides but Team Bath were simply too good and clinical across the board to be fazed by the Dragons. Despite goal shooter, Brittany Coleman’s best efforts she was unable to get easy access to the post, well covered for large chunks of the game. Shona O’Dwyer and Paige Kindred worked tirelessly through the midcourt but in the end, Team Bath were in total control.

VNSL 2020 team preview: London Pulse

WITH the 2020 season of the Vitality Netball Superleague now upon us, we take a look at each team heading into a massive year in Superleague netball. The next team in our season preview is London Pulse.

Coach: Sam Bird
2019 finish: 10th (2-16)

Pulse struggled to find form in their inaugural superleague season, finding it tough to compete for four quarters and ultimately were unable to live up to the hype of some of their key players. While they had some great patches that proved they had plenty in them, their experienced players did not stand up when required making it tough for the young talent to take hold of opportunities. One thing the Pulse missed last season was the consistency, with players rotating in and out of the side from injury making it tough to eliminate issues week in and week out. 

2020 predictions:

Pulse are well and truly in need of a fresh start and will hope to do just that with a new-look side on the cards for 2020. With some big domestic and international pickups the side is looking for an immediate look in to the 2020 season, though fans will hope they don’t go the same way as their 2019 side which, despite key signings, was unable to compete consistently. The Pulse will need to make sure they create a star team rather than a team of star players if they want to make a real mark on the competition.

Key pick-up: Sigi Burger GS (Surrey Storm)

The addition of South African goaler Sigi Burger this season is sure to have an immediate impact, with the goal shooter having a stellar 2019 season with the Storm, making for another big season with her ability to find space. Despite standing at 194cm, Burger has the versatility to switch up her position and create opportunities thanks to her accuracy and confidence to post. Burger will hope to combine well with Chiara Semple in goals, with the pair needing to create a formidable duo to turn the 2019 season on its head.

Team list:

Adean Thomas (Jamaica)
Chiara Semple
Halimat Adio
Kate Lloyd (New Zealand)
Kira Rothwell
Lindsay Keable (Saracens Mavericks)
Michelle Drayne (Saracens Mavericks)
Olivia Tchine
Sigi Burger (Surrey Storm)
Zara Everitt (Loughborough Lightning)
Ashleigh Dekker
Funmi Fadoju
Monique Thompson
Ellie Rattu
Emma Thacker

Vitality Netball Superleague wrap: Round 18

IT has been a big season of Vitality Netball Superleague action, and with 18 rounds under their belts every team has come away with some big wins and disappointing losses. In one of the closest and most exciting VNSL seasons yet, four big-name clubs ran over the rest of the competition and put on some dazzling performances across the board to be well-deserving of a finals position. With all five matches played at the same time on Saturday, every team had to fight for a win to maintain their position on the ladder, while some teams were in desperate need of results out of their hands. The final round for 2019 saw two games come down to five point margins, while Wasps Netball, Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning finished off the home and away season with a bang with another strong win in the books. The Saracens Mavericks have missed out on finals by the skin of their teeth, putting their twelfth win on the board but needing a loss from one of the top four – all of which came out on top in their respective matches.

Loughborough Lightning slotted their thirteenth win of the season, beating Celtic Dragons by 11 goals in the must-win match and finishing in fourth to guarantee a finals position. In veteran, Kyra Jones’ final match for the Dragons, Lightning came out strong from the get-go, putting 20 goals on the board in the first term before the Dragons put on a strong defensive effort in the second to even up the ledger with 14 goals apiece, though still down by six at half time. A more consistent effort from the Lightning in the second half saw the Dragons fade out towards the end, however the Dragons managed to keep the margin lower than their last match to finish the season on a good note. The likes of Hannah Joseph and Ella Clark worked seamlessly around the circle, while the connection between Clark and goal shooter, Mary Cholhok was strong as ever as the pair put up shot after shot and consistently producing options in goal. Chelsea Lewis and Kalifa McCollin did their job well at the post, however Lightning’s intent was too much as defensive efforts from Tuaine Keenan and Vicki Oyesola forced turnovers at every opportunity.

Saracens Mavericks have suffered a blow in the final round of the season, securing a five goal win over Strathclyde Sirens but missing out on finals after an inconsistent season saw the side relying on losses in the top four to make it through. Sirens have finished the season with only three wins on the board, however are sure to be content with a solid effort in the final match of the year, ready to build on their form ahead of next season. Sirens kept Mavericks on their toes throughout the match, likely giving the Mavericks a scare as they came out firing and stayed in the match until the bitter end, only down by three goals at three quarter time. Though never taking the lead, the Sirens pushed the Mavericks and put on a strong four-quarter effort to try and ruin finals chances for their opposition. Player of the match, Sasha Corbin put on a show through the midcourt, while defensive efforts from Sirens defenders, Emily Nicholl and Emma Gibbons forced dominant goaler, George Fisher to the bench as Corbin’s efforts were wasted in attack. A strong defensive push from Razia Quashie and Jo Trip saw the Mavericks take advantage of any loose ball across the court, creating turnovers and doubt in the Sirens’ minds as they crept closer, giving the Mavericks a vital surge to get the job done. Young sharpshooter, Emma Barrie put in the hard yards despite constant pressure from the likes of Quashie, while centre, Gia Abernethy was exceptional placing the ball to advantage.

Team Bath had a fantastic finish to the season, comfortably running over the resilient London Pulse by 22 goals and securing a finals berth against Manchester Thunder on Saturday. Bath started out strong against the Pulse, shooting 39 goals to 23 in the first half to all but guarantee a win against the competition newcomers. The hard and fast start saw the side slow down in the third, with Pulse showing some intensity and taking two goals off the half-time margin, before a 20 goal to 11 final term saw Bath take a confident win in front of a 1300 strong home crowd and retain their position in third ahead of finals. Player of the match, Kim Commane was stellar at the post for Bath, shooting the lights out and putting her side at an eight goal to nil lead early in the first. Interestingly, Pulse chose to start youngster, Bea Skingsley in goal defence, only bringing on captain, Ama Agbeze in the second term in an attempt to tag out speedy Bath goal attack, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis. Despite strong efforts at the post from Pulse shooters, Shantal Slater and Chiara Semple, who have settled well into their partnership since the beginning of the season, Bath’s defensive efforts were just too strong with the likes of Summer Artman, Eboni Usoro-Brown and Imogen Allison maintaining their strong form and consistently producing turnovers to feed back forward.

The Wasps were the one team guaranteed a finals spot after Round 18, but that did not stop the side from putting on another phenomenal performance to finish the home and away season on a high, managing a 15 goal victory over Severn Stars. In true Wasps form, the side came out strong in the opening term, putting shots up and denying goals at the other end as they relegated the Stars to only nine goals in the first. Despite a strong effort through the second and third quarters from the Stars, the Wasps pulled off a stellar final quarter to open the margin again and shoot 15 goals to six for their fifteenth win of the season. With the likes of Bongi Msomi and Jade Clarke generating plenty of turnover ball and creating opportunities in attack, goalers Katie Harris and Rachel Dunn had no issue putting shots up to maintain the lead. Credit to the defensive efforts of the Stars, with Sam Cook and Ella Powell-Davies putting in the hard yards to work back possession, reducing the Wasps to only 12 goals in the third quarter as clean ball movement through the midcourt provided plenty of options for the likes of Georgia Rowe at the post.

In a surprisingly close finish Manchester Thunder guaranteed a finals berth, beating a fired up Surrey Storm by only five goals after being down by one at three quarter time. It was a match of two halves, as Storm came out hard and fast to limit the usually clinical Thunder to only nine goals in the first term before being restricted to nine goals in the second as the Thunder overcame Storm’s tough defence and shot 19 goals to be up by six at half time. Storm reset at half time, flying out of the blocks to shoot 21 goals for their best quarter score of the season, once again limiting Thunder’s shooting efforts. However a strong defensive effort from Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond in the final term pulled back the margin once again, seeing the Thunder settle through the midcourt and take a much needed win to secure a home semi-final. While Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell were solid in the goal circle, shooting with great composure to keep ahead of the Storm, the likes of Sigi Burger, Rhea Dixon and Yasmin Hodge-England were just as cool, calm and collected for Storm, settling the ball against the phenomenal defensive efforts of Almond and Dovey.

Final Ladder: 2019
1. Wasps Netball (15-3)
2. Manchester Thunder (13-5)
3. Team Bath (13-5)
4. Loughborough Lightning (13-5)
5. Saracens Mavericks (12-6)
6. Severn Stars (7-11)
7. Celtic Dragons (6-12)
8. Surrey Storm (6-12)
9. Strathclyde Sirens (3-15)
10. London Pulse (2-16)

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 18

THE final round of the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague begins and ends on Saturday, with all five games played at 6pm at venues across the UK. Four teams are still currently in contention for a finals finish, with the Saracens Mavericks relying on a win at home and a loss from one of Manchester Thunder, Team Bath or Loughborough Lightning to make finals. Wasps Netball have secured a home final already so are unlikely to push too hard this round, while Surrey Storm, Celtic Dragons and London Pulse have one last opportunity to impact the ladder by getting a win against potentially finals-bound sides. Second on the ladder will host a semi final, so with three teams sitting on the same win-loss ratio this season, the likes of Thunder, Bath and Lightning are likely to fight hard for that home final.

Loughborough Lightning take on Celtic Dragons at Sir David Wallace Arena in a must-win matchup, currently sitting in fourth on the ladder and needing a win to control their position in the top four. Last time they met Lightning outclassed the Dragons, however the Wales-based team has shown massive improvements since their Round 9 clash so will want to continue their good form following a win last week. The likes of Stacian Facey and Dee Bolakoro came out flying last round and will need to be on form again this week to shut down the strength and height of Mary Cholhok at the post and cut off Ella Clark’s long bomb shots on goal. Meanwhile, Tuaine Keenan and Vicki Oyesola will want to team up with Nat Panagarry to shut down the midcourt and defensive end to lock the ball into Lightning attack, with dominant Dragons shooter, Chelsea Lewis improving week after week.

In another big match, Saracens Mavericks host Strathclyde Sirens at Hertfordshire Sports Village in a bid to keep their finals hopes alive. The Mavericks had a convincing win over the Sirens last time they played, seeing the Sirens come out firing before petering off early in the second quarter under the immense pressure of the Mavericks’ defensive unit. The Mavericks won by a phenomenal 30 goals and kept the home side to less than ten goals in three of the four quarters, so will want to replicate that performance. The Sirens will want to finish their disappointing season on a high with a good contest against the Mavericks, so will need to shut down feeds into the circle and movement through attack. Jo Trip was the high flyer of the Mavericks’ big win last round against the Severn Stars, so along with Razia Quashie will want to push Emma Barrie and Lynsey Gallagher in the circle to reduce scoring opportunities and push the ball back through the midcourt. With a wealth of experience and options in attack, the Mavericks are spoilt for choice in the goals with the likes of George Fisher, Kadeen Corbin and Karyn Bailey able to rotate seamlessly through the circle with accuracy no issue.

Next up, Team Bath host London Pulse at Team Bath Arena, aiming for their thirteenth win in the hopes of a home final, while Pulse have one last opportunity to get a win in their debut season. In their last matchup the Pulse gave Bath a shock, coming from 12 goals behind in the last quarter to only lose by four goals, so Team Bath should know better now than to underestimate the bottom team on the ladder, especially given Pulse’s upset win over Mavericks in Round 13. With two highly experienced and game changing England Roses defenders on court in Bath’s Eboni Usoro-Brown and Pulse’s Ama Agbeze, the defensive battle on court in this match will be one to watch. Though Chiara Semple and Shantal Slater have shown immense improvement over the course of the season, up against Usoro-Brown and Summer Artman their talent may be outweighed by the experience and depth of Bath’s exceptional defensive unit. Comparatively, the likes of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis have upped their game and connection over the second half of the season, so will be a force to be reckoned with for Agbeze and her defensive partners in crime, Loreen Ngwira and Jas Odeogberin. If Pulse can shut down the speed and influence of Serena Guthrie through the midcourt, they may have the power to get one more win for the season.

The Stars will aim for their eighth win of the season this round to equal their 2018 season, hosting Wasps Netball at Worcester Arena in one of the least finals-influencing matches of the round. The Wasps have already cemented their finals position, sitting two wins clear on the ladder, so will want to continue their exceptional form heading into finals with another win to finish off the season. The Stars put on a stellar performance last match against the Wasps, holding the hosts to only 13 goals in the second half but unfortunately going down by seven goals. Despite a disappointing Round 17 loss to Mavericks, the Stars will want to come out firing and put some pressure on the Wasps in their final match for the 2019 season. The Stars will have to think about how they feed into the likes of Georgia Rowe at the post this round, with defensive height in the circle courtesy of Fran Williams and Josie Huckle. The Stars will need to put on the accelerator to combat the influence, speed and footwork of pocket rocket, Bongi Msomi who has been dominant all season in wing attack for the Wasps, providing plenty of ball to the likes of Rachel Dunn in the goal circle.

Finally, Surrey Storm will host Manchester Thunder at Surrey Sports Park in the hopes to spoil Thunder’s dominant 2019 season. Storm is another side that has improved leaps and bounds over the course of the season, so will want to come out and put on a big performance this round after a 24 point loss in Round 9. Storm will be hoping the vertical jump and aerial ability of defender, Lorraine Kowalewska will be on show against the likes of Joyce Mvula this week, with the Malawian shooter proving week in and week out that she is a force to be reckoned with at the post. Down the other end, the likes of Sigi Burger will need to be on fire in the circle to keep Storm in the match against the defensive prowess of Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond. Spectators will hope to see a big matchup between the speed and agility of New Zealander and Thunder wing attack, Liana Leota against the power and impact of South African and Storm wing defence, Shadine Van Der Merwe, with both players able to generate excitement around the court.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 17

ROUND 17 of the Vitality Netball Superleague is the penultimate round of the competition, making it a big one, with some teams banking their finals opportunities on the outcome of the final two rounds. Rival teams in the top four face off against one another, with both sides requiring a win this round to ensure a finals berth. Two top four sides will battle lower teams on the ladder, with both the Loughborough Lightning and Saracens Mavericks wanting to keep their respective two-match winning streaks and finals hopes alive. Unless Strathclyde Sirens pull off the biggest spoil of the season, Wasps Netball are likely to stay in top spot for another week, after cementing a semi final appearance at the end of Round 16.

Game one of the round will see the Sirens host the Wasps on Friday night at 7:30pm at Emirates Arena. The Sirens managed their third win for the season last round after a tough match against London Pulse, so will want to replicate their form with the likes of Emma Barrie on fire in the circle, skilfully evading defence. However, the Wasps have set up their season well to be one of the best in the competition, and have shown they are willing to play hard and fast to get every win possible. It will take some strong defensive efforts from the Sirens to keep Wasps shooters, Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris down, with both players able to share the load and create opportunities for the other. The Sirens have put in the hard yards in the latter end of the season with the loss of star shooter, Cat Tuivaiti, so will want to prove their place in the competition with a hard contest against the Wasps, regardless of the final score.

With four matches on Saturday afternoon and three at 4pm, the first will be an intriguing mid-ladder matchup as the Celtic Dragons host Surrey Storm at Sports Wales National Centre. The Dragons are only one spot below Storm on the ladder, having crept up to manage five wins this season. They have showed massive improvement in their connection across the court and have gained consistency throughout the season. This season is already a win for the Dragons, who finished tenth on the ladder in both 2017 and 2018, but the side will want to keep their good form going into the remaining two rounds. Similarly, Storm have had an excellent second half of the season, managing a big upset in Round 13 and pushing some of the higher ranking teams along the way. Dragons defenders, Stacian Facey and Dee Bolakoro have only strengthened their relationship on court this season, reading the play with ease, so will be ready to push the likes of Sigi Burger at the post and deny Storm opportunities on goal.

Next up is a hopefully ladder-boosting match for the Lightning, who take on London Pulse at Copperbox Arena. Despite their position in fourth on the ladder, the Lightning will need to storm into this match to not give the Pulse an opportunity to get ahead and gain momentum, having done exactly that against the Mavericks in Round 13. Meanwhile, the Pulse will want to build on both their win against the Mavericks and the Storm’s win against Lightning to get over the line this round. Pulse have proven to be a force to be reckoned with in recent weeks, holding up defensively despite being unable to get an elusive third win on the board. With only two more weeks to turn around their inaugural season, the Pulse will want to be firing on all cylinders in the goal circle and prove their shooters, Chiara Semple and Shantal Slater have what it takes against the strong defensive movement of Tuaine Keenan and Vicki Oyesola.

In another intriguing match on Saturday, the Mavericks will host Severn Stars at Hertfordshire Sports Village. The Stars are another side that has slowly improved this season. After managing eight wins last year and only seven this season with two rounds left, they will want to turn up to both their final matches with a fire in the belly and desire to ruin finals hopes for their opposition. The Mavericks cannot afford another loss this season if they want to participate in finals, so need a big win over the Stars to give themselves a proper opportunity at finals contention. Last round, Sasha Corbin showed off the full brunt of her game smarts and skill with the ball, so will need to draw on that same energy to get the Mavericks off to a big start. Defensively, Sam Cook has been in fine form in recent weeks so will have her work cut out for her against the rotating shooting circle made up of George Fisher, Kadeen Corbin and Karyn Bailey.

The final match of Round 17 is likely the biggest of the weekend, with second-ranked Manchester Thunder hosting third-ranked Team Bath at Belle Vue at 5pm. Though Bath are currently sitting happy in third, a win for the Lightning coupled with a loss to the Thunder could mean they get bumped down with only one round left for the season. The Thunder are not in quite as dire a situation when they get on court, but their intensity and consistency makes them one of the high flyers of the competition and will be hard to stop once they get going. Last time they met, Team Bath came out on top after a physical encounter that saw both sides get plenty of action, with both teams boasting some of the best defensive partnerships in the competition. This match is sure to bring out the best of the best in terms of pressure across the court. Bath will once again rely on Serena Guthrie to push through Thunder’s midcourt barrier, while the likes of Summer Artman and Eboni Usoro-Brown will be pivotal for Bath’s success. For Thunder, Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey will want to pull out all the stops to deny Bath access to the goal circle, with the accuracy of their opposition something to watch out for.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 15/16 – Big Easter Weekend

A HUGE weekend of Vitality Netball Superleague begins this weekend, with both Round 15 and Round 16 taking place over a big two days of the VNSL Big Easter Weekend round robin. Some potentially ladder defining games on Saturday could shake up the weekend, while two top five clashes on Sunday could all but confirm which sides will take part in finals.

This weekend will see all teams play twice, with Ricoh Arena and Emirates Arena hosting majority of the games, while one game will be played at an alternate venue on Saturday night. Emirates Arena will see home side Strathclyde Sirens play Loughborough Lightning and London Pulse over the weekend in Glasgow. The Sirens will also host Manchester Thunder at their home court but will escape the Thunder’s wrath for another week, with the Thunder taking on their same opposition. The standalone game of Saturday night will see the Severn Stars host Team Bath at University of Gloucestershire at 6pm, before heading to Ricoh Arena on Sunday to compete in the second day of the round robin. Wasps Netball will host the alternate round robin in Coventry at Ricoh Arena, taking on Surrey Storm and Celtic Dragons across the two days while also hosting Saracens Mavericks, Stars and Bath.

Round 15: Saturday 20 April

2:00 pm Sirens vs Lightning (Emirates Arena)
4:00 pm Pulse vs Thunder (Emirates Arena)
5:00 pm Wasps vs Storm (Ricoh Arena)
6:00 pm Stars v Bath (University of Gloucestershire)
7:00 pm Mavericks vs Dragons (Ricoh Arena)

The first game of the VNSL Big Easter Weekend will see Strathclyde Sirens host Loughborough Lightning at 2pm. The Lightning need a win this week after two losses on the trot, so will want to restore confidence in their partnership across the court with a big win to remain in the top four. The Sirens have struggled so far this season, only managing two wins for the year, but have shown some good improvement over the last few weeks. The likes of Gia Abernethy and Nicola McCleery put in a tough slog last round to push through the midcourt into attack so will need to keep up their intensity against a much stronger opposition this week. Missing Cat Tuivaiti in goals for the remainder of season 2019, Lynsey Gallagher and Emma Barrie will need to lift after a frustrating performance last round, especially coming up against the likes of Vicki Oyesola and Tuaine Keenan in defence.
Last time they met: Lightning only came out on top by 11 points, so the Sirens will want to beat that margin this time around and put their side in a good position to get a third win on the board. Lightning goaler, Mary Cholhok was her usual dominant self under the post, but defence has put the stop on her influence in recent weeks so she will need to lift her game and switch up her gameplay to ensure the Lightning do not come out of this weekend with another shock loss on their hands.

Next up at 4pm will see London Pulse host Manchester Thunder in a bottom versus top of the ladder clash, in a battle that the Pulse will likely prepare for in a similar way to their dominant performance against the Mavericks in Round 13. To make the Pulse’s life easier the Thunder suffered a shock loss last round, though the Thunder are renowned for bouncing back well week after week. The Thunder have dominated from early in the season, continuously improving week after week and are well deserved of top spot despite their slip up last week, so if Pulse do not put on the pressure from the first whistle the Thunder will surely come out on top. The Pulse have shown that they have the ability to overcome a team with similar accolades to Thunder, so will want to confidently come into this match but also not underestimate the intensity of the Thunder.
Last time they met: Thunder came out on top by 15 points with the likes of Liana Leota threading pinpoint passes into the circle, while the Pulse were still in the early days of cementing their connections in attack. The pairing of Chiara Semple and Shantal Slater at the post have been essential throughout the middle of the season, so will want to keep up their great shooting form against the intensity and crowding Thunder defenders, Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond bring to the circle.

At 5pm Wasps Netball will host the Surrey Storm for the first game of the weekend in Coventry. This is an intriguing matchup, with the Storm putting on the accelerator in recent weeks and fighting to get back to the top half of the ladder. Meanwhile, the Wasps are yet to dip below the top five so are unlikely to come out of this game with a loss. That being said, the Storm were exceptional against the Wasps’ fellow top four team, Lightning in Round 13, so the Wasps cannot afford to go into this game without caution. Sigi Burger has dominated at the post recently, so a big matchup will see Burger take on the likes of Josie Huckle and Fran Williams who will have to pull out all the stops to stop Burger’s influence. The Storm will want another win this week to continue their slow creep up the ladder, hoping to disrupt the Mavericks’ finals chances.
Last time they met: The Wasps dominated their Round 4 matchup, with the Storm coming out strong before dropping their game in the third quarter and only shooting six goals to 21. The Storm have shown great improvement this season, taking some big scalps and will want to pull out the big guns for a potentially season-defining performance. The Wasps need some big wins this weekend to jump Thunder on the ladder to be back in first, so will look to replicate their dominant defensive performance.

Severn Stars will host Team Bath at the University of Gloucestershire in another intriguing matchup, with the Stars coming into this match off the back of a phenomenal win over the Thunder in Round 14. The Stars are sure to give Bath a push, while Bath have had issues with consistency across games this season so will want to take this opportunity to string two wins in a row again and show the Stars why they are in the top three teams at this point of the season. Opposition goal shooters, Georgia Rowe and Kim Commane are both dominant players in their own right, so it will really be the midcourt battle in this match that could define the outcome, while both sides will want to bring their goal attacks into the match to take some of the pressure off their respective shooters.
Last time they met: A Round 4 replacement match in the middle of Round 11 saw Bath come out on top after a slow start from the Stars gave the home side a four point buffer at half time. An inconsistent second half kept the Stars in the game but saw Bath’s defensive prowess really show, especially when under the pump. Eboni Usoro-Brown and Summer Artman put on a show again last week in defence, and are in fine form with the exceptional partnership of Serena Guthrie and Imogen Allison through the midcourt.

In the final match of Round 15 Saracens Mavericks will take on the Celtic Dragons at 7pm. Earlier in the season the Mavericks may have been looking forward to an easy win this round, however the Dragons have fixed up some consistency issue in recent weeks while the Mavericks seemed to have lost some of their composure and balance across the court. In a turn of events the Dragons will come into this game off the back of a win, while the Mavericks have dropped three matches in a row so come into this matchup in dire need of a victory to keep their finals hopes alive. The likes of Razia Quashie will need to come out firing against Dragons shooters, Chelsea Lewis and Kalifa McCollin to ensure the Mavericks reduce opportunities at the post.
Last time they met: The Mavericks came out on top by 22 goals in Round 4, so the side will want to back up their dominant performance to get a much needed second win against the Dragons. Lewis and McCollin struggled with accuracy in their last match against the Mavericks, but have improved tenfold over the last few rounds to prove their prowess at the post. In comparison, George Fisher put on an exceptional performance in Round 4 so will want to put up her regular volume of shots to wash away the sloppiness of the last few rounds.

Round 16: Sunday 21 April

2:00 pm Wasps vs Dragons (Ricoh Arena)
2:00 pm Sirens vs Pulse (Emirates Arena)
4:00 pm Storm vs Stars (Ricoh Arena)
4:00 pm Lightning vs Thunder (Emirates Arena)
6:00 pm Bath vs Mavericks (Ricoh Arena)

After a big Saturday across the board, Round 16 will begin with two 2pm games, the first between Wasps Netball and Celtic Dragons. The Dragons will hope to come into this matchup with one more win under their belt in order to boost their confidence when coming up against the Wasps, who have continuously proven they are an exceptional side, and certainly one of the teams to beat. Matchups to watch in this game are the defensive pairing of Dee Bolakoro and Stacian Facey against the likes of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris, with both duos showing more and more of their individual flair with the more time they get together.
Last time they met: Dragons hosted the Wasps in a disappointing match, with the Wasps coming out on top by 12 goals after a stellar middle portion of the game. The Dragons went goal for goal with the Wasps in the first and final quarters, so will want to combine their improved consistency with the volume of shots Lewis has been putting up in recent weeks to find it in them to take home a big win. Bongi Msomi was key for the Wasps’ win in Round 6, so will want to ensure she puts on another dominant performance at the circle edge to feed to shooters, Dunn and Harris.

Also at 2pm is the big match between Strathclyde Sirens and London Pulse, two teams that are sitting at the bottom of the ladder currently on the same amount of points. The Pulse have shown great improvement throughout the season, seemingly improving their teamwork and error management every single week, and have really started putting the pressure on their opposition. The Sirens have had issues with consistency all season but put on some good performances over the last few rounds – most impressively pushing Bath to the very end in Round 11 and their big win over the Mavericks in Round 13 – and proving that they could be a big threat if they had the ability to put on the pressure for a full four quarter effort. The Pulse have gelled a lot since last playing the Sirens and shown that despite their countless losses, they have the ability to improve and evolve from their early season issues on court.
Last time they met: The Sirens came out on top in Round 6, with that win their most recent for the season. The six goal victory saw the Pulse stay on par with the Sirens in the first half, before a 32 to 26 goal second half saw the Pulse struggle, swapping out goalers to try and find some resemblance of their first half performance. The Sirens once again had Cat Tuivaiti on court last time these sides played, so Pulse will want to exploit the lack of Tuivaiti’s experience at the post and put some pressure on Sirens’ goalers. Though this is likely to be a closer match than their last, the outcome leans in Pulse’s direction considering the continued improvement of the side and communication between Shantal Slater and Chiara Semple in the circle.

Another two games will take place at 4pm on Sunday, with big battles on both courts that could change the course of the rest of the season. Surrey Storm will take on the Severn Stars, with both teams again sitting on the same win-loss ratio (at time of posting), though the Stars sit lower in points due to a points deduction in Round 5. A win for either team would bring them into almost touching distance of fifth, with two massive final rounds to come. Both teams have brought the pressure throughout the middle of the season, slowly but surely sneaking up the ladder and pulling off surprise wins to prove that no team is safe this season. With both sides knocking off top sides this season, this game is sure to be an exceptional matchup. The efficiency and experience of Mikki Austin has boosted the Storm over the last few rounds, so the Stars will need to shut Austin down and settle through the midcourt, as the Storm have the ability to take advantage of errors quickly and effectively.
Last time they met: Storm proved too strong for the Stars in Round 6, coming out on top by nine goals after setting up the win with a 31 goal to 24 first half. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska and Shadine Van Der Merwe were dominant in defence, creating turnovers and limiting the Stars’ access to Georgia Rowe at the post. At the other end Stars defender, Sam Cook was exceptional against the likes of Sigi Burger, who has shot the lights out in recent weeks and kept the Storm contesting every game.

Also at 2pm is one of the biggest games of the weekend – a top four clash between Loughborough Lightning and Manchester Thunder. The Thunder are one of the most consistent and well-formed teams in the competition while the Lightning continue to surprise week in and week out, so this matchup is sure to entertain as both sides put in the hard yards to come out on top. Lightning and Thunder both came out second best in Round 14, so are sure to come back fighting over the weekend with only a few more rounds left in the season. Both sides have been pipped at the post by improving teams in recent weeks so will want to lift their composure under pressure, especially in such a high-stakes match.
Last time they met: Round 6 saw the Lightning deal Thunder their first loss of the season, a feat which turned Lightning’s average start to the year around with six consecutive wins to follow. Lightning’s four quarter pressure kept the Thunder on their toes all game, while the likes of Vicki Oyesola and Tuaine Keenan were on fire in defence, putting the normally composed Thunder shooters under the pump at every opportunity. Joyce Mvula and Mary Cholhok were in excellent form in their respective opposition shooting circles, doing their job in the ring with flair at the post. Since that round the Lightning’s confidence has continued to grow, while the Thunder have proved their strength with some big wins of their own, despite losing to the Stars in Round 14.

The last game of VNSL’s Big Easter Weekend will see Team Bath take on Saracens Mavericks in a do or die battle for both sides. The Mavericks need another win ahead of the final stretch to put them in the running for a finals position, so will do anything they can to put on a show against their top five rivals. Bath have had issues with their consistency across games this season, so will want to back up some of their good form with another win to keep them in the run for finals. The midcourt battle will be the one to watch in this match, with the likes of Sasha Corbin, Georgia Lees, Serena Guthrie and Imogen Allison likely to take the court in their respective pairings.
Last time they met: Round 6 saw the Mavericks run over Bath, with a 23 goal win giving them a huge confidence boost and rocketing them into second on the ladder with four wins and two losses. The Mavericks of recent weeks have not been as impressive as their early season dominance, which is something Bath will want to take advantage of to overturn their last matchup result. Bath will also go into this match a lot more confident with the likes of Guthrie and captain, Eboni Usoro-Brown in the side, after the impressive pair missed Round 6 through respective illness and injury.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 14

ROUND 14 of the Vitality Netball Superleague is set to be another big one, as the competition continues to surprise week in week out. Two big games bookend the round, with third placed Team Bath hosting Loughborough Lightning, currently in fourth, while the second ranked Wasps Netball travel to Hertfordshire to play fifth ranked Saracens Mavericks. Manchester Thunder are likely to keep their position atop the ladder for another week as they take on Severn Stars in seventh.

Opening the round is a big Friday night game between Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning, a match that will see the two sides battle for third and fourth at Team Bath Arena at 7:30pm. The Lightning had a disappointing first half last round, eventually losing by four goals and dropping a seven game winning streak. Bath’s Round 13 match told a similar story, with a stronger second half closing the margin against Wasps Netball before going down by 15 goals. The two sides are likely to have spoken about consistency this week, with both sides needing a fast and accurate start off the blocks to cement their position on the ladder. The Lightning will hope to see the likes of Ella Clark pick up the slack after an average first half performance last round put her shooting partner, Mary Cholhok under the pump with all eyes on her from defence. Bath defenders, Eboni Usoro-Brown and Summer Artman will want to put in the hard yards against Cholhok after seeing how well Surrey Storm defenders took her on last week, giving even more reason for Clark to step up. Vicki Oyesola had a dominant second half for the Lightning last week, so will want to back up her efforts against a strong rotation the likes of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Kim Commane and Beryl Friday.

Saturday will see three games, with the first between eighth and ninth on the ladder, Celtic Dragons and Strathclyde Sirens at Sports Wales National Centre at 4pm. The Dragons had a disappointing 27 point loss to Manchester Thunder last round, so will want to bounce back and get a win this week in front of a home crowd. They are currently sitting two wins clear of the Sirens on the ladder so aren’t in danger of dropping down, however will want put in a strong four quarter effort to get another win on the board and keep building confidence. The Sirens came close to the Stars last round, losing by nine after only being down by two at the final change, so will want to back up their strong effort and boost their shot volume in the second half to get their third win for the season. The Dragons will rely on shooter, Chelsea Lewis and defender, Stacian Facey to get the job done at each end, so the Sirens will need to put in the hard yards to ensure the ball stays away from the opposition as much as possible, likely a job left to defenders, Hayley Mulheron and and Emily Nicholl.

Manchester Thunder will host Severn Stars at 5pm on Saturday, at their home court of Belle Vue in front of what is likely to be a big home crowd again this week. The Thunder got another well deserved win last week, dominating early and shooting double their opposition, Celtic Dragons, in the first half to take their winning tally up to 11. Seventh placed Stars toughed it out against the Sirens to register their fifth win for the season. Consistency was a key factor in their win, so the Stars will hope to carry that over to this round and maintain their form against the top ranked team of the competition. The Stars will want to limit Thunder goal shooter, Joyce Mvula access to the ball, with the likes of Sam Cook and Ella Powell-Davies up for the job after a dominant performance last week saw them limit the Sirens to only six goals in the final quarter. The Stars will also want to protect the ball up forward, with the likes of Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond dominant in the circle defensively, always ready to deflect the ball and take charge of play.

The late Saturday match of the round will see Surrey Storm host London Pulse at 6pm at Surrey Sports Park. Both sides are coming into this match off the back of a win, so will be feeling confident and ready for a tight contest, while the Storm will hope to replicate their strong Round 13 efforts in front of a home crowd. Shantal Slater and Chiara Semple were on fire in Round 13, shooting at a combined 86 per cent, while captain, Ama Agbeze took the court in the second half after a few weeks out of the side, injecting some much needed energy and experience back into the team. However, the Storm put on a show last round, outshooting the Lightning in three of four quarters with the star power of Sigi Burger exceptional under the post, while Lorraine Kowalewska and Katy Hughes dominated defensively. The Storm may have the upper hand in this matchup given they won by a massive 23 points last time they met, however the Pulse have shown a lot of improvement in the last few weeks as well as settled into their ideal starting list, so are likely to put up a good fight.

The final match of the round sees Saracens Mavericks host Wasps Netball at 7pm on Monday night at Hertfordshire Sports Village, in a bid to return to the top four. The Mavericks will come into this match ready to fight their way back into the season after a shock loss to London Pulse last round lost them the opportunity to leapfrog their way back to the top. They are currently sitting one win out of the four with a good percentage, so a win against the highly touted Wasps could bump the Mavericks into as high as third if other results comply. In comparison, the Wasps dominated Team Bath last round, notching up a 15-goal win to keep their minor premiership hopes alive. Last time they met saw the Mavericks challenge until the bitter end, so they will hope for a similar performance this week to put their loss to Pulse behind them. The Mavericks will hope for the likes of George Fisher to be on form and take the court for her regular game time this round after sitting out for most of Round 13, while Razia Quashie will need to be switched on in the defensive circle to put the pressure on Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris at the post.