Tag: jo trip

Netball fantasy teams: VNSL Roses v. VNSL International All Stars

FOLLOWING the huge success of the thrilling Diamonds vs All Stars Bushfire Relief game in March, it got us thinking about another hypothetical exhibition match, with international Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) players facing up to the top England Roses squad members who are currently plying their trade in the UK.

VNSL Roses:

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)
GD: Fran Williams (Wasps Netball)
WD: Laura Malcolm (Manchester Thunder)
C: Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball)
WA: Gabby Marshall (Saracens Mavericks)
GA: Ellie Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)
GS: George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks)

BENCH: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (Team Bath), Nat Panagarry (Loughborough Lightning), Jodie Gibson (Saracens Mavericks)

This Roses fantasy squad has a huge amount of experience and depth across all areas of the court. In the 2020 Netball Nations Cup, we saw the emergence of a new England shooting partnership between Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher – nicknamed “Fishwell”. Whilst Cardwell is usually seen wearing the goal shooter bib, in goal attack she opened up the shooting circle nicely for Fisher and can sink a sweet long bomb herself. This partnership would certainly give any defensive lineup a lot of headaches, especially given Fisher’s clever footwork and shooting accuracy. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis also plays more of the traditional goal attack role with her speed and strong drives and could provide another look for the shooting end. Whilst Drakeford-Lewis is at the beginning of her international career, she would be well supported in this lineup. She is likely to become a key option for England in the future – especially given she can also move into wing attack if needed, much like a versatile Nat Haythornthwaite or Kiera Austin.

In the midcourt, a balance of experience and youth creates this formidable unit. Youngster Gabby Marshall has great vision at wing attack and can keep any wing defence busy so they don’t go looking for trouble. Marshall is backed up by the veteran Jade Clarke who can keep a cool head in the middle and dictate play with ease. Tenacious tagger Laura Malcolm completes this midcourt lineup. Though she spent some time away from the England setup, her recent performances in the red dress have been outstanding. Nat Panagarry proved herself capable at the Netball World Cup 2019, showing that she is a confident team-player and can have an impact when needed. She has a good read of the game and her infectious energy can really lift a team.

The defensive end is where this team gets exciting. Whilst you have the reliable and gutsy Fran Williams out the front causing havoc, you also have one of the most threatening defenders coming up the England ranks in Razia Quashie at the back. Whilst Quashie is not the tallest defender in the game, she clearly has the athletic ability and pure strength to be a game-changer. With this defensive end, the difficulty may be the partnerships. As we saw in the Bushfire Relief game, putting two defending superstars out on court together doesn’t always mean they gel easily. I would love to see this combination out on court for England more as Quashie and Williams have such complementary styles of play. Given time together they could become a lethal partnership. Jodie Gibson is another versatile and experienced defender, providing a sparky and reliable option at the back should the defensive end need to change tactics.

VNSL International All Stars:

GK: Zanele Vimbela (Sirens, SA)
GD: Latanya Wilson (Dragons, JAM)
WD: Nia Jones (Stars, WAL)
C: Caroline O’Hanlon (Thunder, NI)
WA: Liana Leota (Stars, NZ)
GA: Alexia Baker (Wasps, AUS)
GS: Sigi Burger (Pulse, SA)

BENCH: Kim Commane (Bath, AUS), Adean Thomas (Pulse, JAM), Jo Trip (Mavericks, NZ)

This International All Stars side is undoubtedly stacked with talent. At the shooting end, it’s hard to ignore the threat of Sigi Burger under the post, given her 98% shooting average after three rounds of the 2020 VNSL Season. New to the VNSL, Alexia Baker is no stranger to high-quality netball, having been a Queensland Firebirds training partner. She knows how to feed a holding shooter like Burger and can also provide a solid option to goal. Kim Commane had an outstanding start to the 2020 season, ending up in the top five goal scorers, and she provides another different style of play to keep the defenders guessing. While this shooting end has very few international caps between them, these players have demonstrated their skills domestically and wouldn’t shy away from an opportunity on a bigger stage.

Liana Leota is a typical wing attack, extremely crafty and with a wealth of tools in her arsenal to feed the goal circle effectively. In the centre position, Caroline O’Hanlon is so impressive, not only due to her insane fitness but also her defensive pressure and a cool head. Leota and O’Hanlon combined effectively to secure Manchester Thunder’s Grand Final win last season, and could easily replicate this successful chemistry. Supported by Nia Jones in wing defence, the position where she is arguably her strongest, this midcourt unit would have no issues with transition play and swift goal conversion. Adean Thomas has also demonstrated her flair and skill, both at the VNSL and for Jamaica. Thomas is unpredictable, exciting and would be a great impact player in this lineup.

In the defensive circle, Latanya Wilson has been compared to a young Shamera Sterling and this glowing comparison is not undue. Wilson has fantastic aerial ability and was sitting on 14 intercepts when the VNSL was cancelled. This was just one behind the leader in Quashie, and Wilson racked up this impressive tally despite the fact she was suspended for one game due to dangerous play. Whilst discipline is an area to improve on, her surprising gameplay and rangy limbs would be a valuable asset in goal defence for the All Stars. Teaming up with Wilson is South African, Zanele Vimbela. Vimbela has proven her worth internationally and is surely next in line to the goal keeper bib for South Africa after Phumza Maweni. She is a fearless defender who attacks the ball and provides consistent pressure to unnerve the opposition feeders. Able to cover both positions effectively is Mavericks stalwart Jo Trip. Her height and experience mean she can make a difference in close games and would be a valuable addition to the All Stars.

Who would win?

The International All Stars have a tremendous amount of talent and a really diverse range of playing styles. However, the Roses consistency and familiarity with each other would most likely mean they would take the win. The battle would be lost and won in the midcourt, as the two sides are fairly evenly matched at both ends – with the Roses’ shooting circle slightly superior to the All Stars’. This would be a great spectacle of VNSL talent, but it’s likely the Roses would be able to edge out the All Stars.

Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns countdown – #21/#20

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is making a case for the top 25 players under 25-years-old across the netball world. Next in line at number 21 and 20 respectively is a pair of 22-year-olds coming into the prime of their netball years in Razia Quashie and Sophie Garbin albeit playing up opposite ends of the court in defence and attack respectively.  With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

Razia Quashie has really come into her own this season, finding her form thanks to her physical nature and general ability to read the play. At just 22-years-old the goal keeper has made a name for herself at Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) level along with making her debut for the England Roses, a feat she will be hoping to build on as the year continues. While she is yet to lockdown a permanent position in the Roses outfit given the plethora of talent, her ability to have an impact on the court is second to none and plays a good cameo role when needed. She is a real leader down back for the Mavericks in the VNSL with her strength in the air consistently on display notching up an impressive 15 intercepts so far this season. Her combination with the likes of Jo Trip and Jodie Gibson has shaped the style of defender she is, allowing her to freely go out hunting for intercepts and backing herself in the contest despite being costly at times when it comes to penalties.

Sitting at 20 in our rankings is Sophie Garbin. The NSW Swifts representative a key cog in their premiership tilt. Garbin stood up when the likes of Helen Housby went down with her leg injury, shouldering the load in her non-preferred position of goal attack. Her effort is unquestionable always putting in 100 per cent and using her strong movement to have an impact in the goal circle. Although she is not the fastest player on court her impressive vision and netball understanding sets her apart from fellow goalers coming up through the ranks. Garbin’s ability to change up her game style from a holding shooter to a moving one is also important with the youngster steadily learning when to pull the trigger. In terms of accuracy Garbin is not afraid to back herself from range while her split allows her to claim to pivotal space in the circle. Her connection with the likes of Nat Haythornthwaite and Sam Wallace will only strengthen her game and take it to the next level something she will be hoping to do if she is to make her way into the Diamonds squad after being named in the Australia A team.

Top 25 so far:

25. Latanya Wilson (Jamaica)
24. Summer Artman (England)
23. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (England)
22. Matilda Garrett (Australia)
21. Razia Quashie (England)
20. Sophie Garbin (Australia)

VNSL Team of the Week: Round 3

WITH big wins to the Saracens Mavericks, Team Bath and the London Pulse in Round 3 it is no surprise that this week’s Draft Central Team of the Week was dominated by these clubs. No player from the Severn Stars or Surrey Storm made the cut this week despite some solid performances across the weekend while one player each from the Wasps and Sirens made their way in after some strong showings.

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)

The Roses and Mavericks goal keeper has kicked it up a gear in season 2020 with the talented defender backing herself down back and causing all sorts of headaches for her opposition attacking ends. Quashie had her work cut out for her in the goal circle using her quick footwork to dance her way around the defensive circle and pick off passes. The goal keeper showcased her ability to read the play with four intercepts and while she was highly penalised with 16 for the game it was her ability to win ball back that evened it out.

GD: Jo Trip (Saracens Mavericks)

Joining her partner in crime, Trip impressed for the Mavericks with her defensive pressure and ball winning abilities. The goal defence starred throughout the match keeping, goal attack Paige Reed to 14 goals highlighting just how much work she was putting in over the shot and to stop her from receiving the ball. Trip followed Reed across the court with her three-foot marking on full display and most importantly stayed in play for a majority of the time only racking up 10 penalties. Her ability to win ball back and propel it down the court was a key feature of her game recording five intercepts while her strength under the post to bring down rebounds was also solid collecting three for the game.

WD: Imogen Allison (Team Bath)

Allison has taken her game to a whole other level this year upping the defensive pressure and taking on a mountain load of work through the midcourt to disrupt opposition attack units. The wing defence plied her trade throughout the match working hard to win the ball back or block her opponents every move with her shadowing style of play to clog up space. Credit to her cleanliness and high netball IQ, Allison managed to stay away from the whistle not registering a single penalty while also picking up two intercepts highlighting just how impressive she is.

C: Khanyisa Chawane (Team Bath)

Chawane led the charge through the midcourt for Team Bath sensing the space and driving into to it to create attacking forays. Chawane has not skipped a beat since stepping into the side with her speed and strength a couple of key attributes of her game play. Renowned for her defensive pressure the midcourt player picked up an important intercept and was clean with ball in hand not creating many turnovers.

WA: Adean Thomas (London Pulse)

The Jamaican midcourter and new recruit brought plenty of excitement to the court with her impressive speed and aerial ability constantly getting a hand in anything that came her way. While more tailored to the attacking role she showcased her defensive side with a couple of timely deflections in the midcourt to force the opposition to reset and look for ways around her pressure. Her dynamic footwork to receive the ball and then effortlessly dish off to teammates impressed throughout the game constantly backing her high release passes and good vision. She was not afraid to feed the ball well and truly away from the circle edge such was her confidence in the pass and strength to hit targets inside the circle.

GA: Eleanor Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)

The goal attack once again played a pivotal role in Manchester’s narrow win over the weekend. Cardwell showed her ability to hit the scoreboard with an impressive 24 goals from 28 attempts at 86 per cent credit to her read of the space and ability to score freely. She is a key cog in the attacking third with her strong drives and height consistently able to have an impact, particularly in the circle. Cardwell is a real play maker sensing the moment and able to stand up even displaying her defensive attributes with two intercepts throughout the game.

GS: Rachel Dunn (Wasps Netball)

Although her side did not manage the win, Dunn was a lone hand in the goal circle for the Wasps only missing one goal from her 47 attempts for the match. It was a flawless performance by the experienced goal shooter who stood tall under the post using her quick hands and clever body positioning to reel the ball in and shoot truly. When she is on, Dunn is hard to stop and that was shown in her clash on the weekend consistently buttering up and backing herself from range time and time again.

BENCH: Sigi Burger (London Pulse), Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder), Zanele Vimbela (Strathclyde Sirens),

There were a couple of strong performances throughout the round with Vimbela, Burger and O’Hanlon unlucky not to make the starting seven. It is hard to deny that Burger has gone from strength to strength and this performance echoed those thoughts with the towering goal shooter finding good space under the ring and used her height to command the ball. She was the main scoring option for the Pulse credit to her high volume and accuracy to post along with her ability to move around the circle and use her feet to edge closer to the post. Up the other end, Vimbela also made her way onto the bench after a solid performance for the Sirens with her long arms and reach doing the damage with two intercepts and six deflections along with a rebound. Through the midcourt O’Hanlon was up to her usual tricks with her dynamic movement and vision on song once again. Her two way running was another feature of her game.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 3 – Pulse among three sides undefeated

ALL five home sides won in Round 3 of the Vitality Netball Superleague, with Team Bath, Manchester Thunder and London Pulse continuing to reign supreme, sitting undefeated after three rounds. Interestingly, outside the top four the leaderboard is still relatively even, with rankings five through eight on only the one win, while two sides sit at the bottom of the table with no wins thus far.

Strathclyde Sirens (61) defeated Surrey Storm (53)

Sirens got their first win on the board for the season with a stellar performance against Surrey Storm, proving they do have the ability to surprise teams and be a real contender in 2020. It was a great first half effort that kept them on the ball with Bethan Goodwin (41 goals) and Lynsey Gallagher (20 goals) impressive from the get-go, applying offensive pressure to ensure the ball stayed up the attack end and only missed four goals apiece in an all-round terrific effort. Captain, Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell worked in tandem with clever movement through the midcourt keeping their respective opposition in Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin relatively quiet. Sirens defenders, Zanele Vimbela and Natalie Bright did a solid job shutting down Storm shooters Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin, with Hankin shooting at less than 70 per cent accuracy making it tough for the side to work their way back into the contest. Bailey was on form with 37 goals from 39 attempts but it was not enough against a hungry Sirens outfit.

Team Bath (63) defeated Wasps Netball (51)

Team Bath dominated in the second half against the Wasps in Round 3 to continue their phenomenal 2020 form, remaining undefeated at the top of the ladder. Wasps came out with a point to prove early, with stalwart midcourter Jade Clarke leading from the front while Rachel Dunn and Iona Christian proved a solid combination working well in attack, with Dunn interestingly carrying the shooting load with 46 goals from 47 attempts, in comparison to what is typically a shared effort with Katie Harris. Harris put in the hard yards in goal attack but to no avail, unable to work herself into the game thanks to the defensive effort of Bath’s Tash Pavelin and Summer Artman, who completely dominated defensively in the second half and only let in 19 goals after half time. It was a second half blitz from Bath that got their nose in front to win the match, shooting 36 goals in the second half to run away with the 12 goal win. The combination of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis continues to improve with Commane shouldering the load with 45 from 49 shots while Drakeford-Lewis impressed with 18 from 19 attempts. New midcourter Khanyisa Chawane continues to prove her place in the side, slotting in nicely with Rachel Shaw, Imogen Allison and Fionnuala Toner through the midcourt to create an exciting centre-court unit.

Saracens Mavericks (61) defeated Severn Stars (45)

Saracens Mavericks went two from two with their second victory over Severn Stars in as many weeks, though the Stars certainly did their homework, limiting the home side’s shots on goal for a slightly better outcome than their Round 1 outing. Towera Vinkhumbo, Ella Powell-Davies and Ama Agbeze well and truly had their work cut out for them in defence, and a caution to Vinkhumbo did little to help the matter with George Fisher (42 from 43) and Kadeen Corbin (17 from 18) on form with speed, timing and communication alike, while stellar feeds from Georgia Lees and Sasha Corbin on circle edge kept the Stars defenders on their toes. Razia Quashie and Jo Trip put their defensive prowess on show combining for nine intercepts and propelling the ball back up the court, forcing Stars shooters Georgia Rowe (29 goals), Paige Reed (14 goals) and Lucy Herdman (two goals) to work hard to find purchase in the goal circle. 

Manchester Thunder (67) defeated Loughborough Lightning (64)

Manchester Thunder timed their run to overtake Loughborough Lightning to perfection coming back from a 12 goal deficit at times to run out with a three goal victory. They shot the lights out in the second half with a 39 goal to 28 display after the main break credit to their offensive pressure. Player of the match Laura Malcolm did what she does best, finding plenty of the ball through the midcourt and rotating through to wing attack late, using her tenacity to find loose ball and feed to a range of options at the post. While Kathryn Turner did not put many goals on the board, her work off the body to open up space in the circle was second to none, allowing Joyce Mvula to dominate to post, shooting 37 goals while Eleanor Cardwell was also prolific with 24 goals from 28 attempts. For Lightning, Mary Cholhok was impressive as ever and especially unstoppable early, with her height making her a massive and imposing threat under the post. Midcourt defender Jas Odeogberin showed off her game smarts moving into the goal circle late to impart some of her phenomenal pressure on Mvula and Cardwell. This loss sees Lightning in a similar position to last season with only the one win across opening rounds, but with a finals berth last year the side is sure to lift in the coming weeks to replicate their 2019 form. Meanwhile, Manchester will want to continue this undefeated run and maintain third spot on the ladder.

London Pulse (69) defeated Celtic Dragons (38)

The lone Monday night match was shaping up to be a close one before the announcement that key Dragons defender Latanya Wilson would not take the court after being sent off for rough conduct in Round 2. Pulse well and truly took advantage of the goal keeper missing out, with Sigi Burger dominating at the post and proving her value to the side. Both sides were quick to the punch, unable to be split early with neither side really dominating in the first quarter, before Pulse extended a five goal lead by half time to set up a solid second half. Dee Bolakoro and Paige Kindred put in the hard yards early but had a tough battle after half time, with Pulse pulling ahead thanks to a 40 goal to 15 second half, well and truly leaving the visitors behind and proving their first few wins were not just flukes. Halimat Adio was on fire for Pulse, winning back a wealth of ball and teaming up well with Lindsay Keable to force long bombs from the Dragons, while midcourter Adean Thomas was key through the centre, providing pressure and opening up space. Burger showed all her class at the post, with impeccable timing and ability to find the ball  highlighting what makes her such a key pickup for the Pulse side. 

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.

VNSL 2020 team preview: Saracens Mavericks

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 Saracens Mavericks.

Coach: Kat Ratnapala
2019 finish: 5th (12-6)

The Mavericks had plenty of hype in 2019 with a number of big names over the court but were just not able to put the consistency out on court that they needed on a regular basis. Just missing out on finals contention by one spot, the Mavericks had a fair few missed opportunities and at times were unable to find what they needed to fix on court to give them that winning edge. They were a tough side that had the ability to go far but simply did not live up to the expectations falling short on winnable games.

2020 predictions:

With only a few changes to their 2019 side, the Mavericks will hope to improve their consistency this year and strengthen their already solid connections to make them a difficult side to match with in 2020. The combination of George Fisher and Kadeen Corbin is sure to elevate to new heights this year but the real key for the side will be to fill the hole of Michelle Drayne who was a key fixture in the midcourt. Georgia Lees and Sasha Corbin are both able to rotate through a number of positions but only time will tell in a side that has plenty to prove. Jodie Gibson will be a welcomed inclusion to the side thanks to her high netball IQ and international experience potentially helping to lead the Mavs defensive end and push them one further than last year. 

Key player: Razia Quashie (GK/GD)

The key defender really made a name for herself in 2019, with impeccable timing and reach to provide the key link-up through the defensive end. With an innate ability to predict where the ball will be, the goal keeper was an excitement machine last season, able to impact both on and off the body and intercept with ease thanks to her quick feet and clean hands. Quashie has proven that she can control the defence end but will have to do it for longer periods if the Mavericks are to win more games and become a force to be reckoned with throughout the season. 

Team list:

Sasha Corbin
Kadeen Corbin
Jo Trip
Georgia Lees
Beth Ecuyer-Dale
Gabby Marshall
George Fisher
Razia Quashie
Chloe Essam (Wasps Netball)
Jodie Gibson (Severn Stars)
Paige McCalla
Stephanie Collard

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 wrap: Round 17

THE penultimate round of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) is done and dusted, with a big win for Team Bath over Manchester Thunder meaning three of the top four teams are sat on the same percentage, with Saracens Mavericks in fifth needing a win in the final round to guarantee a finals spot. London Pulse gave Loughborough Lightning a shock with a second half push, while the Celtic Dragons put their form to the test with a seven goal win over Surrey Storm.

Game one of Round 17 saw Strathclyde Sirens take on finals favourites, Wasps Netball, putting in a consistent effort but going down by 15 goals 41 – 56. Defensively both sides put on a show, with the Sirens keeping the Wasps to only 11 goals in the first and sticking close by half time, before the Wasps reduced the home side to 20 goals in the second half. Despite the loss, the Sirens put in the hard yards against the continued dominance of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris in the circle, while a more solid full-court effort from the Sirens saw their improvement this season take centre stage, not only reducing the margin but also denying the same volume of shots as their Round 8 matchup. Youngster, Emma Barrie once again put up a good performance for the Sirens, putting herself in good stead for her future in the VNSL as her side refused to give up.

Next up saw the Celtic Dragons get their sixth win for the season against Surrey Storm (58 – 51). The final Dragons home game for the season saw the crowd rally for the likes of retiree, Kyra Jones who got the opportunity to have one more win in front of a home crowd before the season ends. It was a big push for the Dragons given Storm’s strength over the past few weeks, proving once again that no team is safe this season, with any team able to beat their opposition on the day. Despite a stronger defensive effort from the Storm in the final quarter reducing the margin to seven, the Dragons held strong to get the win credit to the defensive efforts of Stacian Facey and Dee Bolakoro, whose connection has improved tenfold since the beginning of the season. Sigi Burger put in the hard yards in the circle, however couldn’t compete with the athleticism and aerial ability of her defenders to carry a win for her side. With the likes of Chelsea Lewis on fire at the post, the Dragons looked confident and composed as they controlled the match.

London Pulse put Loughborough Lightning under the pump this round, racing out of the gates to a three goal lead at quarter time, before a 22 goal push from the Lightning saw the Pulse struggle to compete in the second term. A strong second half saw the Pulse put the pressure back on, shooting 31 goals compared with the Lightning’s 30, however the damage was already done as the Lightning took home a five goal win (62 – 67). Despite not getting the win this round, the Pulse are likely to be happy with this margin, especially given it could be the percentage difference needed for the Lightning to make finals if they don’t get a win next week. Pulse have taken their game up a notch in the second half of the season, proving they have the ability to push teams to the final whistle. A great defensive effort was put up by the likes of captain, Ama Agbeze who has injected some much-needed experience and excitement on and off the ball through defence for the Pulse, while also holding the likes of Mary Cholhok well at the post. The Lightning will need to put up a stronger performance in Round 18 to ensure they make finals.

A big win by the Saracens Mavericks over an in-form Severn Stars outfit (62 – 48) gives the Mavericks one more week to make finals, relying on a big win in Round 18 and at least one loss in the top four next round to guarantee a finals berth. Despite a good start by the Stars, a 19 goal second term from the Mavericks gave the side a five goal buffer at half time, before a final quarter defensive effort kept the Stars at only seven goals in the last quarter, all but giving the Mavericks a 14 goal victory to keep them in the race for finals. A strong effort from Jo Trip kept the Mavericks ahead of the Stars at every turn as possession and accuracy seemed to be no issue for the home side, with the likes of George Fisher at 100 per cent by half time, while Kadeen Corbin and Karyn Bailey took their turns at the post to further their lead. Stars’ shooter, Georgia Rowe had the height advantage in the circle, however the footwork defensively from the Mavericks meant she had limited ball, creating further issues in attack for the away side.

The experience of Serena Guthrie and Eboni Usoro-Brown gave Team Bath a big push in the final match of the round to get a second win against Manchester Thunder this season, beating Thunder by three goals (53 – 56) in an absolute nailbiter of a match. It was a strong first half from Bath that put Thunder under the pump, with a 15 goal to eight second quarter to Bath giving the away side the momentum as they cut off options into the goal circle and forced turnovers at every opportunity. A completely equal 29 goal second half saw both sides battle for the upper hand, with both sides turning it on in the goal circle to keep the ball in contention. Summer Artman paired well with Usoro-Brown once again, proving that Bath have the ability to go all the way with another close finish, holding onto the lead and creating turnovers when it counted. The Thunder will want to bounce back in the final round, also in dire need of a win to cement a finals position, so the likes of Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey will need to be at their strongest next round.