As the Sky cameras visited the Sir David Wallace Sports Centre on Monday February 13, Team Bath beat hosts and Fiat Superleague rivals Loughborough Lightning 51-36.
In a game hotly anticipated in the East Midlands, Lightning were looking to get back to winning ways following two disappointing defeats. Opponents Team Bath also had a point to prove as not only had they lost out by the solitary goal to Lightning in the same fixture last season, but they were also yet to record a victory in the Superleague this year.
Coach Olivia Murphy clearly felt the need to ring the changes as her side looked to get back to winning ways. For once, the former England playmaker had the luxury of a fully fit squad at her disposal, with England youngster Sophia Candappa was once again available for selection. The teen started at centre, with fellow student Jade Forbes-Wattley being preferred at goal keeper and Olivia Mason at goal attack.
As the game got underway, the on-court action mirrored the electric atmosphere off court, as both teams battled hard in a fiercely contested opening – after just five minutes it seemed almost incomprehendable that the score was still just 2-2.
There was an intense battle of both defences as Lightning’s young duo of Nicola Caunt and Forbes Wattley worked tirelessly to keep Bath’s international shooting partnership of Kadeen Corbin and Asha Francis at bay. And this transferred to the centre court as Candappa engaged in an enthralling contest with opposite number Mia Ritchie, and Jodie Gibson also working hard to pick off Bath’s attacks; both sides struggled to get it beyond the midcourt and into to their attacking circles.
With the scores locked however, Bath, who had already shown glimpses of the ability to perform the spectacular, started to get a foothold. Corbin, who deservedly received the player of the match accolade, grew into the game, finding space and punishing Lightning with a selection of impressive shots, helping her side create a five goal margin.
Despite these periods of brilliance however, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the visitors, as Lightning staged a late comeback; the quarter culminating in a long range shot from the ever-reliable Becky James to take the purples into the break just the one goal down. Quarter time score 8-9.
Bath were clearly rattled by Lightning’s spirited comeback, and resultantly opted to change things in attack, introducing Amanda Trounce at wing attack and swapping their two shooters around. And it wasn’t long until they soon reaped the rewards as numerous fluid attacks, combined with the use of newcomer Trounce’s pace enabled them to put short sharp passes into the circle and the on fire Corbin was only too willing to convert.
Lightning showed the spirit and determination which has characterized their campaign so far, and as the crowd roared them on, they began to resist Bath’s waves of attack and create openings of their own.
Nicola Caunt, who once again this season has shown why she is so highly rated in the Lightning ranks, commanded the defence and began to draw the ball away from the Bath shooters and assist Lightning in bringing the ball through the court. At the other end of the court, as Mason started to assert her influence on the game, once again Lightning clawed their way back; at one point the gap reduced to just two.
However there is a reason Team Bath have won the Superleague six out of eight times, showing class and composure when in possession, and as a result their lead was extended to 26-14 at the end of the half.
Realizing the game was not beyond her side, Murphy, who had been vocal on the sidelines throughout, made numerous changes as her side attempted to thwart Bath’s progression and build on the bright play they had at times produced. Lianne Badmin was introduced to provide a focal point in attack, as Jordan Moxey donned the wing attack bib. Afrika Morris also came on at goal keeper.
The changes paid off in spells for the hosts, as they showed fluidity when moving the ball out of defence. However nerves were also evident, and often upon arriving at the edge of their attacking circle, they looked nervy and unsure when implementing the final ball.
Bath, on the other hand, appeared buoyed by the lead they had created, and took no prisoners when in possession. As a result, by the end of the third quarter, the game already appeared out of Lightning’s reach, with Bath’s lead reading 41-23.
Despite a series of changes from both coaches going into the final quarter, the changes in personnel however did little to halt the progression of the team in blue and yellow, as they were once again clinical when in possession, with the speed of the shooters proving difficult for Lightning to deal with.
However despite a valiant effort, it all proved too little too late, as the final whistle blew with the score 51-36 to Team Bath.
Coach Olivia Murphy appeared understandably disappointed at the manner in which her team had fallen to defeat despite such a close opening quarter.
“I was very pleased with the way we started the game today, and this momentum enabled us to carry on our good start into the second quarter”, she explained.
“However, again, unforced errors crept into the game and once again cost us. Despite working hard to gain plenty of turnovers, we really struggled to get the ball into the attacking circle.”
Murphy was also quick to praise the impressive crowd who turned out to support her side in front of the cameras.
“It was disappointing today not to show what we know we can do, especially as we had such a magnificent turn out from our ever loyal fans, and with the presence of the television cameras.
“We now have to build on this and will train hard as we go into Saturday’s home game against Mavericks, where we hope to see as many fans willing us on.”
For tickets for Saturday’s 6pm game v Mavericks in the netball centre, please visit www.loughboroughlightning.co.uk. The past two games in the Netball Centre have been sell outs, so fans are advised to buy tickets in advance.