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Lightning Strikes Gold at VNSL 2021

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Loughborough Lightning Netball have for the first time been crowned the champions of the Vitality Netball Superleague with a 49-32 victory over Team Bath.

In the 16-year history of the league, Loughborough Lightning have made it to three grand finals prior to 2021, but never claimed victory, so when they secured a twenty-goal win in their semi-final the previous day, the team were hopeful that they could make history.

The match saw an explosive start with Mary Cholhok scoring the opening point. Playing with ferocity, Lightning kept the ball safe, despite the intense opposition, ending the opening quarter ahead by four.

In the second half, Lightning stepped up a gear and chased down each and every ball. Captain Nat Panagarry kept her side focused and keen to execute their game plan, widening their lead and heading into the half on top.

The third quarter seemingly had no effect on the team, with Lightning firmly keeping their foot on the pedal. The noise from the crowd has been described as “electric” and with Beth Cobden wreaking turnovers across the entire breadth of the court, fans were treated to the ‘ultimate’ netball experience.

Chants of “Netball’s coming home” began to roar across the arena as the game came to a close. The team managed to extend their lead and brought the win home. Tears of joy reportedly overwhelmed the crowd and team after such a difficult year and a long season.

“If someone had told me this time last year that I would be in the final that we’d win, I’m just so happy, it’s all been so worth it,” Beth Cobden, having overcome two ACL reconstructions, elated.

“We wanted to do this for the club, they’ve not won it before, the girls who have been there for years, who have been there at the end of a final loss, it was just great to get it for Loughborough.”

Sara Francis-Bayman, Head Coach for the team, said that it was “such a different feeling today to yesterday, the girls were excited about today’s game they looked like they played with much more freedom.”

She added that the team had experienced a lot over the past year: “It was Sam May’s last game, Beth Cobden [came]back from her injuries, those guys who suffered two or three final losses with Lightning.”

“To do that today the way they did it, that outpouring of emotion, that’s what you see from all those stories.”

Reflecting on their performance and success, Francis-Bayman commented: “For the team to come out and play like that, with doubt in your mind after not winning finals and thinking you can’t do it, for them to come out and attack it like that I couldn’t be prouder today.”

Scores:

Q1: Loughborough Lightning 11 – 7 Team Bath

HT: Loughborough Lightning 22 – 14 Team Bath

Q3: Loughborough Lightning 31 – 24 Team Bath

FT: Loughborough Lightning 49 – 32 Team Bath

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LSU Media Vice Chair 2020-21 LSU Media Chair 2019-20 Hall Media Coordinator 2018-19

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