Team Bath Netball are determined to finish a positive Vitality Netball Superleague season on an appropriately high note when they face Hertfordshire Mavericks in the third-place play-off.
Director of Netball Jess Thirlby admitted the players and staff were “hurting to put it mildly” after last weekend’s 53-46 semi-final defeat at Manchester Thunder ended their dream of a sixth Superleague title.
But she has urged the Blue and Gold to lift themselves and ensure they go out on a high when they finish their season at London’s Copper Box Arena on Saturday (2.30pm).
“It’s not the match we wanted to be in but it is our equivalent of a final and we want to show everyone exactly what this team is truly capable of,” said Thirlby.
“Our aim is to finish with our best performance and in the highest position possible and that is now third.
“We have shown great bouncebackability throughout the season and while the context of this setback carried a lot more significance, I have no doubt that this group of players will react positively and want to put on a good show.
“Our ambition of reaching the Grand Final has unfortunately passed us by on this occasion but it is not a reflection of where we are developing as a squad. We have one more chance to bow out on a high and really do ourselves proud.”
Saturday’s semi-final was effectively decided in the first quarter as a slow start by Team Bath allowed Thunder – who have lost just once all season – to build up a 17-6 lead.
There was nothing between the sides for the remaining 45 minutes, with Team Bath winning the final quarter 16-10, but the damage had already been done.
“There has been a lot of soul searching as to how and why that happened,” said Thirlby.
“We went into the Thunder match with real momentum and knew we were capable of competing with them but, for whatever reason, that just didn’t happen in the first 15 minutes.
“It was very uncharacteristic of us. I know we had lost the two previous games to Thunder but we have been much improved in the past four or five matches.
“It has been a bitter pill to swallow and we feel like we have let ourselves and the fans down but it’s a good thing we are so disappointed – there wouldn’t have been such a reaction from the team if they didn’t all believe they could really do it.
“We are all aware that setbacks are as much a part of being a sportsperson as success, so they will all be better players and a better team for what they have been through. It’s what will drive us on to be even better. We have regrouped and will be attacking training this week.
“We can also take positives from the way we approached the remaining three-quarters against Thunder and the people that came off the bench all did a really good job. Lenize Potgieter was fantastic and Sam Cook made a really positive impact.
“Now we have to finish this season in the best possible position, show just how good a team we are and then come back fighting next year.”
Tickets for the third-place play-off are available here
Voting is now under way for the Team Bath Netball Supporters’ Player of the Season.
The coveted prize – won by Shaunagh Craig in 2015 – will be presented at the end-of-season awards dinner which this year is taking place alongside the Netball South West Goalden Globes Awards.
The celebration of netball in the region is being staged at Somerset County Cricket Club in Taunton on Sunday, May 22 from 11.30am to 4.30pm. Tickets, which include a two-course buffet meal, are priced £25 for adults and £15 for under-16s. They are available to purchase from the netball section at store.bath.ac.uk.
To vote for your player of the season, visit Team Bath website here.
Report courtesy of the Team Bath Press Office at Matchtight Ltd.