A strong second-half fightback saw Surrey Storm crash Team Bath Netball’s homecoming party and run out 62-58 winners in the first Vitality Superleague match at the Team Bath Arena in almost two years.
There was nothing to choose between the teams during the first quarter but the Haines Watts-sponsored Blue & Gold managed to edge into a four-goal lead at half-time and briefly led by seven in the early stages of the third period.
However, Storm rallied superbly and completely turned the game on its head, forcing a number of Team Bath errors which they punished ruthlessly to lead by four themselves going into the final quarter. That gap stretched to nine at one point but Team Bath kept fighting to the end, roared on by a big home crowd who were enjoying Superleague netball for the first time since March 2020.
Anna Stembridge, Team Bath Netball Superleague Head Coach, said: “The crowd really did get behind us and you could feel that support and energy in the Arena, that was brilliant. Credit to the girls as well for the spirit they showed in that last quarter, we left too much of a gap to pull it back in the end.
“We saw last week against Manchester Thunder how lethal Storm’s shooting game can be. Our errors were costly at times, particularly in the third quarter – we didn’t flood our attack with opportunities and they punished us by scoring not just off the possession gained but the possession given. That was really tough.
“We’re managing a number of return to plays, which is really hard, but that’s the same for other team and it’s not an excuse, it’s just a reality. It’s a disappointing result but we’ll go back to the drawing board and make sure we bounce back quickly.”
The first quarter was a tightly-contested affair, with the teams going goal for goal for the opening seven minutes. Team Bath, who are also backed by Rengen, forced the first turnover but couldn’t get more than two goals clear and, with Storm shooter Proscovia Peace in typically prolific form, the visitors were able to peg them back to 16-16 at the end of the quarter.
Kim Borger was also in fine form at the other end of the court and landed three quickfire goals at the start of the second period to give Team Bath a little cushion and, with Tash Pavelin and Layla Guscoth applying fantastic defensive pressure, they had a chance to stretch it further. However, a couple of errors allowed Storm to close the gap to one again midway through the quarter.
A change in attack saw Welsh international Betsy Creak replace Borger at shooter and she quickly found her range to help Team Bath regain the momentum, pushing their lead out to four goals. That prompted a defensive change from Storm, with Abi Robson coming off the bench to WD and fellow former Team Bath player Chartie Curtis moving back to GD, but it was the hosts who maintained a 34-30 lead going into half-time.
The third quarter started promisingly for the hosts as four quick goals from Creak moved them 38-31 clear. However, the Storm defensive changes had made a big impact – Robson producing a player of the match performance – and errors began to creep into Team Bath’s play which the visitors punished ruthlessly, scoring 10 of the next 11 goals to go from seven adrift to 41-39 up.
Team Bath rejigged their attack and mid-court as Borger returned at shooter, Creak moved to GA, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis to WA and Kirsty Harris to C, and the changes had an effect as the hosts battled back into a 43-42 lead.
However, the momentum was with Storm and Peace rattled off the last five goals of the quarter to give the visitors a 47-43 advantage – which quickly became 50-43 early in the final period.
Team Bath needed a response and, with the crowd roaring them on, they managed to close to within four but Storm were determined not to let their hard-earned lead slip and another five-goal burst from the clinical Peace ended any hopes of a comeback.
Next up for Team Bath is the short journey to Gloucestershire to face West Country rivals Severn Stars in their next match (Saturday 26th February) before returning to the Team Bath Arena on Friday 4th March to face Manchester Thunder in a repeat of last season’s semi-final. Tickets for that match and the six other home fixtures at the Team Bath Arena during the 2022 season are on sale now. Visit netball.teambath.com/tickets for more information.
Team Bath Netball is supported by its Principal and Pathway Partner, chartered accountants Haines Watts; Rengen Developments, who are an overall Team Bath Partner; Centurion Chartered Financial Planners and Ecus Ltd, our environment partner. Team Bath’s suppliers include O’Neills, 2XU, Pulseroll and HALO Hydration.
Team Bath starting 7: GS Kim Borger, GA Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, WA Kirsty Harris, C Jess Shaw, WD Imogen Allison, GD Layla Guscoth, GK Tash Pavelin. Replacements: Molly Hole, Lily-May Catling, Asha Francis, Betsy Creak, Lily Jones.
Surrey Storm starting 7: GS Proscovia Peace, GA Emma Magee, WA Yasmin Parsons, C Mikki Austin, WD Chartie Curtis, GD Leah Middleton, GK Alima Priest. Replacements: Abi Robson, Felitius Kwangwa, Frankie Wells, Ellie Kelk, Grace Sullivan.
Quarter scores (Team Bath first): Q1 16-16; Q2 34-30 (18-14); Q3 43-47 (9-17); Q4 58-62 (15-15).
With thanks to the Team Bath Press Office at Team