Team Bath Netball go into a massive March in positive and determined mood after emerging victorious from a pulsating Vitality Superleague derby at Severn Stars.
Momentum ebbed and flowed as the West Country rivals went toe to toe at the University of Gloucester Arena on Saturday but it was the Haines Watts-sponsored Blue & Gold – with South African star defender Phumza Maweni in their starting seven for the first time – who held their nerve in the closing stages to clinch a 48-45 win.
The result and performance was the perfect response to the previous week’s setback against Surrey Storm and an ideal springboard into an exciting month of home matches which sees Team Bath pit themselves against the top three – Manchester Thunder, Loughborough Lightning and Saracens Mavericks – as well as improving Celtic Dragons.
Anna Stembridge, Team Bath Netball Superleague Head Coach, said: “I’ve been really looking forward to March and this run of big home matches, it’s going to be a brilliant few weeks. They are going to be tight games and that’s where the home crowd can really play their part as our 8th player, they have given us the edge many times over the years and I can’t stress enough how important they are to us.
“February has thrown us a number of challenges but I’m really pleased with how we’ve come through it and the depth we’ve shown in the squad, all 18 including training partners and associates. We saw it again at Stars on Saturday where we had to manage players returning from illness or injury, and use different combinations that we haven’t tested much in training or matchplay, but the girls really stepped up.
“Imogen Allison played her first full Superleague match at centre for us and I thought she was outstanding, particularly in attack. Kirsty Harris did really well at wing-attack again and when Stars made some tactical changes we were able to introduce Rachel Shaw, who has missed a couple of games through illness but injected a real point of difference to our attack as did Betsy Creak.
“Defensively we put Stars under a lot of pressure, which built and built throughout the game until we saw the full benefits of that labour in the last quarter. Phumza more than lived up to the expectations we have for her, she and Layla Guscoth got some really critical turnovers as a unit and their partnership promises to get better and better.”
Team Bath made a solid start to Saturday’s match and led 14-10 after the first quarter but, with former Blue & Gold attacker Paige Reed in clinical form, Severn Stars were able to take the next two quarters to lead 36-34 with 15 minutes remaining.
The Blue & Gold had also let a lead slip in their previous match against Storm but didn’t let that affect them as they kept their belief, cranked up the defensive pressure and took full advantage of the turnovers. Stars kept battling away and drew level at 45-45 with just moments remaining but Team Bath held their nerve to secure a welcome win.
Next up on Friday (7.30pm) is a sell-out showdown at the Team Bath Arena against early pacesetters Manchester Thunder, who have won all six of their matches so far. Team Bath won all three meetings last season, including a truly outstanding semi-final.
“It is always a great game when we face Thunder and they have started the season as we would expect them to,” said Stembridge. “We have to make sure we are clinical with our given ball, cultivate clean turnovers and work as a unit to take on this strong Thunder side.”
Tickets have sold out for the Thunder match but are available for this month’s other home games against Celtic Dragons (Sunday 13th, 2pm), champions Loughborough Lightning (Monday 14th, 5.30pm) and Saracens Mavericks (Friday 25th, 7.30pm). Visit netball.teambath.com/tickets to purchase.
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.
Attached: Pictures of Team Bath debuant Phumza Maweni tipping the ball away from Paige Reed (1); Rachel Shaw on her return to action after illness (2); Imogen Allison during her first full Superleague game at centre for Team Bath (3); and the Team Bath squad take to the court (4). MUST CREDIT: Gareth Everett.