2022 VNSL team review: Loughborough Lightning

IN the wake of the 2022 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season finishing, we have taken a look back at how each team fared. We continue the 11-team countdown with the second placed Loughborough Lightning, who after coming in as reigning premiers, fell one win short of grabbing yet another title.


Position: 2nd (Runners-up)
Wins: 19
Losses: 3
Goals For: 1336 (2nd)
Goals Against: 1133 (3rd)
Goal Difference: 203 (2nd)
Points: 57


Loughborough Lightning only suffered three losses all season, and all three came to the undefeated Manchester Thunder. Fittingly, as if one could not have scripted it any better, the Lightning-Thunder games came in the final rounds of the home and away season, Rounds 10 and 20, then of course the grand final.

The lost the Round 10 game by five goals and the Round 20 by eight goals, but were otherwise unblemished throughout the season. They had a couple of tight ones against Wasps Netball and Team Bath in Rounds 7-8 with four and nine-goal wins, with most games being double-digit victories.

The most vulnerable the Lightning looked was after the defeat to the Thunder, using all their get out of jail free cards to defeat Leeds Rhinos (eight goals), Surrey Storm (three), Celtic Dragons (four) and Strathclyde Sirens (seven) before rolling the Rhinos by a more comfortable 15-goal margin in Round 16. Having finished second, the Lightning played London Pulse in the semi-final, defeating them by 12 goals, before going down to the Thunder in the decider by seven, 53-60.


It is hard to overlook a finals win, so the 12-goal victory over London Pulse in the semi-final was a critical one. The Pulse had been in great form in the second half of the season, and the Lightning weathered the storm to secure the victory. They won the first term 14-10, then lead by seven goals at half-time. The Lightning never really took the foot off the pedal, piling on 13 goals to eight to head into the final break with a 12-goal buffer. Though the Pulse managed to break even in the last term, the Lightning proved too strong to win, 56-44.

In the absence of Beth Cobden, Ella Bowen stepped up to help the back third, picking up one intercept, four deflections and two turnovers, while Fran Williams (one intercept, one rebound, seven deflections and three turnovers) and Alice Harvey (seven intercepts, two deflections and seven turnovers) were both rock solid. In attack, Mary Cholhok (34 goals from 38 attempts, two rebounds and one deflection) and Ella Clark (21 goals from 24 attempts, 19 feeds and one rebound) shared the load, as Hannah Joseph had the 19 feeds and one deflection.


Though it would easy to say Cholhok for her pure volume of goals, perhaps the biggest surprise packet who stepped up like few others across the competition was Joseph. The 28-year-old played all 22 games and picked up 445 feeds – 20.2 per game – to be ranked first across the competition. Joseph also collected 14 intercepts, 21 deflections and 19 turnovers in a massive step up from the 2021 season.


Winning multiple Player of the Week awards throughout the season, it might be easy to forget that Harvey is still only 21-years-old. Harvey played all 22 games for the Lightning and became rock solid in the defensive goal circle, a real pest with a high amount of penalties, but also frustrating her opponents and making their lives difficult. She picked up 16 rebounds, 38 intercepts, 75 deflections and 58 turnovers, a boost on the previous year.


Loughborough Lightning could easily be a contender once again in 2023, having come from being premiers to runners-up, the Lightning have established themselves as perennial contenders. With a powerful shooting unit, a rock solid defence and a great balance of experience and upside in the midcourt, there are very few holes in the lineup. Especially considering the Lightning were without Roses talent Cobden for the finals series and still pushed the Thunder all the way.

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