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 fourth placed Team Bath who got better as the season went on and really earned a place in the Final Four despite spiritual leader Serena Guthrie retiring early in the season.
Position: 4th (3rd after Finals)
Goals For: 1152 (3rd)
Goals Against: 1081 (2nd)
Goal Difference: 71 (4th)
SEASON IN A NUTSHELL
Team Bath was always considered a contender for the flag, with strong players across each line. They kicked off 2022 with a bit of a yo-yo start, defeated Strathclyde Sirens and Leeds Rhinos, but going down to London Pulse and Surrey Storm. They only just beat battlers Severn Stars, then took it up to eventual premiers Manchester Thunder, showing the level of consistency was not quite there. That win-loss breakdown kep going through Round 8 with a victory over Celtic Dragons and then a loss to Loughborough Lightning. A harsh defeat at the hands of Wasps Netball left Team Bath at 5-6 from the first half of the season and really middling in terms of their prospects. Then that all chances in the second half, as the blue and gold side won eight of its last 11 to rack up 13 wins and finish fourth overall. They claimed a massive 21-goal win over London Pulse, and a nail-biting one-goal victory over Saracens Mavericks which proved critical in getting the upper hand for a Final Four spot. Had they not missed some key players against Leeds Rhinos on Round 14, Team Bath might have won five on the trot. Back-to-back losses to the top two sides was followed by three consecutive wins over the Dragons, Wasps and Mavericks to end the regular season. Though battling hard, Team Bath could not topple Manchester Thunder in the Semi-Final but did grab third spot with a four-goal win over London Pulse in the Third Placed Playoff.
The 21-goal win over London Pulse in Round 12 really put Team Bath back into finals contention, and set them up for a huge run home. Bath raced out to an eight-goal lead at quarter time, then held firm as the Pulse cut that deficit to six at the main break. Determined not to slip up in front of home fans at Team Bath Arena, the blue nad gold team piled on 36 goals to 21 to secure the 62-41 victory on April 11. Unsurprisingly, the defensive pairing of Layla Guscoth (six intercepts, six deflections, six turnovers and one rebound) and Phumza Maweni (four intercepts, two deflections, four turnovers and one rebound) were outstanding. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (18 goals rom 19 attempts, 15 feeds, four intercepts, two deflections, four turnovers and one rebound) starred, pairing well with goal shooter Kim Borger (44 goals from 45 attempts), whilst Kirsty Harris (19 feeds, one intercept, one deflection and one turnover) was also strong.
Though plenty of stars throughout the year, it was hard to look past Guscoth, who was a ray of consistency in the back half. Each and every week she would make life difficult for the opposing shooters, and was a clear standout goal defence throughout the 2022 VNSL season. The English Roses international recorded the most intercepts of any player (67), created the third most turnovers (112) and the third most deflections (90) in an remarkable year.
ONE TO WATCH
Mostly playing out of wing defence courtesy of the incredible pairing of Guscoth and Maweni, rising talent Tash Pavelin is an exciting one. The 24-year-old played one less game in 2022 compared to 2021 (21-22), but spent far more time on the court, with increases across the board. Pavelin picked up 45 intercepts, 49 deflections, 62 turnovers and five defensive rebounds, showcasing her ability to slide into the circle if required.
Team Bath will have to overcome the loss of the retiring Borger, but will undoubtedly find a suitable replacement for the the star Australian in goal shooter. Meanwhile Bath missed Guthrie for effectively the whole season, but she will officially depart also retiring, with the blue nad gold outfit able to top up on a midcourter, though it would be impossible to replace her presence as one of the all-time greats. Defensively, Bath is one of the top sides anywhere in the world with international representatives in the circle, which will hold the side in good stead for the future.