Thunder go undefeated as regular VNSL season wraps up
MANCHESTER Thunder finished the regular Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season undefeated as last year’s grand finalists yet again were too good for reigning premiers Loughborough Lightning, setting up a massive post-season series. Though the Final Four was sorted coming into the game, the other two sides hoping to cause an upset in the knockout finals in London Pulse and Team Bath both grabbed victories in Round 20.
London Pulse had a nice win ahead of the 2022 VNSL Finals series with a seven-goal win over Leeds Rhinos. The Rhinos started off the stronger of the sides to lead by two goals at the first break, before the Pulse took control over the next two quarters to pile on 32 goals to 22, winning each term 16-11. Though Leeds did cut the deficit back by one in the final term, the Pulse finished the regular season on a high note, running out 52-45 victors.
The defensive combination of Funmi Fadoju (two rebounds, three intercepts, 11 deflections and eight turnovers) and Lindsay Keable (one rebound, four intercepts, seven deflections and six turnovers) were strong throughout the game. Up the other end, Olivia Tchine (27 goals from 31 attempts and four rebounds) and Sacha McDonald (23 goals from 28 attempts and 11 feeds) were both busy. For the Rhinos, Amy Clinton was enormous with 37 goals from 43 attempts, while Tuaine Keenan had eight deflections to go with a rebound and three turnovers, and centre Jade Clarke picked up a match-high 27 feeds.
Team Bath also claimed a huge in in its last regular season game before finals , further emphasising why they deserved fourth spot over their opponents, Saracens Mavericks. Bath stormed to a seven-goal quarter time lead, and while the Mavericks cut it back to two by half-time, a dominant 18-5 third term snuffed out any chance of a Mavericks comeback. The home side did win the last quarter 16-14, but it would not be enough as Bath won by 13 goals, 59-46.
The back third of the court was rock solid, lead by Phumza Maweni (four rebounds, three intercepts, two deflections and three turnovers) and Layla Guscoth (two rebounds, three intercepts, two deflections and three turnovers), while Tash Pavelin also stood up with three intercepts, two deflections and three turnovers. Kim Borger was the pick of a rotational shooting circle, putting up 25 goals from 26 attempts. Kadeen Corbin played at both ends of the court for the Mavericks, showcasing her versatility with nine goals from 10 attempts, one defensive rebound, four intercepts, four deflections and five turnovers. Ine-Mari Venter (23 goals from 28 attempts) was busy in attack.
Surrey Storm have secured a Fast5 Championship spot after snatching eighth place on the VNSL table courtesy of a six-goal win over Celtic Dragons. The Storm were surprised by the Welsh visitors in the first term with the Dragons taking a 13-11 lead, before Surrey clicked into gear in the second term, scoring 18-11. The Storm held their advantage by making it six at the final break, before both teams scored 14 goals in the final term for a 58-52 Storm victory.
Felisitus Kwangwa racked up seven deflections, two intercepts and four turnovers in defence, with midcourters, Yasmin Parsons (21 feeds) and Mikki Austin (19) both prolific. Meanwhile in attack, Peace Proscovia put up 39 goals from 43 attempts and pulled down a rebound in the win, shearing the scoring load with Francesca Wells (15 goals from 18 attempts, two rebounds and one deflection). Georgia Rowe tried hard for the visitors scoring 34 goals at 100 per cent, while fellow shooter Lefébre Rademan managed 18 goals from 21 attempts and 16 feeds. Though she racked up 26 penalties, Shaquanda Greene-Noel also amassed five intercepts, two deflections and six turnovers in a hard-working effort.
Though they picked up the win, it was not enough to sneak past Surrey Storm, so Strathclyde Sirens had to settle for a ninth placed finish following an eight-goal win over Severn Stars. The Sirens found the going tough early as the last placed Stars stepped up with 15-11 in the opening term. Eventually the Scottish team got back on top to win the last three quarters by two, four and six goals respectively in order to run out 48-40 victors.
The Sirens defensive pairing of Towera Vinkhumbo (five intercepts, one rebound, three deflections and eight turnovers) and Emily Nicholl (three intercepts, two rebounds, three deflections and five turnovers) both stood out, with Gia Abernethy picking up 20 feeds to go with one intercept, one deflection and two turnovers. Bethan Goodwin shot a match-high 23 goals from 27 attempts in goal shooter. Up the other end, Stars’ Cathrine Tuivaiti managed 21 goals from 22 attempts, while Liana Leota and Bethan Dyke both picked up 13 feeds, with the latter also collecting an intercept and a turnover in the loss.
Manchester Thunder reiterated its place as the team to beat in the upcoming VNSL Finals, defeating second placed Loughborough Lightning by eight goals and remaining undefeated for the 2022 season. The Thunder had top spot secured regardless of the result in the final match, but still went on to win all four quarters against the reining premiers. Though none were a blowout, the Thunder won each quarter by one, three, one and three goals respectively to result in the 71-63 victory.
Natalie Metcalf had a massive 28 feeds and two deflections, getting it through to the likes of Joyce Mvula (39 goals at 100 per cent) and Eleanor Cardwell (29 goals from 31 attempts, two intercepts, one deflection and two turnovers). In defence, Emilia Roscoe did well with a couple of deflections and and turnovers, and an intercept. For the Lightning, Mary Cholhok put up 36 goals from 40 attempts and pulled down three offensive rebounds. In the midcourt, Hannah Joseph had a team-high 23 feeds, while Fran Williams was tidy with two deflections, one intercept and one deflection against her Roses teammate in Cardwell.