Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 14

ROUND 14 of the Vitality Netball Superleague is set to be another big one, as the competition continues to surprise week in week out. Two big games bookend the round, with third placed Team Bath hosting Loughborough Lightning, currently in fourth, while the second ranked Wasps Netball travel to Hertfordshire to play fifth ranked Saracens Mavericks. Manchester Thunder are likely to keep their position atop the ladder for another week as they take on Severn Stars in seventh.

Opening the round is a big Friday night game between Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning, a match that will see the two sides battle for third and fourth at Team Bath Arena at 7:30pm. The Lightning had a disappointing first half last round, eventually losing by four goals and dropping a seven game winning streak. Bath’s Round 13 match told a similar story, with a stronger second half closing the margin against Wasps Netball before going down by 15 goals. The two sides are likely to have spoken about consistency this week, with both sides needing a fast and accurate start off the blocks to cement their position on the ladder. The Lightning will hope to see the likes of Ella Clark pick up the slack after an average first half performance last round put her shooting partner, Mary Cholhok under the pump with all eyes on her from defence. Bath defenders, Eboni Usoro-Brown and Summer Artman will want to put in the hard yards against Cholhok after seeing how well Surrey Storm defenders took her on last week, giving even more reason for Clark to step up. Vicki Oyesola had a dominant second half for the Lightning last week, so will want to back up her efforts against a strong rotation the likes of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Kim Commane and Beryl Friday.

Saturday will see three games, with the first between eighth and ninth on the ladder, Celtic Dragons and Strathclyde Sirens at Sports Wales National Centre at 4pm. The Dragons had a disappointing 27 point loss to Manchester Thunder last round, so will want to bounce back and get a win this week in front of a home crowd. They are currently sitting two wins clear of the Sirens on the ladder so aren’t in danger of dropping down, however will want put in a strong four quarter effort to get another win on the board and keep building confidence. The Sirens came close to the Stars last round, losing by nine after only being down by two at the final change, so will want to back up their strong effort and boost their shot volume in the second half to get their third win for the season. The Dragons will rely on shooter, Chelsea Lewis and defender, Stacian Facey to get the job done at each end, so the Sirens will need to put in the hard yards to ensure the ball stays away from the opposition as much as possible, likely a job left to defenders, Hayley Mulheron and and Emily Nicholl.

Manchester Thunder will host Severn Stars at 5pm on Saturday, at their home court of Belle Vue in front of what is likely to be a big home crowd again this week. The Thunder got another well deserved win last week, dominating early and shooting double their opposition, Celtic Dragons, in the first half to take their winning tally up to 11. Seventh placed Stars toughed it out against the Sirens to register their fifth win for the season. Consistency was a key factor in their win, so the Stars will hope to carry that over to this round and maintain their form against the top ranked team of the competition. The Stars will want to limit Thunder goal shooter, Joyce Mvula access to the ball, with the likes of Sam Cook and Ella Powell-Davies up for the job after a dominant performance last week saw them limit the Sirens to only six goals in the final quarter. The Stars will also want to protect the ball up forward, with the likes of Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond dominant in the circle defensively, always ready to deflect the ball and take charge of play.

The late Saturday match of the round will see Surrey Storm host London Pulse at 6pm at Surrey Sports Park. Both sides are coming into this match off the back of a win, so will be feeling confident and ready for a tight contest, while the Storm will hope to replicate their strong Round 13 efforts in front of a home crowd. Shantal Slater and Chiara Semple were on fire in Round 13, shooting at a combined 86 per cent, while captain, Ama Agbeze took the court in the second half after a few weeks out of the side, injecting some much needed energy and experience back into the team. However, the Storm put on a show last round, outshooting the Lightning in three of four quarters with the star power of Sigi Burger exceptional under the post, while Lorraine Kowalewska and Katy Hughes dominated defensively. The Storm may have the upper hand in this matchup given they won by a massive 23 points last time they met, however the Pulse have shown a lot of improvement in the last few weeks as well as settled into their ideal starting list, so are likely to put up a good fight.

The final match of the round sees Saracens Mavericks host Wasps Netball at 7pm on Monday night at Hertfordshire Sports Village, in a bid to return to the top four. The Mavericks will come into this match ready to fight their way back into the season after a shock loss to London Pulse last round lost them the opportunity to leapfrog their way back to the top. They are currently sitting one win out of the four with a good percentage, so a win against the highly touted Wasps could bump the Mavericks into as high as third if other results comply. In comparison, the Wasps dominated Team Bath last round, notching up a 15-goal win to keep their minor premiership hopes alive. Last time they met saw the Mavericks challenge until the bitter end, so they will hope for a similar performance this week to put their loss to Pulse behind them. The Mavericks will hope for the likes of George Fisher to be on form and take the court for her regular game time this round after sitting out for most of Round 13, while Razia Quashie will need to be switched on in the defensive circle to put the pressure on Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris at the post.

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