VNSL Round 11 preview: Lightning and Rhinos to finally clash

THE postponed Round 1 fixture between Loughborough Lightning and Leeds Rhinos will finally take place in Round 11 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season. The pair face off on Monday night, in what will be the second clash of the weekend for the Lightning who also take on London Pulse on Saturday. Here are the six games to watch across the weekend.

  • Team
  • London Pulse
  • Loughborough Lightning

Saturday, April 2 @ 2pm
Copper Box Arena

Loughborough Lightning are coming off their first loss of the season in a thrilling five-goal game against top of the table Manchester Thunder, and will be looking to bounce back against a red-hot London Pulse side. After losing to the Thunder themselves in Round 9 by a minuscule three goals, the third placed Pulse put Leeds Rhinos to the sword and ran out 14-goal victors. These sides faced back in Round 1 when the Lightning got up by 11 goals, 61-50. Lead by a high-scoring Mary Cholhok (51 goals from 56 attempts) and a defensive lineup that included Beth Cobden (four intercepts, seven deflections and five turnovers), Alice Harvey, and Fran Williams in her first game in the purple dress. The Pulse will look to reverse that result here, with Funmi Fadoju (five rebounds, four turnovers and two intercepts) key to stopping Cholhok, whilst the shooting duo of Olivia Tchine and Sacha McDonald has really click into gear.

  • Team
  • Strathclyde Sirens
  • Team Bath

Saturday, April 2 @ 2pm
Emirates Arena

Another clash on at 2pm on Saturday is that of the Strathclyde Sirens hosting Team Bath. Both these sides are coming off extended breaks, having missed Round 10 clashes due to COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols within their matchups. The last time they took the court, the Sirens defeated last placed Celtic Dragons by 10 goals to snap back-to-back losses against Saracens Mavericks and London Pulse. Team Bath on the other hand have suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Lightning and Wasps, with a 16-goal win against the Dragons back in Round 7 their last win. In Round 1, Bath got the job done by 14 goals, winning all four quarters as Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (15 goals from 17 attempts, two intercepts and one rebound) won Player of the Match. She teamed up well with Kim Borger and Betsy Creak in a rotational goal circle, whilst Imogen Allison and Layla Guscoth were important, and Phumza Maweni has since joined the side. The Sirens have also since welcomed back young shooter Emma Barrie, with Niamh McCall and Bethan Goodwin working hard in that clash, whilst midcourters Taylor McKevitt and Gia Abernethy kick-started what would become strong seasons for them.

  • Team
  • Celtic Dragons
  • Manchester Thunder

Saturday, April 2 @ 4pm GMT
Sport Wales National Centre

In a David vs Goliath battle, last placed Celtic Dragons will be looking for their first win since Round 6 and second overall, when they take on the undefeated Manchester Thunder. The ladder leaders and premiership favourites have roared to a 10-0 start, and passed their two biggest challengers in the past two weeks in London Pulse and Loughborough Lightning. The Dragons have been competitive at times, but ultimately had another heartbreaking loss in Round 10, losing to Surrey Storm by a goal to make it four consecutive defeats. Manchester showed no mercy back in Round 1 when the Thunder ran out 26-goal winners, 79-53 and would be strong favourites to apply more scoreboard pressure here, but this time in Wales. The shooting combination of Joyce Mvula and Eleanor Cardwell, with the fantastic rotation of star wing attack Natalie Metcalf into the goal attack position has done wonders, with captain Laura Malcolm and reliable goal keeper Kerry Almond all playing starring roles this season. The Dragons have tried hard with the defensive duo of Shaquanda Greene-Noel and Annabel Roddy holding up, whilst Lefébre Rademan and Georgia Rowe have held their own in attack.

  • Team
  • Surrey Storm
  • Severn Stars

Sunday, April 3 @ 4pm GMT
Surrey Sports Park

Since Round 5, the Surrey Storm have gone 4-2, with the two defeats being single-digit losses, and the wins now notching up to three in a row, including an upset victory over Saracens Mavericks. Enjoying a home stint for the third time in four weeks, the Storm will be buoyed by a hard-fought one-goal win over Celtic Dragons on Monday. Despite being expected to win by more, the Storm showed they can grind out a win even when not playing at their best, and they will need to do that against another bottom two side in Severn Stars. Remarkably the Stars actually won this Round 1 encounter by nine goals, but since then, they have dropped eight consecutive games with a goal difference of more than 100. In the Round 1 encounter, the Stars won all four quarters, as Liana Leota fed well to Issy Eaton and Paige Reed who shared 50 goals between them, whilst Lucy Herdman was steadfast in defence. Peace Proscovia made her debut and scored 35 goals from 38 attempts, a modest total to what she has done of late, whilst the midcourt of Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin, and defensive work of Leah Middleton has been crucial to the Storm’s success.

  • Team
  • Saracens Mavericks
  • Wasps Netball

A critical game for both side, Saracens Mavericks sit in fourth place with an even goal difference of 489 both for and against, whilst the Wasps have picked up in the last month, to now be 3-7 for the season, but still needing to string a few more results together in the coming weeks. The Mavericks won this corresponding clash by nine goals in Round 1, weathering a see-sawing first half, to pile on 20 goals to 11 in the third term and eventually get the job done, 58-49. It really kick-started the Mavs’ season to get off to the perfect first month before they started to slip. Ine-Mari Venter has been influential when available, coming in as a powerful shooting option, and has rotated well with Kadeen Corbin and Britney Clarke. Sasha Corbin has been important in midcourt, with the defensive duo of Jodie Gibson and Razia Quashie critical up the other end. Likewise, Rachel Dunn, Lucy Parize and Gezelle Allison have performed strongly as a shooting trio, whilst Ella Powell-Davies and Josie Huckle have paired up nicely in defence.

  • Team
  • Loughborough Lightning
  • Leeds Rhinos

Monday, April 4 @ 7pm
Sir David Wallace Arena

In what should be another challenging clash for the Lightning, they take on Leeds Rhinos in a standalone Monday night match. The Rhinos will be fresh having not played since the previous Saturday during a loss to the Pulse, making it nine days since they last faced off, whilst the Lightning will have the two-day turnaround. This game was initially meant to be a Round 1 fixture, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols. Now with form under both side’s belts, the Lightning are keen to bounce back from their first loss against the Thunder last round, whilst the Rhinos sit fifth and willing to leapfrog the Mavericks with a win, and a Mavs’ loss. The Rhinos have grown stronger throughout the season, with Sigrid Burger, Brie Tyler Grierson and Amy Clinton doing well in attack, whilst Rebekah Airey and Tuaine Keenan have supported the side well in defence, with captain Jade Clarke in centre.

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