VNSL 2021: Round 1/2 – Sunday & Monday wraps

THE second half of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) opening round saw the likes of Team Bath, Saracens Mavericks and Wasps Netball flex their muscles and once again put their hand up as serious contenders for the silverware in 2021. A number of familiar faces were recognised for their overall impact on the game earning player of the match honours while some young up and coming players managed to secure some valuable court time.

Team Bath Netball (48) defeated Loughborough Lightning (44)

Player of the Match: Serena Guthrie (Team Bath)

Team Bath continued their unbeaten start to the 2021 season, downing Loughborough Lightning by four goals in their second game of the round. After an even start to the game with both sides heading into the half time break at 25 goals apiece Team Bath kicked it up a gear in the second term to pull away and open up a four goal lead, a buffer they did not look keen on losing. In their first appearance for 2021 the Lightning proved that they are no easy beats testing Bath in every way possible. However it was the blue and gold’s impressive level of depth that was the real difference with the side looking to the bench and bringing on the likes of Eboni Usoro-Brown in defence and Rachel Shaw through the midcourt to provide that element of stability to get things back on track. Usoro-Brown wasted no time impacting the play with three intercepts as Serena Guthrie displayed her impressive athleticism through the middle to control proceedings. Linking up with the likes of Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis in attack, Team Bath used their reliable connections to exploit the developing Lightning side headlined by the likes of Jas Odeogberin down in defence. Both Beth Cobden and Nat Panagarry had their work cut out for them up against the likes of Guthrie, Imogen Allison and Tash Pavelin but in the end could not stop Bath who seemed to have all the answers.

Surrey Storm (40) defeated by Saracens Mavericks (54)

Player of the Match: Kadeen Corbin (Saracens Mavericks)

The Mavs picked up where they left off securing their first win of the season after prevailing against a fatigued Surrey Storm outfit that had only played the day before. The Mavericks made their intentions clear from the opening quarter of play skipping out to a three goal lead before extending the margin to 12 at half time showcasing their ability to keep the foot on the throttle. A couple of changes in the third quarter allowed the Storm to reduce the deficit to nine goals at three quarter time as Zimbabwean Gems defender Felisitus Kwangwa worked her way into the contest. After starring in her debut match Sophie Kelly was replaced by Frankie Wells with Surrey working in overdrive to try and stay in the match. Karyn Bailey was a steady ship inside the goal circle for Surrey despite spending a couple of minutes on the bench but in the end the tried and tested combinations of Saracens Mavericks shone through. Kadeen Corbin and sister Sasha combined with relative ease and goal keeper Razia Quashie dominated under the post to repel ball down the court and keep the Storm at bay with a 15-goal last quarter all but sealing the deal for the Mavs.

Severn Stars (34) defeated by Wasps Netball (53)

Player of the Match: Rachel Dunn

Wasps got the job done with relative ease against the Stars, defeating them by 17 goals in a strong showing. Renowned as a powerhouse of the competition Wasps once again ensured that, that mantle would be associated with them as Rachel Dunn took control under the post using her elite timing and accuracy to post to cause all sorts of headache for the Stars defensive unit. With Dunn spearheading the attacking unit, Josie Huckle and Fran Williams impressed down back for the Wasps nullifying the influence of Georgia Rowe under the post while the overall full court press was causing turnovers aplenty for the Stars who failed to move the ball down the court with any form of fluidity. Malysha Kelly debuted for the Stars however it was short lived as Adi Bolakoro came on to replace the Jamaican international with hope to stem the bleeding down back. Bolakoro and Lucy Herdman made a solid duo but it was not enough to combat Dunn and Katie Harris for the Wasps who simply could not be denied. The Wasps led at every turn using their ball movement and strong connections to slice through the Stars despite the best efforts of Liana Leota and Nia Jones.

Loughborough Lightning (44) defeated Wasps Netball (43)

Player of the Match: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning)

It was an enthralling battle between the two sides as Loughborough Lightning shone true defeating Wasps by a mere goal in a tantalising contest. A last quarter flurry of goals gifted the Lightning their first win of the season while the Wasps will be ruing their missed opportunity to start the season undefeated. Skipping out to an early, lead the Wasps seemed in control despite Loughborough pushing them all the way and forcing them into overdrive. But a raft of fourth quarter changes from Loughborough left the Wasps floundering, unable to quell the influence of the Lightning who could sense a victory and were determined to rewrite history. The midcourt combination of Nat Panagarry and Beth Cobden provided a sense of stability and class for the Lightning with the side able to rely on the duo to weave their magic and work the ball down the court to deliver into Mary Cholhok under the post. Up against the likes of Williams and Huckle in defence, Cholhok was a pillar of strength and was able to withstand the physical barrages to lead her side to victory nailing 39 goals. The tried and tested combination of Dunn and Katie Harris were relatively well held by the Lightning defence with the Wasps shooters unable to control proceedings while Sophia Candappa had somewhat of a hard day at the office racking up seven penalties and a caution.

Leeds Rhinos (39) defeated by Saracens Mavericks (43)

Player of the Match: Rhea Dixon (Leeds Rhinos)

Continuing the trend of close encounters to complete the weekend, the tight battle between Leeds Rhinos and Mavericks was as close as they come with neither side willing to relinquish the lead. With both sides entering their second match of the weekend, it was the lesser-connected and injury-prone Rhinos side which came out the worse, as Mavericks’ consistency both on and off the court proved crucial in the four-goal victory. Apart from a huge turnover deficit – 12 turnovers from Mavericks to Rhinos’ three – it was a relatively even matchup as both sides went toe-to-toe, but more penalties and unforced errors from the newest franchise to the competition. It took a huge effort from Rhea Dixon to receive player of the match in a loss, but a testament to her work-rate and impressive ability to play-make in the attack, putting up nine goals and propelling constant ball into Donnell Wallam (15 from 15) and Sienna Rushton (15 from 19). For the winning side it was the impressive defensive pressure from Quashie and partner in crime Jo Trip, who continuously stopped the Rhinos in their tracks. It was injuries aplenty that ruined the Rhinos’ flow, with Wallam and Tuaine Keenan both going down prior to half time, and Fi Toner joining the duo on the sidelines during the third.

Friday/Saturday results 

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