Fellow unbeaten side Manchester Thunder and local rivals Severn Stars await Blue & Gold on exciting return to Superleague
A clash of the last remaining unbeaten teams followed less than 24 hours later by a local derby – it promises to be a weekend to savour for Team Bath Netball as they return to 2021 Vitality Superleague action after a two-week break.
First up for the Haines Watts-sponsored Blue & Gold is Friday’s hugely-anticipated showdown with defending champions Manchester Thunder, the only other team to have won all their matches so far this season (7.15pm centre-pass).
Team Bath will be back on court in the central venue at Wakefield at 4pm on Saturday for a West Country derby against a Severn Stars side who are yet to win this season but have shown signs of promise throughout a tough start to the campaign.
Anna Stembridge, Team Bath Netball’s Superleague Head Coach, said: “We have to throw everything at the next game in front of us, which is Thunder, but then we have to turn around within 24 hours and play really tenacious opposition in Stars with a tough one-on-one defence.
“That is going to be a huge challenge but one we are looking forward to. We are seeing every game and every style of opposition as an opportunity to see where we are at as a squad and to really thrive on that pressure.”
Both Rengen-backed Team Bath and 2019 champions Thunder have won their opening three matches of the season, and Stembridge is excited to see how her players will rise to Friday’s challenge having already recorded victories over current leaders Loughborough Lightning and title contenders Wasps.
“It has been a brilliant test for us at the start of the season,” she said. “We’ve loved being back on court and performing for our fans, and we’ve also loved the challenge of facing teams like Loughborough, Wasps and now Thunder.
“As a coach you actually don’t want an easy game, particularly as we are not supposed to be the finished article at this stage of the season and we are definitely building. We were able to use nine of the 12 players in our matchday squad against Lightning and Wasps, and it was great for them to all to experience that pressure, that level of intensity, teams going goal for goal and momentum shifts with teams coming back at you.
“Hopefully that will really pay dividends later in the season when we’re right in the thick of it and we have to manage performance, not only quarter by quarter but game by game with the double headers.”
Stembridge is also expecting a tough test for her squad on Saturday against a youthful Stars team who have already put up battling performances against fifth-placed Strathclyde Sirens, Wasps, Thunder and Lightning this season.
They are without captain and star attacker Liana Leota through injury but Stembridge said: “You can’t underestimate Stars. I thought their young guns did very well against Loughborough, particularly shooter Issy Eaton who’s only 16.
“We are expecting a really competitive match, especially as we’ll be coming off the back of the Thunder game the night before.”
Both games will be shown live by Sky Sports, either on Mix (channel 416) or YouTube, and there will also be another opportunity for Team Bath fans to enjoy a virtual watchalong of the Thunder match with fellow supporters via Zoom including exclusive behind-the-scenes videos and insight from former Blue & Gold stars. Click here to sign up for free or find out more.
Team Bath Netball is supported by its Principal Partner, chartered accountants Haines Watts, who are also a pathway partner, and by Rengen and Centurion Chartered Financial Planners. O’Neills are Team Bath’s official kit supplier.