NSL R1: Bath 52 Lightning 86
Team Bath lost their opening game in the 2023 season against Lightning
Team Bath Netball Head Coach Asha Francis says her new-look Super League squad will have learnt a lot from their tough Season Opener defeat to an outstanding Loughborough Lightning side.
Lightning hit their stride straight away to race into a 23-13 lead after the first quarter but the Haines Watts-sponsored Blue & Gold, featuring four debutants and two returning players, played some excellent netball during the second period and were much more competitive across the court as they only lost the quarter by one goal.
However, a disappointing start to the third quarter saw Lightning score nine unanswered goals and they went on to record a convincing 86-52 victory at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena.
“I definitely think there is a lot to take from it and a lot to learn,” said Francis. “Obviously it is a big score but one of the things we have really been focussing on is not looking at the score too much but what we are committing to as a group.
“I thought we were impeccable in the second quarter, exceptional in what we want this team to look and feel like, but we were like a different team at the start of quarter three and didn’t hit any of the things we had in quarter two. We will definitely be looking at how we can be more consistent across the board.”
Team Bath featured two debutants in their starting combination, centre Ali Wilshier and Welsh international wing-attack Bethan Dyke, while goal-keeper Summer Artman and goal-attack Kadeen Corbin were both back for their third spells in Blue & Gold. Captain Lily-May Catling, vice-captain Betsy Creak and England mid-courter Imogen Allison completed the seven that took to the court.
Lightning, champions and runners-up in the past two seasons, have one of the league’s most settled squads and quickly found their rhythm, easing into a 6-1 lead inside four minutes. Team Bath began to work their way into the game but Lightning were clinical at both ends of the court and took a 23-13 lead into the second quarter.
Future Roses defender Jayda Pechova came on for her Blue & Gold debut and fellow 18-year-old Sophie Kelly was also introduced at goal-attack during a much more evenly-matched second quarter. Both players had a big impact as Team Bath forced a number of tips in defence and got the ball into the attacking circle with more consistency during a quarter that Lightning edged 20-19.
Lightning stepped up a gear in the third quarter, though, and a nine-goal streak in the opening five minutes stretched the lead to 52-32. Kirsty Harris and Hannah Passmore came into attack for Team Bath but Lightning continued to pull away and went into the final quarter with a healthy 67-39 advantage.
Team Bath kept battling away in the final quarter and brought up a half-century of goals but Lightning were good value for their statement win.
The Blue & Gold are heading to the capitals of England and Wales for their next two Super League matches, visiting London Pulse on Friday 17th February and Cardiff-based Celtic Dragons on Monday 20th February (both 7pm centre-pass).
They will then take to the Team Bath Arena court for the first time on Friday 24th February against Scottish franchise Strathclyde Sirens (7.30pm). Tickets for that match and the seven other home games are on sale now, along with season tickets, at netball.teambath.com/tickets.
Team Bath Netball is supported by its Principal and Pathway Partner, chartered accountants Haines Watts; Bath Building Society and Rengen Developments, who are overall Team Bath Partners; Centurion Chartered Financial Planners; Ecus Ltd, our environment partner; and PDS Coaching, who provide performance mentoring. Team Bath’s suppliers include O’Neills, 2XU and Pulseroll.
Team Bath Netball starting combination: GS Betsy Creak, GA Kadeen Corbin, WA Bethan Dyke, C Ali Wilshier, WD Imogen Allison, GD Lily-May Catling, GK Summer Artman. Impact players: Jayda Pechova, Annie O’Rourke, Kirsty Harris, Sophie Kelly, Hannah Passmore.
Loughborough Lightning starting combination: GS Mary Cholhok, GA Emma Thacker, WA Hannah Joseph, C Nat Panagarry, WD Jas Odeogbern, GD Fran Williams, GK Alice Harvey. Impact players: Rhea Dixon, Suzie Liverseidge, Hannah Williams, Bella Baylis, Zan Vimbela.
Quarter-scores (Team Bath first): Q1 13-23; Q2 32-43 (19-20); Q3 39-67 (7-24); Q4 52-86 (13-19).
Match Report: Team Bath
Image: Morgan Harlow