After four rounds, of Vitality Netball Superleague in 2022, three teams still remain unbeaten. Having played one less match so far, Loughborough Lightning sits alone in third place, while Manchester Thunder and Saracens Mavericks are level on 12 points at the top. Thunder is in first place by virtue of having the far superior goal difference.
One feature of the season so far has been the ruthless efficiency of Thunder in attack, notching up 70 goals or more in all four matches so far. They are scoring goals so quickly and so easily, it also creates more scoring opportunities for their opposition as well. On Monday night, Strathclyde Sirens scored ten goals more than their previous highest total this year, and yet still lost by 11 goals.
Heading into the season as one of the favoured sides, Team Bath have been placed under pressure due to injury and illness. It’s a long season and they should still be thereabouts when finals come around, but these early struggles are certainly making life tougher for them. Despite once again missing some stars on Friday night, it was still a shock when they went down to a resurgent Surrey Storm by four goals. For Storm, Proscovia Peace is proving to be one of the signings of the year.
Largely unheralded going in, Mavericks have been perhaps the surprise packet of 2022 so far. Ine-Mari Venter has carried on her tremendous form from the Quad Series and is proving to be a match winner for them. Their big test comes this week however as they come up against Thunder in what is a genuine top-of-the-table clash. If Mavericks can measure up to that task, they’ll well and truly justify their lofty position on the ladder.
Stats leaders of the week
Most Goals: 53 Proscovia Peace (Storm v Bath)
Most Feeds: 26 Nat Metcalf (Thunder v Sirens)
Most Gains: 9 Lindsay Keable (Pulse v Wasps)
Most Offensive Rebounds: 3 Joyce Mvula (Thunder v Sirens), Lucy Parize (Wasps v Pulse) & Mary Cholhok (Lightning v Storm)
Most Defensive Rebounds: 3 Kerry Almond (Thunder v Sirens) & Lindsay Keable (Pulse v Wasps)
Most Deflections: 8 Zara Everitt & Lindsay Keable (Pulse v Wasps)
Most Intercepts: 6 Tash Pavelin (Bath v Storm)
Jameela McCarthy unavailable for Saracens Mavericks v Severn Stars.
RESULTS AND MATCH REPORTS
SURREY STORM 62 def TEAM BATH 58
Season 2022 has been the season of upsets so far, and the game 1 of Round 4 did not disappoint. In theory this fixture should have been business as usual for Team Bath, beating Surrey Storm comfortably twice last season. In reality, this fixture turned out to be anything but. Quarter 1 ended 16-all, the first sign this game wasn’t going to play out as the majority of people expected. By half time order had been restored, Bath leading Surrey Storm 34 to 30. The magic of the ‘championship quarter’ kicked in in the 3rd quarter, however, Storm adding a huge 17 goals to their tally and going into the final 15 minutes up by 4, the score sitting at 43-47 to Storm. Despite a late surge from Bath, Storm closed out the game to eventually get the win, the game ending 58-62 to the away side.
In short, Surrey Storm’s attack worked. Storm have always tended to go for a tall, holding shooter in their attacking circle, but now they have a Goal Shooter in Proscovia Peace who can make even the ugliest of feeds look great. She is their get out of jail free card, and her entry into this Storm side has lifted their attacking end to a new level. Mikki Austin can now give her hail Mary feeds she is prone to giving, comfortable in the knowledge Peace will rarely fumble them. This also allows Yas Parsons more space and freedom in attack, knowing if her and Emma Magee get stuck around the circle edge they can go over to Peace. Peace’s arrival has also meant Magee has stepped up to a new level. Defenders are now inclined to double up on Peace which means Magee has to do more work in the circle and in this game she had absolutely no problem with that. Storm’s attacking end was fearless in this match, and it paid off.
Storm’s defensive changes also worked in this match. In a game where the momentum is swinging it can be hard to make the call to make changes, however Austin and her team were brave and brought on Abi Robson into Wing Defence, a player who had recently left Team Bath. Robson’s entry into the game completely changed Storm’s defence, and Austin and co must be commended for the impact their substitutions had.
Where was it won or lost
For Storm this game was won across the court. When Bath fought back in the final quarter, the whole team lifted to ensure vital turnovers were won and goals scored. Storm also never dropped their heads and it would have been fair to assume once Bath took the lead in this game Storm would drop off, the Storm of old having done that. But this team kept themselves in the game and showed grit and determination to win the ball when needed.
Whilst Storm won this game across the court, Bath lost it there too. As the saying goes, defence wins games, and unfortunately Tash Pavelin and Layla Guscoth had no answers as to how to stop Proscovia Peace. It’s rare nowadays to not see Guscoth make an impact and we have grown accustomed to see Pavelin disrupt even the best of attackers, however there was very little pressure on Proscovia Peace. Bath needed significantly more ball to get the win.
Bath’s attacking line also struggled, Stembridge making changes which, like Round 1,2 and 3, had little to no impact. Whilst Betsy Creak did a solid job on for Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis did a fine job when switching into Wing Attack for Kirsty Harris, Bath’s attack never really pushed out of first gear. Borger and Drakeford-Lewis did find their flow towards the end of the game, however Bath had left themselves with too much to do by that point.
The standout player in this game was undoubtedly the eventual Player of the Match, Abi Robson. She entered the game with four minutes to go in the 2nd quarter, her entry pushing Chartie Curtis back into Goal Defence and Leah Middleton into Goal Keeper. Robson changed the dynamic of Storm’s defence entirely, and whilst she didn’t pick up much ball herself, her dogged tracking of Bath’s Wing Attacks caused Bath errors and allowed Curtis and Middleton the opportunity to pick up ball in the circle. Robson eliminated Harris in particular from the game, causing her runs to become longer and longer which suited Robson’s style of defence perfectly.
Kim Borger 33/36 (92%)
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis 14/15 (93%)
Betsy Creak 11/14 (79%)
TOTAL 58/65 (89%)
Feeds: 54 (Harris, J. Shaw 20)
Gains: 14 (Pavelin 6)
Penalties: 60 (Guscoth 21)
Proscovia Peace 53/56 (95%)
Emma Magee 9/13 (69%)
TOTAL 62/69 (90%)
Feeds: 63 (Parsons 22)
Penalties: 38 (Middleton 11)
Player of the Match: Abi Robson (Storm)
LEEDS RHINOS 57 def CELTIC DRAGONS 52
SARACENS MAVERICKS 62 def SEVERN STARS 52
By Bethany Lord
Severn Stars’ first home game in two years saw them take on the currently undefeated Saracens Mavericks. The match started goal for goal, but it wasn’t long before Mavericks pulled away. Stars looked a bit hesitant with the ball and it cost them in attack, where they struggled against the hard pace of the Mavericks defence. The first quarter ended 18-10 to Mavericks – although they could get the ball, Stars couldn’t get it into goal.
Quarter Two was the Ine-Mari Venter show, as she went on to shoot a total of 35 goals before the halftime whistle. Unsurprisingly, Stars made changes to their 7 with Drayne into WA, Leota into C and Harrison into GA, but they were unable to combat Mavericks defensive duo in Quashie and Gibson. Mavericks entered half time with a 14 goal lead.
The third quarter stretched the lead out to 17 – Mavericks’ combinations were looking slick, however Stars managed to keep them to a 3 goal lead in the quarter, which was an improvement over the first half. A number of unforced errors from Mavs in the fourth quarter and a strong fight back from Stars led to Stars winning the final quarter 17-10, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to overcome the first three quarters, and Mavericks won the match 52-62. This pushes Mavericks to the top of the table with Manchester Thunder, the only two teams currently undefeated. These two teams will meet on court next week, which will be a true test of Mavericks current form – can they continue to put out performances like they have been against a strong Thunder side? Their starting 7 have certainly found their feet, but can they figure out how to use their bench without it knocking their performance? Let’s just say this next match is sure to be one to watch.
Paige Reed 27/32 (84%)
Katie Harris 16/20 (80%)
Issy Eaton 9/11 (82%)
TOTAL 52/63 (83%)
Feeds: 45 (Leota 21)
Gains: 11 (Herdman 5)
Penalties: 29 (Bolakoro 12)
Ine-Marie Venter 49/52 (94%)
Kadeen Corbin 13/16 (81%)
TOTAL 62/68 (91%)
Feeds: 59 (S. Corbin 25)
Gains: 13 (Quashie 7)
Penalties: 40 (Gibson 17)
Player of the Match: Ine-Mari Venter (Mavericks)
MANCHESTER THUNDER 71 def STRATHCLYDE SIRENS 60
It was Strathclyde Sirens’ second home game of the season on Monday night and they would be chasing another win to add to their tally after their victory over Wasps in round one. It wasn’t going to be easy though, as they were coming up against a dominant Manchester Thunder, whose shooting end seems to be unstoppable.
Sirens were without three of their match day squad, including starting goal keeper Towera Vinkhumbo, thanks to Covid protocols, so it looked like it was going to be a baptism of fire for young goal keeper Rachel Conway as she came up against the in-form Joyce Mvula.
Thunder would have been looking to continue their run of form in round four, whilst Sirens would be looking to tighten up on the errors that cost them a home win against Leeds Rhinos in round three.
It’s hard to find new ways to talk about the Manchester Thunder attack end, and in particular the combination between Mvula and goal attack Eleanor Cardwell. We know how clinical these two can be having watched them develop their partnership over the seasons. There were points in the game where Thunder were applying the pressure by playing simple netball, getting the ball into the shooting third and launching it over the head of the Sirens’ defenders into Mvula, who sunk 50/55 goals at 95%. Cardwell provided the back up where required, and her continued skill combined with her confidence on court is reason in itself to tune into the VNSL every week.
For Sirens, goal attack Niamh McCall continues to impress with her long bomb shots, while Bethan Goodwin stood up in goal shoot this week, shooting 40/44 (91%). At the other end of the court, Sirens’ defence had their work cut out, but the experienced head of Emily Nicholl kept the Glasgow side in the game. Without Vinkhumbo and Abby Tyrell available in goal keeper, training partner Rachel Conway stepped up to the plate.
The Manchester Thunder defence provided the backup and turnover ball that allowed their shooters to clock up over 70 goals for the third week in a row. Kerry Almond had a quiet game compared to some of her other performances, but still picked up three defensive rebounds, three intercepts and five gains. It was fantastic to see young goal defence Yomi Eza-Wilson get a good run out at goal defence, interchanging with Millie Sanders, and providing back up to Almond. With two defensive rebounds, four deflections and three gains, she’s certainly one to watch.
Where was the game won and lost?
It was a similar performance for Sirens this week as in their previous game against Leeds Rhinos in round four; they started strongly and were down by one goal, 16 – 17, going into the second quarter. The errors started to creep in in the run up to half time, but they looked calm and it was great to see the Sirens’ shooters backing themselves to goal. Captain Gia Abernethy hit the nail on the head at half time, saying they needed capitalise on turnovers and take the ball to circle edge. They certainly looked more in control than they have in the past, not letting the game get out of their control and staying calm after unforced errors.
Thunder did the little things well, which you can see when you look at the statistics. The Manchester side tallied up five defensive rebounds to Sirens’ one, and similarly in attack, it was four to one. They weren’t fully happy with their performance though, captain and wing defence Laura Malcolm said at half time that at times they were messy and ill-disciplined, not sticking to their structures in defence.
It’s hard to look past the shooting stalwart Joyce Mvula, who deservedly took home the Player of the Match award. Natalie Metcalf and Caroline O’Hanlon backed up the Thunder shooters well with some fantastic feeds into the circle, Metcalf in particular providing a consistent 60 minute performance.
For Sirens, McCall’s long bombs continue to impress and Goodwin looked more confident, turning to post to reward her feeders’ hard work. Nicholl and Conway worked well together, whilst McKevitt, Abernethy and Dix continued to build their connection through the midcourt.
Next week, Sirens face current title-holders Loughborough Lightning at home, whilst Thunder are away to the only other unbeaten side in the competition, Saracens Mavericks.
Bethan Goodwin 40/44 (91%)
Niamh McCall 20/26 (77%)
TOTAL 60/70 (86%)
Feeds: 60 (Dix 25)
Gains: 8 (Nicholl 3)
Penalties: 46 (Conway, Nicholl 13)
Joyce Mvula 50/55 (91%)
Eleanor Cardwell 21/25 (84%)
TOTAL 71/80 (89%)
Feeds: 69 (Metcalf 26)
Gains: 14 (Almond 5)
Penalties: 46 (Almond 18)
Player of the Match: Joyce Mvula (Thunder)
LONDON PULSE 52 def WASPS 35
The final game of Round 4 saw London Pulse return home to the Copper Box for the first time this season, attempting to beat Wasps for the first time in their history. In theory this fixture should have been fairly evenly matched, a young franchise attempting to prove they can live up to the hype that surrounds them versus a franchise with history, attempting to rediscover their historic form. The first half went as expected, quarter 1 ending 13-13, the scores tied again at half time 22-22. If this game was supposed to be close though, nobody informed London Pulse. They stormed ahead in the third quarter, beating Wasps 18-5 and taking the third quarter score up to 40-27. They weren’t content to stop there though, eventually keeping Wasps to just 13 goals in the second half, the game ending 52-35 to London Pulse.
In the first half, a lot worked for Wasps. Lucy Parize and Rachel Dunn combined well in the shooting circle, Parize’s accurate shooting proving impossible for Funmi Fadoju and Lindsay Keable to get any ball off. Parize and Dunn were also rotating well, unravelling the Pulse defence at the last minute. Wasps defence was also unstoppable in the first half, Josie Huckle and Ella Powell-Davies adopting an aggressive, man-on style of play that made it near impossible for Liv Tchine and Sacha McDonald to rotate in the circle and find space.
In the second half, however, everything went Pulse’s way. The injection of Alicia Scholes into the game at Wing Attack, along with Tayla Honey at Centre, meant that Pulse’s attack became a lot freer flowing and most importantly, fast. Pulse captain Zara Everitt also came alive, picking up multiple balls and becoming increasingly more disruptive as the game went on. This was complimented by Funmi Fadoju and Lindsay Keable who grew as the game went on, eventually seeing off 3 different Wasps’ shooters and making it impossible for Wasps to score.
Where was the game won or lost?
Pulse won this game in the midcourt. At either end of the court Huckle, Powell-Davies, Keable and Fadoju, as always, picked up plenty of ball. It became clear early on that the team that would win were the team who could turnover ball in the midcourt and feed most efficiently. In the end, Lauren Nicholls’ lack of attacking experience was revealed when up against Honey, who has both attacking flair and vision and the ability to pick up deflections and interceptions. In addition, Pulse found their secret weapon when they worked McDonald into the game. McDonald came away with 12 goals from 14 attempts (86% shooting accuracy) but most importantly 11 feeds – this is huge when you compare it to her Goal Attack counterpart in Parize for Wasps, who had just 2 feeds. The service Tchine was getting in comparison to Dunn was, simply, incomparable.
For me there were 4 standout players in this game. For London Pulse, Honey and Scholes completely transformed the midcourt. Whilst Ash Dekker and Ellie Rattu did a fine job, evidenced by the fact there was nothing to separate the teams at half time, they were slow to feed the circle and lacking connection with Sacha McDonald. Enter Honey, one-time Vixens teammate of McDonald, and Scholes, the very definition of a pocket rocket. They came on at Centre and Wing Attack respectively and brought speed, precision and vision to the attacking end. Couple this with their willingness to take on a hard drive and take the hit and they tore apart Wasps’ defence in the second half of this game.
The third standout player of this fixture goes to Keable. She played a complete Goal Keepers game – quiet in the first quarter but an absolute powerhouse by the final quarter. She picked up 3 defensive rebounds – every one on offer in the 2nd half – and 8 deflections. Whilst these aren’t ginormous stats, they show that Keable spent the game working out her opponents, niggling away at them and eventually reaping the rewards in balls off the backline and missed shots. In a club where the hype surrounds the younger defenders, Keable showed that experience and smarts can be just as effective and proved why she is still one to watch in this Pulse team.
Whilst Wasps eventually lost this game, we cannot ignore Iona Christian’s contribution to the game overall. Christian finished this game with 15 feeds, the highest of any Wasps player, but more importantly 2 deflections and 1 interception. When your shooters are up against the likes of Keable and Fadoju missed shots and missed rebounds are inevitable, so it was key Wasps’ attack turned over ball and regained possession in the attacking end. Christian did just this and was one of the few Wasps players to really make an impact.
Olivia Tchine 37/42 (88%)
Sacha McDonald 12/14 (86%)
Berri Neil 2/3 (67%)
Kira Rothwell 1/1 (100%)
TOTAL 52/60 (87%)
Feeds: 55 (Honey 13)
Gains 25 (Keable 9)
Penalties: 62 (Keable 18)
Rachel Dunn 16/18 (89%)
Lucy Parize 12/18 (67%)
Gezelle Allison 7/12 (58%)
TOTAL 35/48 (73%)
Feeds: 39 (Christian 15)
Gains: 12 (Huckle 6)
Penalties: 47 (Powell-Davies 13)
Player of the Match: Olivia Tchine (Pulse)
LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING 72 def SURREY STORM 56
Proscovia Peace 49/49 (100%)
Ellie Kelk 4/5 (80%)
Emma Magee 2/2 (100%)
Frankie Wells 1/1 (100%)
TOTAL 56/59 (95%)
Feeds: 55 (Parsons 25)
Gains: 7 (Middleton 6)
Penalties: 45 (Middleton 12)
Mary Cholhok 52/57 (91%)
Ella Clark 12/15 (80%)
Suzie Liverseidge 5/7 (71%)
Emma Thacker 3/4 (75%)
Feeds: 69 (Joseph 24)
Gains: 14 (Harvey 5)
Penalties: 52 (Harvey 17)
(Team . Pld . Pts . +/-)
Thunder . 4 . 12 . +70
Mavericks . 4 . 12 . +28
Lightning . 3 . 9 . +55
Bath . 4 . 6 . +26
Pulse . 4 . 6 . +8
Rhinos . 3 . 6 . -13
Sirens . 4 . 3 . -21
Wasps . 4 . 3 . -23
Storm . 4 . 3 . -29
Stars . 4 . 3 . -35
Dragons . 4 . 0 . -66
Fri 7:30pm Sirens v Lightning Sky (YouTube)
Sat 2pm Pulse v Dragons
Sat 4pm Mavericks v Thunder
Sat 6pm Stars v Bath
Sat 6pm Storm v Rhinos Sky (YouTube)
Mon 5:30pm Thunder v Wasps Sky
Hear from the players and coaches via our friends at The Netball Show.