After several close calls this season, Severn Stars finally notched up their first win of the 2018 Vitality Superleague season with a 66-46 win over UWS Sirens.
The Stars finally put together four consistent quarters, inspired by a dominant defensive performance from player of the match Sam Cook and South African international Phumza Maweni, who tormented and frustrated the Scottish side’s attacking structure.
Starting line ups
Changes: Q2 GA Walker, Q4 GA Gallagher, WA Murphy, GD Sutherland
Teamwork often takes time to build, with players finding their own connections and ways to mesh different styles of play. Although both teams joined the Superleague last season, Stars have the more settled line up with the majority of players from 2017 returning this year.
That understanding of knowledge of eachother started to show towards the end of a scrappy first 15 minutes. Both teams mounted stern defensive challenges, with Cook and Maweni’s efforts being matched by Leah Kennedy and Nicole Aiken-Pinnock for the home team.
However, Stars upped the pressure in the midcourt, forcing the Scottish team to lift the ball into the back space in order to move forwards, giving the opportunity for Cook, Dominque Ford-Gordon and Laura Malcolm to pick off the intercept.
The visitors edged ahead 17-13 at the end of the quarter, but looked far from confident of their lead.
Cook’s reach and anticipation on the shot started to unsettle the Sirens shooters in the second period, with Gallagher in particular starting to look out of the circle rather than going to the post. This indecision spread to the midcourt too, with frequent opportunities to feed the circle ignored in favour of a cross court ball, or resetting to the third line.
Stars took advantage, snapping up interceptions which were quickly turned into attacking moves, and despite the increased physicality from Aiken-Pinnock, Cardwell and Holtzhausen started to find their range.
With Vanessa Walker on for Gallagher at GA, Sirens potentially had a more dominant shooting option, but Cook and Maweni stuck resolutely to task as the second half unfolded, forcing Slater to move out from her preferred position under the post.
Ford-Gordon grew in confidence to challenge the feed from the edge of the circle and her work pushed Sirens into errors which Cook, in particular, snapped up. The Stars’ attacking combination grew in confidence with Laura Rudland, in particular, impressing with her efficient, no-nonsense style of play. Time and again she was found planted on the edge of the circle, to release Holtzhausen and Cardwell into space under the post.
As the quarter progressed, Stars grew – became a little more confident, seemed a little taller, appeared to trust each other a little more. With Cardwell finding her range and scoring 16/18 for the period, the lead had stretched to 16 goals in Stars’ favour.
Confidence is contagious and it started to spread through the Stars side in the final quarter, as they realised the first win of the season could be on the cards. Despite the re-introduction of Gallagher, and addition of fresh legs in Sutherland and Murphy for the final period, Sirens still lacked cohesion, particularly in the attacking third and frequently found themselves missing connections and making basic errors.
The win was just reward for Stars’ efforts, and although the competition now takes a break for the Commonwealth Games, their confidence will undoubtedly remain high. Sometimes, you just have to learn how to win.
In other results from Round 7, Mavericks pipped Manchester Thunder 52-49, Surrey Storm skipped over Northumbria 64-47 and Wasps belted Celtic Dragons 74-32. Team Bath beat Lightning 59-54 also, but even more impressive was that they did so without captain Eboni Beckford-Chambers.
Severn Stars 66 def Sirens 46
(17-13, 33-22, 51-35, 66-46)
Player of the match: Sam Cook (Stars)
Cardwell 48/55 87%
Holtzhausen 18/20 90%
Slater 28/35 80%
Gallagher 12/19 63%
Walker 6/9 66%