After a record-breaking Season Opener in Birmingham, all 10 Vitality Netball Superleague franchises are back for Round Two this weekend.
With a rare Friday off, the round gets underway with three games on Saturday evening, including the champions Manchester Thunder on the road at Severn Stars.
Two more games follow on Friday, including Surrey Storm’s meeting with London Pulse on Sky Sports Arena and Mix from 6.45pm and streamed live on our YouTube channel.
Here’s what to look out for this weekend…
Greenway: This could be Saracens Mavs’ year
Bayman shares first-season lessons in bid to build
Vitality Netball Superleague – Round Two Fixtures
Settled Bath set for Dragons challenge
Team Bath looked sharp and settled in Birmingham as they secured a 14-goal victory over Lightning. Shooter Kim Commane led from the front and the fact that they had retained 10 of the 13 players available to them from last season paid dividends.
However, they don’t have any plans to rest on their laurels ahead of this meeting with Dragons.
“We can take great confidence from our performance and result against Lightning but we certainly never underestimate any team in this league,” head coach Anna Stembridge said.
“Dragons have recruited well and will be desperate to bounce back after their result against Storm, where they led for pretty much the entire game but ended up losing by one. It should be a good contest.”
In the same manner as Bath, Dragons stuck to their task in Birmingham until Storm pipped them at the post in the final moments.
Key Match-Up – Let’s go straight to the head-to-head between shooter Commane and Jamaica international Latanya Wilson.
Commane scored 55 of her side’s 72 goals in Birmingham and partnered seamlessly with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis. A little earlier in the day, Wilson had enjoyed a Superleague debut to remember with 10 intercepts, the best of the round.
The Jamaican’s rangy arms and speed will ask questions of Bath’s mid-court and Commane will need to be at her best to ensure she’s as effective as possible on court at Cardiff Met University.
Can Lightning bounce back…again?
Following their 72-58 loss to Team Bath, Sara Bayman didn’t point towards Natalie Panagarry’s injury as the main reason for their loss. Instead, she highlighted their inability to execute their basics and the things within their control.
With Panagarry still waiting for scan results, there’s a distinct possibility that Lightning’s young players will need to step onto court again without as much experience around them as their head coach might like.
The question is, will the comforts of a home court bring about a greater sense of calm and positively impact their work?
Strathclyde Sirens will know that they need to raise their conversion percentages considerably if their side are going to compete and the return of teenage shooting ace Emma Barrie can’t come soon enough.
Zanele Vimbela shone in defence, thoroughly deserving her player of the match award, but more often than not her work wasn’t rewarded on the board.
Key Match Up – If Sam May is fielded in Lightning’s defensive end, then her ability to disrupt the work of Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher should drive her team on. For the Sirens’ duo settling into their shots early, even with May’s lean and elevation, will be vital.
Familiar face Leota key as Stars chase shock
After Stars took a six-goal lead into the second quarter against Saracens Mavericks, a 16-goal second quarter swing (23-8 in Mavs’ favour) was their undoing and they never recovered.
Melissa Bessell’s side didn’t quite click in attack, with the connection between Liana Leota and Georgia Rowe not fully firing, and they weren’t able to disrupt Mavs’ speed through court.
For the reigning champions, it was business as usual on day one of a new season. New signing Ash Neal looked as if she’d been there for years and their exceptionally strong bench provided manoeuvrability and options galore.
Playing away from home doesn’t bother Karen Greig’s team in the slightest, they lost just twice on the road last season, and anything other than a Thunder victory on Saturday would deliver the first big shock of the season.
Melissa Bessell reflecting on Stars’ meeting with Thunder
We know it’s going to be a tough match but we are ready for it. We know that we are a quality side and we will be doing everything we can this Saturday to ensure we put out a solid performance.
Key Match-Up – Any athlete will tell you about the pressure (and enjoyment) that comes from playing against a former team. This weekend, this opportunity falls to Liana Leota and the experienced New Zealander should thrive off it.
Her old team-mates will know exactly how to face-off against her and the tussle with Laura Malcolm (if selected to start) will be one to watch.
Can Storm find their flow? Will Pulse thrive again?
For Surrey, it’s about positives from a late, late victory in Birmingham and their franchise director praised their character after the single-goal victory.
“I’m really pleased with our mental toughness and self-belief in the last five minutes and I think we learned a lot about each other and our strength of character by being able to pull out a win,” said Mikki Austin.
“I think if this was our team a year ago, we wouldn’t have come back from that and we would have capitulated.”
It's going to be a full house at @SurreyStorm.?
If you didn't snap up a ticket, we've got you covered on air and online via our #YouTube stream! ?@SurreyStorm | @Pulse_Netball
Sam Bird’s young Pulse outfit also showed tenacity and resilience in front of the 9,000 strong crowd and now it’s about proving that their performance wasn’t a one off.
They were also winners on day one last season but didn’t win again until April. But, as a new and dynamic young group, they have all the tools to write a different story this time around.
Key Match-Up – The two Centres – Mikki Austin and Ashleigh Dekker. The duo are at different ends of the experience spectrum, Dekker only made her Superleague debut last weekend, and their duel through court should be fascinating.
Home Comforts for Wasps against dazzling Mavs?
At the Ricoh Arena, Saracens Mavericks’ will be out to pick up where they left off and against the two time champions all eyes on whether their ‘young’ players can repeat
Razia Quashie, Gabs Marshall and George Fisher are all part of the England programme and all impressed at the Season opener, against Wasps we will see what they have.
Mel Mansfield’s Wasps outfit never truly found fluidity in their attack-end and her starting selections will be interesting to see and a return to home surrounding might be just what they need to get going.
Alexia Baker ahead of her first home game
We are building each week and developing stronger connections that will have a big impact as we progress through the rounds. It will be my first time playing at Ricoh Arena so I’ll be especially excited,
Key Match-Up – After a quiet first quarter, and a few choice words from her head coach, Quashie excelled in Birmingham and her match-up against Rachel Dunn will be enthralling.
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