Team Bath were made to fight every step of the way to keep their winning Superleague streak intact tonight at the University of Bath Sports Training Village.
After losing the opening quarter 9-13, they pulled back to 23-23 at half-time before grinding out the victory at 52-38.
“It was good that questions were asked of us today”, said coach Jess Thirlby after the encounter. “That’s the way it should be in the top four and it will have done us good psychologically to pull through”.
A mobile and aggressive Mavericks team seized the early initiative with some fluid play to lead 6-3 before going on to take the opening quarter. Their lofty shooters Steffi Burt and Sophie Hankin found the net at whatever range.
The visitors, of course, included former Team Bath players Sasha Corbin of the England mid-court who was matched up against her England team-mate Serena Guthrie.
“I always enjoy playing against Sasha. We have worked together to improve together for a long time’, said Guthrie. “I thought she had a good game tonight”.
Rose Morgan Smith and England goal-keeper Lindsay Keable are also former Team Bath players and their insight into the home side’s tactics will have proved important.
Keable’s height in defence troubled Corbin’s younger sister Kadeen, playing for Team Bath at goal-shooter, and England captain Pamela Cookey at goal-attack. Both scored with some spectacular long shots but countered that with some crucial misses.
Battling back to 8-8 in the opening quarter, Team Bath could not capitalise on two superb turn-overs from Stacey Francis in defence and fell behind at 8-11 and 9-12.
Home-side coach Jess Thirlby switched Cookey and Corbin in the second quarter with Cookey moving to goal-shooter.
Team Bath surged after the break in a significant shift of momentum and, importantly, penetration in attack. Mia Ritchie and Yasmin Parsons at centre and wing-attack began to find their shooters more regularly.
Francis, goal-keeper Sam Cook and Guthrie picked up the pace and Bath levelled at14-14 with seven minutes of the quarter gone. They went on to lead 21-18 and 23-19 with two minutes remaining. Unfazed Mavericks hit back to score on the half-time whistle to level at 23-23.
“I thought Sam Cook played better and better as the match went on”, said Thirlby. “She gained confidence from the performance of Stacey”.
Thirlby rested Parsons in quarter three preferring the experience of Team Bath captain Asha Francis.
Some superb long-range shooting from Corbin and Cookey saw Team Bath to a lead of 30—24 and, just when it seemed Mavericks might get back into contention, Stacey Francis intercepted to set up the attack again. The Phase One leaders moved to a ten-goal advantage at 40-30 with just under two minutes to go to the break.
Mavericks pulled one back but Team Bath snatched a late goal to go to the final interval 41-31 ahead.
The visitors made wholesale changes to their line-up for the final quarter, giving court time to Tallisa Haynes at wing-defence and Alice Ewer at goal-attack. Rose Morgan Smith was injured a minute into the quarter in a clash with Mia Ritchie and was carried off. She was replaced by Michaella McFarlane.
Both sides struggled to revive their rhythm after the injury time out. Team Bath put on two goals but Mavericks replied with three. Once again Team Bath stuttered twice on the final feed into the circle before adding two more to lead 48-36 with five minutes to go.
Cookey conjured up some incredible athleticism to shoot on the run and take Bath to 49-37 and then 50-37.
The visitors suffered another injury blow when they lost Alice Ewer at goal-attack, bringing Hankin back into the fray. But the flow was all with Team Bath who closed out the game 52-38 to hold their lead at the top of the Superleague.
Team Bath’s next home match is against Celtic Dragons on Monday 29 April. For ticket details and our superb buy one get one free visit our Superleague web page.
Quarter scores (Team Bath first):
Q1:9-13; Q2: 14-10 (23-23); Q3: 14 – 7 (37-30) ; Q4: 15-8 (52-38)
GS: Kadeen Corbin, GA: Pamela Cookey, WA: Yasmin Parsons, C: Mia Ritchie, WD: Serena Guthrie, GD: Stacey Francis, GK: Samantha Cook
Bench: Gemma Stewart, Ashleigh Stock, Amanda Trounce, Sophie Masterston, Asha Francis (capt)
Changes: Quarter 2: Corbin to GA; Cookey to GS; Quarter 3: Asha Francis – WA
Coach: Jess Garland, Assistant coach: Denis Ellis
GS: Steffi Burt; GA: Sophie Hankin, WA: Sasha Corbin (captain), C: Mikki Austin, WD: Rose Morgan-Smith, GD: Nadia Hutchinson, GK: Lindsay Keable
Bench: Alice Ewer, Tallisa Haynes, Josie Huckle, Vicklyn Joseph, Micahealla McFarlane
Changes: Quarter 4: Corbin to WA, Rose Morgan Smith to C; Tallisa Haynes – WD, Alice Ewer – GA
Coach: Karen Atkinson, Assistant coach: Kat Ratnapala
Kadeen Corbin – 30 from 39 attempts 77%
Pamela Cookey – 22 from 24 attempts 92%
Steffi Burt – 30 from 39 77%
Sophie Hankin – 7 from 12 attempts 58%
Alice Ewer – 1 from 2 attempts 50%
You can find out more about Team Bath on our website teambath.com