Team Bath Netball will head into this weekend’s Vitality Netball Superleague semi-finals with confidence soaring after finishing the regular season with an emphatic 75-55 win at Loughborough Lightning.
Saturday’s result – Team Bath’s biggest of the season in terms of goals scored – extended the Blue and Gold’s winning run to four matches and was their third successive victory on the road.
Standing in their way of a Grand Final place is a table-topping Manchester Thunder team who have only lost once all season.
They are also the last side to have beaten Team Bath, with last month’s 69-51 win at the Thunderdome following up a 62-37 success for Thunder at the Team Bath Arena in February.
But Team Bath Director of Netball Jess Thirlby believes this weekend’s meeting in Manchester will be much closer and is taking inspiration from Hertfordshire Mavericks, who stunned Thunder in the semi-finals last season.
“We have unfinished business with Manchester Thunder, they are the only team we haven’t beaten this season,” said Thirlby.
“Thunder got off to a flying start on both occasions we played them and gave us too much to do but it was very competitive in Manchester for the remaining three quarters and we did pose them problems.
“We have to get off to a better start this time and that is one aspect of our game that has certainly improved in the last four matches.
“Thunder have to be the favourites after finishing top of the table but they have the ghost of last season’s semi-finals to contend with. They went into that match with a perfect record but lost at home to Mavericks, so it is possible.
“We are in a really good place. The girls are buoyant and they are really living the values and culture we have been instilling in them since pre-season. Maybe the stars are aligning for us.”
Team Bath – backed by Carter Jonas – showed more signs of growth at Loughborough as they produced what Thirlby described as “a really pleasing performance” to record a convincing victory over a Lightning side that finished fifth overall.
“The girls were really up for it and wanted to keep building the momentum going into the semi-finals,” said Thirlby.
“We started really well and quickly took a 6-2 lead. Lightning came back at us but we were still leading by one at the end of the first quarter and the confidence was clearly there, which we demonstrated as we won the second period 21-10 – an excellent scoreline against a team as good as Lightning.
“To score 75 goals against a defensive unit featuring Ama Agbeze, who has been one of the best players in the Superleague this season, is no mean feat.
“We scrutinise all of our performances, as you would expect, and there are couple of things we need to work on but they were far outweighed by the positives. We scored our highest number of goals this season and were able to field a lot of different player combinations once again. Our performances are getting better all the time.”
Only goal average was able to determine the final semi-final line-up as Team Bath’s win meant they finished level on points with Surrey Storm in second and Mavericks – who lost 64-50 to Thunder on Monday night – in third.
Both semi-finals will take place on Saturday (April 30) and will be televised back-to-back on Sky Sports 5 from 3.35pm, with Team Bath’s match starting at 4pm. Storm v Mavericks will follow at 6pm.
Tickets for Manchester Thunder v Team Bath Netball are now on sale – click here for details.