Record Season Opener crowd watch Blue & Gold excel across court to beat Loughborough Lightning in Vitality Superleague
Anna Stembridge hailed “a good team performance” after Team Bath Netball started their 2020 Vitality Superleague campaign in fine style with a 72-58 victory over Loughborough Lightning.
The Blue & Gold put on a solid show for the 9,200-strong crowd at Arena Birmingham – a record attendance for a netball event in the UK – and those watching live on Sky Sports as they recorded an impressive victory.
“It was an excellent result but it was the overall team display that I was most pleased with,” said Superleague Head Coach Stembridge. “There were so many standout performances right across the court and we played some awesome netball.
“I was so impressed with the way the girls backed each other up and stuck to the game plan. They set the standard in the first quarter, responded brilliantly when Lighting came back at them in the second period and kept up the momentum and intensity throughout.
“The Season Opener was a tremendous event and I’m proud we were able to produce a performance to match the occasion.”
It's @TeamBathNetball who take the spoils from the penultimate match of the day at @ArenaBirmingham— Sky Sports Netball (@SkyNetball) February 22, 2020
📋 FT: Bath 72-58 L'boro#VNSL2020 pic.twitter.com/AQqoysSKz3
Team Bath excelled right across the court on Saturday, with the exciting young trio of Summer Artman and University of Bath students Tash Pavelin and Imogen Allison – supported by Santander and King Sporting Scholarships respectively – applying plenty of defensive pressure from the off.
Mia Ritchie was outstanding at centre, linking defence and attack with tireless energy and flair, while Rachel Shaw and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis provided a constant supply of high-quality ball to deadly shooter Kim Commane.
The captain’s movement and unflappable shooting saw her notch 55 goals, earning her the Sky Sports Player of the Match award, but she was keen to share the accolade with her colleagues.
“It’s obviously a team effort,” said Commane. “I’m at the end of the court so full credit to the girls for bringing the ball down to me.”
Team Bath led 19-14 at the end of an eventful first quarter, that saw Lightning lose influential England player Natalie Panagarry to injury, but a tight second period saw the gap close to two.
A strong final five minutes ensured the Blue & Gold regained the initiative and they were able to open up a 33-27 lead at half-time, which they increased to 54-41 during a dominant third quarter.
Northern Ireland international Fi Toner came on for her Team Bath Superleague debut during that quarter and Betsy Creak was also introduced for her first-ever Superleague appearance in the final period, while Laura Rudland made a good impact at wing-attack as the Blue & Gold saw out an excellent victory.
Next up for Team Bath on Saturday, February 29 (6.30pm) is a short journey across the Severn Bridge to Cardiff to face a Celtic Dragons side who were edged out 44-43 by Surrey Storm in their opening fixture.
“We can take great confidence from our performance and result against Lightning but we certainly never underestimate any team in this league,” said Stembridge.
“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.”
Team Bath Netball is partnering with local charity Sporting Family Change in 2020 to help make a difference through sport. Centurion Chartered Financial Partners are Team Bath’s people development partner and Rengen Developments also support the netball programme as part of their overall partnership with Team Bath.