Making the long trip south to the Welsh capital, the first of two lengthy away trips in the space of five days, Lightning set their stall out from the off with a high tempo start, which saw them quickly etch out a 6-2 lead.
One of the stars of the show on the night was Lightning wing attack Hannah Joseph, her long passing and general link up play with her attacking counterparts, Ella Clark and Peace Proscovia, a joy to behold. In fact it was the connection between that trio that helped Lightning forge a healthy early advantage.
Towards the end of the opening quarter Dragons fought back, but when the buzzer sounded Lightning could be pleased with a 7-16 lead having played some good netball, albeit with a few misplaced passes.
The second quarter saw Ugandan superstar Peace Proscovia really start to fire on all cylinders, scoring time after time from both under the posts and closer to the edge of the circle, as Lighting really poured it on.
That being said the performance in the first half of the encounter with the Welsh outfit was undoubtedly built on interceptions from defensive trio Shamera Sterling, Vicky Oyesola and Beth Cobden. That defensive unit showed athleticism, tenacity and an unbelievable ability to read the game, making life very difficult for their opposition, who were in truth no match.
HT: Celtic Dragons 14-35 Loughborough Lightning
The second half saw Head Coach Anna Carter make a pair of changes, Lauren Steadman coming on at wing defence and Rebekah Airey replacing Loughborough University student Vicky Oyesola at goal defence.
Dragons started with fires in their bellies but Lightning weren’t intent on resting on their laurels, continuing to extend their lead thanks to high speed netball throughout the court.
As the scoreboard continued to tick over in Lightning’s favour Ella Clark hit the deck hard after a nasty fall, banging her head, but thankfully she was quickly back on her feet and no serious harm was done. None-the-less she was replaced by Brittany Coleman, still on the comeback trail from injury last season, but she wasn’t short of confidence as she immediately got a score on the board to make it 18-46.
Again though, a large proportion of Lightning’s points came from the 11 interceptions they made during the game, which were often followed by free-flowing, counter-attacking netball. Sterling in particular was exceptional, carrying on where she left off at the Commonwealth Games last month. Unrelenting, Lightning closed out the third quarter 52-23 to all but secure victory.
Carter made three changes in the final quarter, Clark returning to court at goal attack, with Coleman moving to goal shooter, and youngsters Rosie Clark and Anya Wood coming into the fray at centre and goal defence respectively. Despite multiple changes Lightning remained in control, though Dragons at one stage scored three without reply. Coleman was flawless under the post, whilst Clark delivered a moment of magic, her basketball skills coming in handy when falling off court she managed to score, with the odds against her.
Dragons fought hard until the death, much to the appreciation of their home crowd, scoring the final point as Lightning ran out 38-66 winners.
FT: Celtic Dragons 38-66 Loughborough Lightning
Rightly so Shamera Sterling was awarded the Player of the Match award, afterwards commenting:
I feel quite pleased with myself and my team – we came out strong today and we’ve been working hard on our game. In training we’ve been working on playing with our other defenders and on our consistency – we’re getting there and I think we’ll be perfect soon!
Head Coach Anna Carter added:
That was really impressive and it was nice to get all of the girls on. I thought the first half our defensive unit was outstanding – I’m delighted for Shamera getting Player of the Match and it just reinforces the good defensive work that is going on.
Since the Games Beth, Peace and Shamera have brought an extra layer of leadership and confidence in their ability – they’ve wanted to try some new things in training, which we’ve been happy to go along with and it just gives us an extra special element to the group.
With that win to kick off round 12, Lighting are up to second in the Vitality Netball Superleague with 27 points, as they ramp up their challenge for a top four place.
Next up, Loughborough travel north to take on Scotland’s UWS Sirens at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. Follow the game live via @LboroLightning on Twitter from 7pm on Friday 14 May.
Tickets for Lightning’s final home fixture on Saturday 2 June are on sale now: www.loughboroughlightning.com
GS: Peace Proscovia
GA: Ella Clark
WA: Hannah Joseph
C: Nat Panagarry (c)
WD: Beth Cobden
GD: Vicki Oyesola
GK: Shamera Sterling