Gaining a difficult draw in reigning champions Wasps, Lightning entered the match with a fierce determination, eager to gain a lead over the side that stole the title from Lightning twice in as many years.
Both sides boasted new players, new head coaches and young talent coming up through the ranks, leaving the audience in anticipation of how they would match up this year.
The game started well for both sides, converting their opening centre passes and continuing to do so for most of the first 5 minutes. Wasps renowned dominant defence took no time to click on court, slowly applying pressure to a cool and calm Clark and Clinton in Lightning’s shooting circle. A slight edge was all that Wasps needed to push on in the last five minutes of the quarter to finish it with a ten-point lead.
Quarter 1: Loughborough Lightning 10 – 20 Wasps Netball
A shake up in Lightning’s side for the second quarter saw Jess Shaw and Britt Coleman added to the mix with a tactical move to WD for skipper Panagarry. Despite the changes, Lightning began to find their groove and close the gap to just seven points mid-way through the quarter. Clark and Coleman’s familiarity with each other soon started show as their short passes across the circle soon allowed Lightning more opportunity to score.
Half-time: Loughborough Lightning 23 – 31 Wasps Netball
No changes to the side in the second half and despite Lightning’s need to close the gap, Wasps pushed on. Panagarry and Joseph battled hard against an experienced Clarke who denied any opportunity for error, increasing the physicality of an already heated match.
Quarter 3: Loughborough Lightning 32 – 50 Wasps Netball
The final quarter for Lightning became momentous with two players gaining their Superleague debuts. Young and upcoming defender Annabel Roddy was brought into the defensive circle to add fresh legs and a new perspective to the game whilst Ugandan She Crane Mary Cholhok took to the shooting circle for her debut not only to the Superleague but to British netball. Having arrived in the country just 6 days ago, nerves were expected however within a few minutes play the 6 ft 7 shooter began to show the crowds what she was made of. But the changes came simply too late as Wasps counted down the clock to a resounding win.
Full-time: Loughborough Lightning 42 – 72 Wasps Netball
The match was not only a debut game for Roddy and Cholhok but for Head Coach Sara Bayman, who made the switch this season from player to coach. Unsurprisingly it was not the result she hoped for but the game brought much learning and positivity for Bayman to work on;
“I think our start was really strong and that shows when we stayed at 7 all for most of the first quarter. I think we started the second quarter well two and there were moments where we were able to get good quick clean ball to shooters. We also managed to get a lot of players out on court today with a couple making their debuts for Lightning and its exciting to see the new and young talent coming through.
There are positives to take I think it’s important to reflect well this week and come out firing next weekend.
“I was really happy with how Britt Coleman came on I think she made a real impact, I was also happy with our changes through the centre court with Nat moving to WD and Jess in C which is important to see for the season moving forward.”
Leading the side out for the third time, skipper Nat Panagarry was keen to express the importance of a big home crowd going into round two;
“It was a really hard game today, really physical and there were moments where we showed the fans what we can do and looked after the ball but also moments where we gave it away and got sloppy. We need to go back to the drawing board, look at what we did wrong and work on those errors going into next week. We need to have confidence in ourselves and make sure we’re matching the intensity of the opposition for the entire match not just for one or two quarters.”
“The key focus for us next week will be to make sure we work on our consistency and keeping possession of the ball I think that’s what we’re known for. We’ve got great defence who can win the ball for us so we need to make sure we’re keeping hold of it and getting it safely down to the shooters.”
The more noise we can have the better – it’s amazing, like having the 8thplayer out there.
"When we go to away matches there’s always great crowds and it is off putting so to be able to bring that to our home matches for the opposition is always key. The more purple voices we can get down there next week the better – we’d love to see you all and hopefully bring back our first win! “
Lightning head back to Loughborough University next weekend where they boast home court advantage and welcome Severn Stars to campus. Tickets to the clash are selling fast so secure yours now to witness all the action: www.loughboroughlightning.com