The match also promised to see the continuation of the unstoppable partnership between Loughborough’s own Emma Thacker and Ella Clark, and there was also another change to the usual starting seven as skipper Nat Panagarry started at WD, with Hannah Williams wearing the centre bib.
Quarter 1: Loughborough Lightning 10 - 12 Team Bath
Lightning began with a shaky start, with Team Bath’s solid defensive line managing to turnover the ball, leading to their first goal of the game. Another sharp interception from Team Bath kept Loughborough on their toes, lifting the intensity of the game. Bath’s defensive strategy remained strong, but the reach of Emma Thacker secured Lightning’s first two goals, putting the game back into a Lightning lead. In the defensive third, Fran Williams’ quick feet drove the ball to the edge of the circle, forcing Bath to take impossible shots, where she then worked relentlessly hard to rebound and reclaim possession. Alice Harvey’s interception at the top of the defensive third fuelled adrenaline through the crowd, with Lightning were regaining their stride. Emma Thacker’s control of the shooting third seemed effortless, as her timings enabled her to create space within the circle. Lightning end the first quarter 10-12 down.
Half-time: Loughborough Lightning 21 - 21 Team Bath
Lightning return to the court clawing at Team Bath’s heels, eager to chase down the score. The pressure began to mount, and an uncomfortable feed from Hannah Williams struggled to meet Ella Clark. The goal difference grew to three, but Lightning continued to keep their composure. A tip from Alice Harvey proved monumental in raising the team’s morale, as this turnover allowed Lightning to reset their structure. Emma Thacker’s reach, yet again, proved unstoppable as she managed to stretch and keep the ball on court in Lightning possession even when the ball looked a lost cause. Panagarry, Williams and Joseph seemed to have endless bouts of energy, working relentlessly for possession. The determination on court was palpable. The half-ended neck and neck, with the scoreboard reading 21-21.
Quarter 3: Loughborough Lightning 39 - 33 Team Bath
Vic Burgess has made one change to the court, as Ella Bowen replaced Panagarry as WD. Bowen’s vigour and strength was immediately apparent, challenging Team Bath’s WA from the first blow of the whistle. Another phenomenal tip from Emma Thacker enabled another Lightning goal, allowing Lightning to gain the upper hand. Thacker’s ability to cut and clear the circle space was fluid and seamless, a player whose confidence is growing game by game. Despite a beautiful interception from Williams, Joseph mistakenly threw the ball directly into Bath’s hands. However, after a fumble from Bath in the centre third, Lightning utilised this advantage to steal another goal. Harvey continued to cleverly read the game, but unusually for her, the timing was slightly off and the interception was not claimed. In the shooting third, rapid movement propelled her through the circle into prime position to steal another goal. Williams then produced a fantastic interception, followed by her regaining her balance and composure to carefully control the ball. At the end of the penultimate third, Lightning stole the lead with a score of 39-33.
Full-time: Loughborough Lightning 52 - 46 Team Bath
Lightning’s confidence showed as they strutted back onto the court, with a comfortable 6 goal lead. A loopy ball from Joseph failed to meet Thacker, yet Harvey’s tight marking critically reclaimed the ball right beneath Bath’s post. Every lost ball called for an exciting retrieval, as all the girls worked defensively to force a turnover. The final substitution of the game saw Kelsie Taylor take to the court in replacement of Hannah Williams. After throwing her first centre pass away, she worked hard to grow the intensity of the game. What can’t be faulted is Lightning’s perseverance and teamwork, as every player was integral to creating space on court and knowing their role within position. The game ended with Lightning victory, as the score read 52-46 and player of the match deservedly being awarded to the fantastic Emma Thacker.
Ticket for the semi-final playoff are on sale now, 3rd June with a 8pm tip-off at Sir David Wallace Arena. Tickets can be purchased by clicking HERE