Lightning achieve their first victory of the 2023 NSL season over Team Bath

Image by Morgan Harlow

The first round of 2023 Netball Superleague Season saw Loughborough Lightning celebrate a 52-86 victory over Team Bath at the season opening event held in Nottingham. An event which saw all ten NSL teams come together for the first time in a single day.

Off to a flying start Lightning held their own against today’s rivals who found themselves struggling to match their intensity. Adding extra minutes to the plays of Team Bath, the defensive trio of Vitality Roses Harvey and Williams as well as Odeogberin played a vital role in the teams lead from the first centre pass.

Lightnings opening centre pass quickly converted to the first point on the board as shooters Thacker and Cholhok put on yet another display of precision and composure. Lightning managed to capitalise on several mistakes from the opposition, resulting in the first quarter ending with Lightning ahead by ten. 

Q1: Team Bath 13 - 23 Loughborough Lightning

Another quarter opens with a timely conversion at the hands of Cholhok. Keen to show off the skills that landed them a place in the squad, Lightning dominate the first four minutes of the second quarter. However, a quick to retaliate Team Bath work tirelessly to keep the ten-point lead from growing any further. No changes to the Lightning side in the second quarter allowed the team to work as a unit to maintain their advantageous position. Vital interceptions from team captain Panagarry ensured the shooting duo could cleanly make conversions under the pressure of today’s event. Despite the added pressure of the Lightning squad, Bath patiently work the ball into their shooting circle, determined not to be left further than ten points behind.

Q2: Team Bath 32 – 43 Loughborough Lightning

A few changes to Lightning’s side for quarter three saw Zan Vimbela return to the court as goalkeeper after her international call up for South Africa, as well as a switch of goal attack from Thacker with a debut from Rhea Dixon. The partnership of Cholhok and Dixon in the attacking third prove equally effective as the previous with Lightning scoring another ten points to Bath’s one within five minutes of the third quarter. Whilst a hard knock to the floor of Joseph showed just how much the opposition had upped their physicality, the Lightning player proved her fighting spirit and remained a vital part of the team’s ever-growing lead.

Further substitutions from Lighting head coach Vic Burgess saw Panagarry switched to wing defence as Future Roses Bella Baylis makes her debut for the squad as centre. The third quarter draws to a close with Lightning holding a lead of 28.

Q3: Team Bath 39 - 67 Loughborough Lightning

The final quarter begins with Thacker returning to court as goal shooter, swiftly making the first conversion of the quarter. Suzie Liverseidge and Jas Odeogberin join the team on court in replace of Panagarry and Joseph. This major change throughout the midcourt allowed for fresh legs which never lost their opposing players. A collection of teamwork and evasive manoeuvres for Thacker and Baylis allowed Lightning’s lead to grow further as they patiently worked their way through the defence of Team Bath. Vitality Roses Imogen Allison showed her grit and determination as she picked herself up from the floor to face down the Lightning squad for the final minute of the game. Maintaining their composure, Lightning end their first match of the 2023 NSL season with a 34-goal victory over Team Bath.

Full-time: Team Bath 52 - 86 Loughborough Lightning 

Head Coach Vic Burgess noted the win as a great start to the season, a form which they look to continue;

“A great score line for us, we reached 86 goals which is an incredible start to the season. Some really good work in the second quarter, we just didn’t win as much ball as we would have liked to, so we focused on that at half time. We looked at being more ruthless in those spaces and that definitely paid off when the girls came out even stronger at the start of the third quarter, we had a run of nine and then five.”

Burgess held off making changes to the starting seven until half time before switching style with newcomers Bella Baylis and Rhea Dixon;

“It was all about adaptation. The other team made quite a few changes early on due to cautions and so we had to adapt for that. The changes meant that we were able to get Bella on the court for her first cap for Lightning along with Rhea. For us it just gives us a different style and allowed the game to move at a faster pace.”

“There were a few nerves in the changing rooms before but that’s natural after preseason. Putting your work and life into these games, it is going to leave a bit of nerves but that settled once the girls were on the court warming up.”

Bella Baylis and Rhea Dixon found they’re debut an immensely positive experience and performed incredibly well under the pressure of this large scale event;

“It was awesome, an honour to play for Loughborough Lightning, and just great to step out and be part of that win today. We’ve just been sticking to what we’ve been doing in training, sticking to our structures and just really grateful for the preparation over preseason.”

Bella Baylis who was not expecting to go on today as but “thrilled to be part of the win, there was an amazing environment here today.”

Lightning return to the court at Loughborough University for round two of the NSL season against Celtic Dragons on 18 February 2023.

Tickets to Lightning’s 2023 home campaign are on sale now and can be purchased here.


Starting line-up:

GS: Mary Cholhok

GA: Emma Thacker

WA: Hannah Joseph

C: Nat Panagarry

WD: Jas Odeogberin

GD: Fran Williams

GK: Alice Harvey