Lightning Wheelchair Basketball begin their title defence with a victory over Worcester Wolves

Image by Morgan Harlow

Loughborough Lightning opened their 2023 Women’s Premier League season campaign with a convincing victory over visitors Worcester Wolves on Sunday.

Following an unbeaten 2022 season, the Lightning squad have a title to defend. The first fixture of the campaign in front of a lively home crowd saw Head Coach George Bates offer debuts to new signings Ana Blease, Maddie Martin and Jess Atherley. Other new recruit Bo Kramer was unavailable for selection.

The game got off to a lively start with GB Women’s Senior Lucy Robinson making her mark, sinking our first basket of the season which was immediately followed by Lightning youngster Holly Lounds quickly finding shooting form.

After an early timeout, Wolves regrouped and tightened their defence, managing to work through their combinations and challenge the Lightning guard. But Lightning’s defence and intensity to travel up the court became too hard to handle with Holly Lounds, Lucy Robinson and two-time Paralympian Robyn Love all sinking baskets clinically, extending Lightnings lead.  

After a physically demanding start, it didn’t take long for George Bates to modify tactics and switch up the 5 on court. An early set of substitutions saw Clare Griffiths, Holly Lounds and Lucy Robinson replaced by GB Women’s Junior, Siobhan Fitzpatrick and new recruits Maddie Martin and Ana Blease.

Keen to shake off the physicality from Wolves, Lightning defence had to remain patient but also maintain intensity in attack to make their way into the break with an 8-point lead.  

Q1: Loughborough Lightning 16 – 8 Worcester Wolves 

Debutants Ana Blease and Maddie Martin both flew out the traps, making significant impact hustling for the ball in defence and scoring points in attack. Lightning extended their lead early into the half and Wolves physicality earned them a free throw. Ultra-composed Robyn Love despatched calmly, extending Lightning’s lead to double digits.  

Lightning remained in the control seat however you could sense they had another gear in them. A short period found them often over complicating things in attack, unable to make the most of the opportunities to maximise the scoreline.

Q2: Loughborough Lightning 34 – 26 Worcester Wolves

Lightning got off to slow start in the third quarter, caused by the game becoming very transitional and Wolves showing stubbornness in their defence.

With Head Coach Bates demanding more from his team on the side-line, Lightning began to find rhythm to match their intensity and efforts. Holly Lounds proactive aggression saw her make a steal and hold off Wolves’ physicality to earn an opportunity for Robyn Love to dispatch with ease.

Lightning continue to move quickly up the court with Maddie Martin executing after a lovely free-flowing move. Wolves continue to challenge however struggled to cope with Lightning’s combinations in attack, extending their advantage to 24 points.

Q3: Loughborough Lightning 47 – 23 Worcester Wolves

Lightning continued to threaten the Worcester defence, with Maddie Martin, Robyn Love and Ana Blease combining wonderfully to create chances and sink their baskets.

Much more fast-paced, Robyn Love continued to show her quality under the basket. Clare Griffiths and Lynsey Spiers effortlessly withstood pressure applied by Wolves enabling Lightning to extend their advantage to over 30 points. 

Full-time: Loughborough Lightning 67 - 33 Worcester Wolves

Head Coach George Bates was pleased with the performance but emphasised the room for improvement:

“We played some nice stuff in the first half but we just weren’t consistent and I felt like we were rushing things and not making smart decisions so it was just about doing the stuff we’d worked on in training and I felt they did that in the third quarter” 

Looking forward to the East London Phoenix fixture, Bates commented on the week ahead:

“Next week, we’ll be touching up in the things we did well and getting some analysis done to identify the areas we need to improve on but it will be a hard week in training preparing for a big game”

Robyn Love was awarded player of the match for her triple-double and overall fearless performance. She hailed the support when asked about being the season’s first Computacenter player of the match:

“Well it can’t get much better than that but honestly for me, it’s all about you supporters up there making loads of noise. It was flat at times and we needed the supporters to raise that and they did so thank you so much for coming to watch.

Looking ahead to next week, Love knows the team need to prepare well to compete against a strong East London Phoenix side:

They’ve got a great team and have made some new signings this season, they’re definitely stacked but you know what, so are we and it’s about building from this and having confidence in what we do here because we’re Lightning, let’s go!”

Lightning travel down south to East London Phoenix on Sunday 5th February. For more fixture information and to purchase home tickets, visit out webpage here.