Lightning soar ahead of Storm at Netball Super League season opener

Netballer shooting at the post with defender jumping to attempt a block

Loughborough Lightning took the win at their first game of the 2024 Netball Super League season this weekend against rivals Surrey Storm, with an impressive final score of 63-50, paving the way for what is set to be an exhilarating season of netball.

Head Coach Vic Burgess announced a strong starting seven heading into round 1 of the Netball Super League (NSL) season and handed South African international, Nicola Smith her first NSL appearance. New signings, Annabel Roddy, Jade Popoola and Niamh McCall were also part of the travelling squad. Ella Clark also returned to the bench following a lengthy rehabilitation journey. 

The first quarter showed some impressive defending by the 2023 NSL champions, with wing defence Beth Cobden dominating the court's defensive space and the newly-formed defensive partnership, Alice Harvey and Nicola Smith worked hard to turn over possession to set Lightning off on attacks. Lightning took the lead heading into the end of the first quarter, with the seamless work of captain Nat Panagarry and her fellow attacker Hannah Joseph allowing the ball to travel down the court with ease, supplying goal shooter Mary Cholhok multiple scoring opportunities, allowing Lightning to finish in front of Storm at 16-9.

In response to Lightning’s dominance, Storm aimed to close the apparent gap, utilising their strong attacking capabilities via their goal shooter Frankie Wells. As Storm attempted to level Lightning’s performance, a strong fight for the win unfolded, with a close score finishing off the first half, commending the tenacity and determination of Storm’s players.

Half time: Loughborough Lightning 29 - 27 Surrey Storm

The penultimate quarter was an impressive battle, with Cholhok scoring within the first few seconds of the game following a fast-paced centre pass. Some great interceptions and a skilful long feed from Bella Baylis, the game’s player of the match, saw Lightning pull away from Storm as the team built traction.

Both Rhea Dixon and Cholhok worked seamlessly as an attacking force on the court, with Cholhok working specifically hard against her equally talented, Storm compatriot Hanisha Muhameed. Elsewhere, Jade Poopola made her Lightning debut, taking over for Beth Cobden at wing defence. Finishing the quarter with a ten-goal difference, Lightning extended their lead against Storm, eager to enter the last quarter.

The final push to take the win saw Alice Harvey demonstrate an impressive intercept, sending the ball straight back down the court. Whilst Storm continued to persist within the game, Lightning remained strong, taking a confident win by finishing thirteen points ahead of Storm, opening the season on a high with a final score of 63-50.

Full-time: Loughborough Lightning 63 - 50 Surrey Storm

Head coach Vic Burgess commented on the teams’ achievements: “After that second quarter we just spoke about how it wasn’t really us out there. We just wanted to step it up and not get lost chasing the game. They definitely went out there and did that”.

Following their impressive start to the season, Lightning progress onwards to face Team Bath on the 24th February back on Loughborough campus, for what is set to be an equally entertaining display of elite netball.

Tickets for all Loughborough Lightning fixtures are available here

Starting 7:
GK: Alice Harvey
GD: Nicola Smith
WD: Beth Cobden
C: Nat Panagarry
WA: Hannah Joseph
GA: Rhea Dixon
GS: Mary Cholhok