TEAM Bath Netball will be looking to build on their positive start to the 2019 Vitality Superleague season when they make the long journey to Glasgow to face Strathclyde Sirens on Friday (January 11, 7.30pm).
The Sitec-sponsored Blue & Gold produced impressive performances across the court as they overcame Celtic Dragons 58-41 in the first game of the season-opening Super 10 event at Arena Birmingham on Saturday.
Great defensive pressure from Summer Artman, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Serena Guthrie and player of the match Imogen Allison provided the platform for Team Bath to produce some fluent and dynamic attacking play as they opened up a 19-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Dragons closed the gap to three with a spirited response but, with Rachel Shaw and her fellow mid-court players linking up brilliantly with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane in attack, Team Bath continued to create plenty of chances which were clinically taken as they stretched their half-time advantage to 31-18.
The Blue & Gold took the opportunity to make some changes in the second half, with Australian shooter Beryl Friday and England U19 captain Chartie Curtis – a University of Bath Economics student, supported by a Santander Sports Scholarship – both coming on for their Superleague debuts.
They helped build on the lead as Team Bath won the third and fourth quarters, 14-11 and 13-12 respectively, to wrap up an encouraging start to the season.
Team Bath Netball Head Coach Jess Thirlby was pleased with the performance overall but said there was plenty of scope for improvement in the weeks ahead.
“I think there were some moments of magic in there but it’s the first run-out of the season and we don’t expect to be the finished article,” she said. “We have some fine-tuning to do ahead of Sirens but we were really pleased with the start, we just weren’t as clinical as we could have been in the final stages of quarters three and four.
“I think collectively our defence was fantastic. We created turnover opportunities throughout the courtand there is an attacking mentality amongst our whole team, we want to win the ball back and get it down the other end of the court.
“We’re really pleased with the changes that we made and the players who came on. They earned the right to be on court with their performances during pre-season and they all made an impact. We weren’t quite able to get a consistent team performance across a quarter and that’s something we’ll be looking to address.”
Player-of-the-match Allison added: “We’re really happy with that performance. It’s been a long pre-season, so it’s been good to get the first game out of the way and to get the win.”
Next up is a visit to Scottish franchise Sirens, who showed why they are being tipped as potential top-four contenders this season when they defeated Surrey Storm 56-38 at Super 10.
“We are looking forward to what we know will be a challenge when we visit Sirens,” Thirlby said. “They have had some changes in the off season and there’s no ignoring the groundbreaking signing of Cat Tuivaiti who is arguably one of the best shooters in the world.
“We know they will be feeling confident after a good opening win against Surrey Storm but we are focusing very much on ourselves, the brand of netball we want to play and the level of performance we know we are capable of.
“We will keep demanding that from each other in training this week. There’s a positive vibe amongst the team and a great atmosphere and we can’t wait to get back out there.”
The Sirens match comes before a mini break for the Vitality International Series, which gets under way in Liverpool on Sunday when England face New Zealand (6pm).
Commonwealth champions Guthrie – who will captain the Roses – and Usoro-Brown have both been named in the 12-strong squad for the series, which also includes matches in London against South Africa and Australia.
Team Bath’s first home game of the season is against Surrey Storm on Monday, January 28 (7pm). Tickets for that match and all the other fixtures at the Team Bath Arena are on sale now – visit netball.teambath.com/tickets for details.