NETBALL Stembridge pride in Team Bath character

Sophie Drakeford-Lewis versus Sirens BEN LUMLEY Head coach Anna Stembridge was proud to see her players show “grit and character” as Team Bath Netball began the 2022 Vitality Superleague season with a win against Strathclyde Sirens before being edged out in the game of the weekend against London Pulse.

The Haines Watts-sponsored Blue & Gold went into the double header in Birmingham managing some injuries within the squad and without international stars Serena Guthrie and Phumza Maweni.

They overcame those challenges in fine style on Saturday as they built through the game to secure a 54-40 victory over Scottish franchise Sirens, with England and Team Bath U21 captain Molly Hole coming on to make an impressive Superleague debut.

Bath were back on court 24 hours later and got off to a slow start against Pulse, finding themselves trailing 10-3 after 10 minutes and 29-23 at half-time, before battling their way back into the contest. Hole, Betsy Creak and Kirsty Harris all made important contributions from the bench as the scores were levelled with four minutes to go but Pulse were able to regain the edge and take a magnificent contest 52-48.

Stembridge said: “It was such a spectacle of netball and congratulations to Pulse first and foremost, they definitely caused us a headache and I think Funmi [Fadoju] was excellent.

“We weren’t playing smart in the first quarter, we were on top of each other, and what enabled us to open up in attack was when we put Betsy in, who offered a point of difference as a target shooter. We are managing a few players, which forced some of the changes we had to make, but we gained the momentum in the third quarter and pulled it back. I felt we were in the game and it was coming but credit to Pulse, they came out and put in a great performance.

“At half-time I said to the girls ‘this is an opportunity’. We need to know about ourselves, where the grit and the character is, and that’s what I was most proud about. Even going into the last minute we were still trying to win ball and flood the attack, trying to work the opportunities to get the score back.

“There is lots to take from this. Reaching the last four or final isn’t based on the first or second rounds, so we’ll go back to the drawing board and take on the challenge.”

Saturday’s opening match saw Team Bath, who are also backed by Rengen, edge the first quarter 11-9 before pulling away in the second and third quarters, inspired by a player of the match performance from England goal-attack Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.

“We always knew it was going to be a tough start and a little up and down but I’m really proud of how the girls ground it out and pleased with the win,” she said.

With the Superleague now reverting to a traditional home and away format, Team Bath are on the road to Yorkshire for their next match against a Leeds Rhinos side whose opening game was postponed as they did not have enough available players to fulfil the fixture. Next Monday's game at EIS Sheffield starts at 1730 and will be shown live on Sky Sports.

It is then back to the Team Bath Arena for the first Superleague match there since March 2020 as the Blue & Gold entertain Surrey Storm on Friday February 18. Centre-pass is 1930 and tickets are on sale for that match and the other super seven home games this season.


Sophie Drakeford-Lewis in action this weekend image courtesy BEN LUMLEY

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