Inspired by the impressive steps taken by her team in recent weeks, and with the thrill of last Saturday’s home victory still fresh in everybody’s mind, Mikki Austin takes Surrey Storm to Hatfield tomorrow to face third-place Saracens Mavericks in Round 11 of the Vitality Nebtall Superleague.
“It’s really staggering how far we’ve come, across the board. We have to be so impressed with some of the stuff that we’re doing out there,” enthuses Mikki in highlighting Sigi Burger’s 100% shooting accuracy against Strathclyde Sirens, and an 83% centre-pass-to-goal ratio, which compared more than favourably with any team in Round 10 of the Superleague. “Of course, it’s easy to be impressed with that when you win, but I’ve always said to the girls that that can’t be the only measure of success.”
Which brings us to Mavericks, and a run which sees Storm’snext three fixtures all against teams above them in the Superleague table. Mikki sees an opportunity to close the gap on the top five, but will also judge her players as much by performance as points won.
“That’s not to say we won’t compete, or run them as hard as we can for 60 minutes. But those three games are super hard. Saracens Mavericks away is always a notoriously really hard fixture, so it’s also really important that we monitor our progress week-on-week.
Storm’s visit to the Hertfordshire Sports Village in February last year ended in a dramatic extra-time finish, and Austin is hoping for more of the same.
“It’s renowned to be an absolute doozy of a fixture, and I’ve no doubt that this this year will be no different. Mavs are coming off a lost to Thunder, which they will not be happy with, and hopefully we can use our momentum to go into this game.
“But they’ve got some amazing calibre players all across the court, so it’s really important this week that we stick to the 60-minute gameplan that I have in place.”
Mikki ‘enjoyed’ a rare weekend on the bench as Storm earned a comprehensive victory against Sirens at the Sports Park arena, and admits: “Half of me really enjoys it. The other half of me hates every minute of it. But it was really great for me to be able to give them that one-to-one coaching for 60 minutes, which I think they kind of miss when I’m out there playing with them.”
And Mikki will be looking for more of the physical and mental strength from her players which saw off Sirens.
“It takes a lot of mental capacity to be able to do that week in week out,” she reasserts. “We have to measure our success on things other than just the end result. It’s really important that we’re mentally resilient within these four weeks of netball, where we face Mavs, Bath and Loughborough, with Wasps coming soon after too.
“We have a game plan in place, and if we stick to the task for 60 minutes we will put ourselves in with a shot of winning, and then it’s up to us and our decision-making when we’re out there.”