Surrey Storm’s 5th place Vitality Netball Superleague finish was confirmed on Saturday night as table-toppers Loughborough Lightning took a 70-63 win to close the season.
With Wasps taking a key win over Team Bath earlier in the day, Head Coach Tania Hoffman knew that a win would see her side through to the Final Four this weekend but Loughborough showed why they go into the finals as favourites with a convincing 7 goal victory.
Both sides made errors early on in the tie as the players took time to settle into a nervy game. An early injury to shooter Ella Clark gave the hosts’ an unexpected challenge in Q1, which also allowed Mikki Austin the chance to hit the court, before Katy Holland took a late steal to allow Storm to take a tied game into the 2nd stanza (17-all).
Lightning opened Q2 with 3 quick goals to build a narrow cushion and put the pressure on Storm. Rhea Dixon came on at GA to vary the Surrey attack alongside Megan Craig, while Naida Hutchinson was proving to be solid as ever getting a number of key stops to prevent Loughborough from building a damaging lead. The hosts were able to push on late in the quarter though, and held a 36-31 lead at half time.
Coach Hoffman made further changes after the midway break, with Yas Parsons and Georgia Lees returning to C and WA respectively. Lightning again came out the quickest and saw their lead extend to 6 goals, but the defensive trio of Hutchinson, Holland and Bethany Sutherland were still putting enough pressure on to keep the game well-balanced. A number of turnover chances went begging, and an uphill battle was to be faced in Q4 as the hosts took a 53-47 lead into the final quarter of regular season netball.
The opening exchanges of Q4 were largely goal-for-goal as Storm went searching for those key opportunities to get one over and close the gap. Both attacks were shooting fluently and the clock ticked down, forcing Storm to take a well-fought 70-63 defeat and waving goodbye to their chances of reaching the Final Four.
Good luck to Loughborough, Wasps, Manchester Thunder and Team Bath in this weekend’s Final Four event, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Mix on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Tickets for the two day event at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham are on sale now – click here for more information.
Surrey Storm starting 7 vs Loughborough Lightning:
GK – Hutchinson
GD – Holland
WD – Sutherland
C – Parsons
WA – Lees
GA – Harris
GS – Craig
Changes for Storm: Austin to C (Q1), Dixon to GA, Parsons to WA (both Q2), Lees to WA, Parsons to C, Williams (both Q3), Sutherland to GD (Q4).
Loughborough Lightning starting 7 vs Surrey Storm:
GK – Gibbons
GD – Trip
WD – Cobden
C – Panagarry
WA – Joseph
GA – Clark
GS – Proscovia