Surrey Storm return to the Sports Park arena this Saturday in search of a first home win of the season, as they host 9th-place Celtic Dragons in round 8 of the Vitality Netball Superleague.
Centre pass is 6pm, with a very limited number of single tickets available to be booked online here.
Last weekend saw a tough loss for the Storm against Loughborough Lightning, meaning that Mikki Austin’s team have already faced three of the current top four teams at the Sports Park arena – and now they face Tania Hoffman’s Dragons as the Storm’s former Director of Netball makes her first return to Guildford in opposition colours.
“It’ll be great to welcome Tania back to the Sports Park, and I’m sure the fans will be really happy to see her,” said Mikki. “There’s obviously that little bit of rivalry there, and wanting to make sure that we come out with the bragging rights – but ultimately it’s just about going out there and doing a job, and removing the emotion of it.
“I think the performance against Loughborough has helped us do that, because it wasn’t good or consistent enough, so it doesn’t matter who we’re facing this weekend. Let’s focus on our performance and give it all we’ve got.”
There’s no denying the youth in the Storm squad this season, but Austin refuses to accept that as an excuse for last weekend’s defeat. “It was definitely a learning game for us, but I’ve been really strict about using that word, young, as a negative. I trust all of these players implicitly to go out and play big-girl netball.
“I put the statistics on the wall, for better or worse, for my girls to be held accountable. We started extremely strong – we had 21 attempts to their 12 in the first quarter. Momentum is a beautiful thing in this sport, and we ended the game really strong – that’s been a real positive for me, every game, win, lose or draw there’s been some amazing passages of play and really high-quality netball. It’s just about doing that more consistency. But we can’t change that game now.”
Dragons currently find themselves at the wrong end of the Vitality Superleague table, but having already matched their victory tally for the whole of 2018, with two wins, Storm underestimate them at their peril.
“This league is more competitive than it ever has been before, and Dragons will be coming here gunning for a win, I’m absolutely certain of that,” stressed Mikki. “What everybody is realising is that any team on their given day will turn up and beat you if you do not give it a 60-minute full-out performance. So you have to give every opponent the respect they deserve. Now this Saturday is another good opportunity for us to show what we’re made of, and I’ve challenged the girls for their performances to be better.”
One thing that is guaranteed, though, is the unwavering support of another capacity Storm crowd. “It never ceases to amaze me. Our fans here are the best in the league,” smiles Austin. “They’re so knowledgeable and so passionate and dedicated. They’ve stuck with us and have stuck by me, understanding what I’m trying to do here. I’m so grateful for their support, and there’s nothing more that all of us love to do than walk into these arenas when they’re jam-packed with Storm fans.
“We’re relying on that support and energy this week, and hope that we can feed off that to get our first home win.”