Loughborough Lightning completed the last of its 2007 matches in the Co-operative Netball Superleague this Saturday (8 Dec), with yet another win against Leeds Carnegie, propelling them to the top of the table as we head in to 2008.
The game started scrappily with both sides defending hard, missing shots and exchanging possession frequently. Leeds looked sharp up front for the first 10 minutes as former England star Tracey Neville combined well with another former international, Karen Grieg, to unsettle Lightning’s defence.
However, as the quarter wore on, Kara Luck at GD began to get the measure of Neville’s movement pattern, blocking her runs successfully. Leeds lost its momentum and Lightning recovered from losing 6-8, with a run of 9 unanswered goals, to lead 16-9 at the break.
Becky James, back from her commitments with Wales at the World Championships, settled in to her place in the team in the second quarter, combining well with Lisa Stephenson in the shooting circle. Natasha Hampshire was having another strong game at WA and with Olivia Murphy in her usual solid game in mid-court, Lightning were clearly on top. It was one-way traffic and Lightning put away 19 goals to take the second quarter 19-5.
At half time Lightning introduced Lauren Doyle at GA and Vicky Percy at WD. Leeds changed its shooting line-up again bringing on 17 year old Alex Kirk to partner Neville and this helped their attacking fluency. Kirk presented some fresh challenges for Luck and Reid in the defensive circle but Lightning’s play was so strong by this stage that Leeds couldn’t score consistently. Lightning was on top in every match, up and down the court, taking the quarter comfortably 53-25.
In the final quarter Lightning left Murphy on the bench and brought O’Neill back on at centre. Despite changing this pivotal position Lightning kept surging forwards. Leeds worked hard and their heads never dropped but they were unable to contain a Lightning side that defended and attacked with such precision. This quarter went the way of all the others with Lightning taking it easily 19-11, for an emphatic 72-36 victory.
Player-coach, Olivia Murphy said:
“The outstanding performances of the night came from Kara Luck and Tracey Neville. Luck played with great intensity from start to finish and was instrumental in stopping a great many attacks from Leeds.
“We are heading in to 2008 in a great position at the top of the table with Team Northumbria With our team being further strengthened by the return of our England internationals, we look forward to the second half of the season.”
Lightning’s next game is on 5th January 2008 away against the Brunel Hurricanes. The team’s next home game is on 12th January against the Celtic Dragons.
Tickets are available in advance on the ticket hotline, Tel: 01509 226250, or through the website: www.loughboroughlightning.com or on the door (depending on availability) at Netball Centre. At £5 a ticket for adults and £3 for concessions, the game works out as a bargain priced night out for all.
photos Janos Schmidt