Charlotte O’Neill started her first game as captain in an experienced Lightning line-up. Heather Clarke and Lisa Stephenson started in the shooting circle with Verona Tomlin and Hannah Reid the defensive pairing for Lightning.
Lightning came out firing in the first quarter putting pressure on the Celtic Dragons less experienced mid court to take an early lead. With both Clarke and Stephenson shooting well, Lightning opened up a 13-4 lead at quarter time.
Team – (Back Row left to right) Rose Port (Head Coach) Jade Clarke, Becky James, Lisa Stephenson, Verona Tomlin, Heather Clarke, Jackie Milsom (Team Manager
(Front Row left to right) Alex Astle, Hannah Reid, Charlotte O'Neil (Captain), Olivia Murphy (Assistant Coach), Vicky Percy, Sarah Penny, Ama Agbeze, Sue Danson (Physio
Rosie Port (Head Coach) brought Vicky Percy into the action at WD and Charlotte O'Neill from WD to C for the second quarter giving Olivia Murphy a rest. The second quarter was a lot closer, the Dragons’ shooting improved with Katie Underwood being introduced to their attacking line and Adele Modeste finding her with some pin point feeds. The Lightning girls seemed to lose some fluency and struggled to feed the shooting circle, eventually losing the second quarter 10-11.
Changes were rung again at half time with a new combination of Alex Astle and Lauren Doyle in the Lightning attacking circle, and Kara Luck and Sarah Penny at the defensive end. Natasha Hampshire entered the fray at WA with Murphy returning to the middle. The changes were quick to have an effect with Hampshire's speed of movement and quick feeds finding the shooters with ease. The Lightning defensive pressure continued with Kara Luck challenging Chrissie Munro, the Celtic Dragons GA, at every opportunity, which enabled Lightning to convert the pressure into shooting attempts. Lightning pushed their lead out by a further 4 goals to lead by 12 at the end of the third quarter.
Lightning kept an unchanged line-up for the last quarter and the fluidity returned. The all court pressure was clear to see and the Dragons were unable to feed their accurate shooter Katie Underwood. Lauren Doyle found her shooting range for Lightning and they pulled away smoothly to finish comfortable winners 57-32. Coach Port was delighted to have been able to try a wide range of combinations in the first match of the season but special praise, and the Player of the Match accolade, was reserved for WA Natasha Hampshire.
This Saturday (3 November), Loughborough Lightning will face Northumbria at home. The team are urging local fans to come and support them in their first home game of the season, which will take place in the Sir David Wallace Sports hall at Loughborough University. The game will begin at 6pm.
At £5 a ticket for adults and £3 for concessions, the game works out as a bargain priced night out for all. Tickets for all Loughborough Lightning home games are available in advance on the ticket hotline, Tel: 01509 226250, or through the website: www.loughboroughlightning.com or on the door at the Sir David Wallace Sports Hall.
photos Janos Schmidt