Loughborough Lightning clinched the top spot in the Co-operative Netball Superleague on Saturday (6 December) with a comprehensive 61-42 win over Team Northumbria at the Gateshead Leisure Centre.
The Loughborough University side are now unbeaten in all six of their matches since the season started in October, and have overtaken rivals Bath who have played just five games so far.
Saturday’s game opened with Lightning and Northumbria trading goals, but Lightning soon found their rhythm and posted seven shots in quick succession, largely thanks to defensive pressure in the centre third by Lightning’s attackers.
Lightning’s flow was briefly interrupted by Northumbria’s mid-court changes as wing attack Vicky Burgess went off injured, but Lightning finished the quarter strongly to lead 16-10.
After the first quarter, Lightning switched their shooting combination with Jo Harten moving to goal attack and Becky James coming on at goal shooter. In mid court wing defence Olivia Murphy swapped with centre Jade Clarke.
The moves paid dividends as the speed and control of the new look attack caused Northumbria problems. Intensive team defence and Lightning’s ability to capitalise on turnovers lead to a nine-goal run at the end of the quarter without reply. At the half time break Lightning had increased their lead to 34-16.
In the third quarter Lightning took time to adapt to Northumbria’s shooting changes; Vicky Phillips coming on at goal attack with a speed and vision that was complimented by Carla Dziwoki’s shooting consistency, now at goal shooter. Again there were flashes of inspiration from Lightning, as they scored 16 goals to Northumbria’s 10, increasing the score line to 50-26.
The final quarter saw more changes from both Lightning and Northumbria. For Lightning Sarah-Jane O’Sullivan replaced Murphy at centre and Kara Luck came on for Emma Bliss at goal defence.
Lightning continued to turn over ball but lacked patience and control in attack, leading to a good spell for Northumbria. Strong interceptions by O’Sullivan and Clarke in mid-court meant Lightning regained possession on several occasions, however they lost out to the home side in the final period – Northumbria edging a four-goal margin.
Loughborough Lightning next face Team Bath for the top of the table clash at Loughborough University’s Netball Centre on Saturday 13 December at 6pm. Only one side will keep their undefeated record. For tickets log onto www.loughboroughlightning.co.uk
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Netball is played by 1million women and girls a week in the UK, and is one of the most popular female team games in the world being played in over 70 countries, but despite this popularity - and being a regular sport in the Commonwealth Games - it has never featured in the Olympics.
The bid to get netball into the Olympics already has the backing of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has indicated his desire for netball to become a demonstration sport at the London 2012 Olympics. Visit www.netballolympicbid.com to find out more and register your support.