A small band of vocal Lightning supporters travelled to Guildford to witness a titanic play-off battle on the Hurricanes home court. Hurricanes were confident that they could reverse their two league season defeats by Lightning. The game started at a phenomenal pace with Hurricanes defending aggressively all the way down the court, lead by England defenders Mkoloma and Hutchinson. However, Lightning never took a backwards step, and challenged for everything. The error count from both teams mounted rapidly as bodies flew in to challenges all over court, and neither side was able to find any rhythm. At the end of the first quarter, Lightning had edged marginally ahead but it was a wide-open game.
As the game progressed in the second and third quarters, Lightning frequently battled to a three-goal advantage. However they could never quite force a critical turnover, and extend their lead to find some breathing space. Hurricanes never faltered, coming back to level the score time and again, only to see Lightning hold their nerve and edge away. Lightning’s player of the match was Loughborough student Becky James. She consistently sank critical goals whilst under huge pressure and was pivotal in keeping Lightning’s nose in front.
Going in to the last quarter Lightning had the slenderest of leads. Deep into the final minutes, the scores were level. At one pivotal moment, James took the ball in the Hurricanes circle as a defender crashed into her. For a moment it looked like the resulting back injury might take her out of the game but she gritted her teeth, sank the penalty shot and Lightning stayed ahead. Jade Clarke and Olivia Murphy kept driving Lightning on, but with ninety seconds to go the scores were level once more. Lightning scored from their own centre pass then turned over Hurricanes ball to take a two goal lead. Hurricanes then promptly won the ball back but Lightning’s smothering all court defence denied them a chance to feed their shooters. The final whistle went and Lightning had won 39-37.
This was never a pretty game of netball but the crowd saw a gritty drama and a deserved Lightning victory. Lightning know they have to find two more gears to beat Mavericks next week but having come through this test of fire, anything is possible. A place in the Grand Final still beckons.
2007 remaining fixtures:
Sat 02 June vs. Mavericks (Away) Time TBC
Rick Barrow at Perfect Motion on 0115 9258777/ 07809 657766, or email [email protected]
For tickets, please contact the helpline on 01509 226250
For further information visit www.loughboroughlightning.com