Severn Stars Storm to Victory in Season Opener

Severn Stars 56 – 47 Surrey Storm; Severn Stars 45 – 70 Manchester Thunder.

Severn Stars kicked the season off with a win on the opening weekend of the Vitality Netball Superleague.

Stars emerged 56-47 winners against Surrey Storm after a tight first two quarters where there was little to separate the sides. In the team’s second outing of the weekend, against Manchester Thunder, they were unable to cut a first half deficit despite a better final two quarters, losing 45-70.

Pre-season matches between Stars and Storm resulted in a win each, so this looked set to be a close encounter as they opened their seasons at Resorts World, Birmingham, on Saturday (February 4). New look sides for both teams saw a blend of experience and emerging talent, including 17-year-old Issy Eaton joining the Stars starting lineup for the first time. There was also the welcome return to the League of Ugandan international, Peace Proscovia, for Storm.

There was nothing to separate the sides in the first quarter, which ended tied at 13 apiece, with a clinical display from both teams. The defensive duo of Lucy Herdman and newcomer Summer Artman made it difficult for Storm, with Northern Ireland international, Michelle Drayne, linking through the court in the centre position.

Stars Captain, Liana Leota, led her side to an early lead in the second quarter and, when Nicole Humphrys took to court at wing defence, she made an immediate impact. Storm maintained the pressure, making a number of crucial interceptions. However, Stars didn’t panic and maintained their composure, going in 25-23 ahead at the interval.

Errors and turnovers from both sides characterised the start of the third quarter. Stars eventually took control, extending their lead to six goals halfway through the quarter, ending it 38-33 ahead. In the final quarter, Player of the Match, Paige Reed, kept Stars’ spirits high with her pinpoint passes in the circle and high shooting percentage. Stars continued to apply pressure throughout court, keeping possession and making crucial turnovers when it mattered and maintained their intensity to the final whistle.

Reed said: “It felt really good to be back out on court. It was a physical game all the way through, but we didn’t give up and then gave that final push at the end. At half-time we came together in the changing rooms and demanded more from ourselves, as we thought that in the first half we had so much more to give.”
Stars, a joint franchise between the University of Worcester and University of Gloucestershire, were back in action against Manchester Thunder the following day.

Head Coach, Melissa Bessell, made two changes to the starting line-up, with Nicole Humphrys and Elisha New making up the centre court alongside Leota. After a goal-by-goal start, a crucial rebound from Thunder saw them take an early lead. Stars added a wealth of experience to the court, with Katie Harris, Michelle Drayne and Dee Bolakoro taking to the court, but Thunder shooters Joyce Mvula and Eleanor Cardwell ensured the scoreboard kept ticking over, ending the quarter 10-19 ahead.

Thunder dominated the start of the second, with several missed opportunities for Stars. Cardwell limped off the court, forcing Thunder to make changes, but they extended the lead to 19-38.

Both sides came out after the break to give maximum effort, going for every ball. Stars showed increased control throughout the court and good movement in the attacking end, with Reed and Harris linking well, ending the quarter 30–51 behind.

Further changes for Stars included Artman at goal keeper and Jane Taylor joining Reed in the shooting circle. Stars played a much more controlled second half, but ultimately Thunder took the win, 45–70.

Severn Stars next face local rivals Wasps at the CBA Arena in Coventry on Saturday, February 12.