Severn Stars 52, Saracens Mavericks 62

A Severn Stars comeback in the final quarter proved “too little too late” as they were beaten by Saracens Mavericks in the Vitality Netball Superleague.

Stars took to the court yesterday (February 20) in their first home game of the season and, due to Covid, the first at a home venue, the University of Worcester Arena, for the first time in nearly two years. But it was Mavericks who led from the start and, though Stars were brighter in the second half, reducing the deficit in the final 15 minutes, Mavericks secured the victory.

Stars’ captain, Liana Leota, believed her side fought back but said “it was too little too late.” She added: “If we could have had that momentum in the first half it would have set us in a good space; there’s lots of learning.”

Mavericks stated their intent early on, with a break of the Stars’ centre pass after Beth Ecuyer-Dale picked up the loose ball, allowing a clinical Ine-Mari Venter to open the scoring. As Mavericks began to create rhythm, Stars’ goal defender Dee Bolakoro provided a crucial interception in the goal third. High pressure from the Mavericks continued, as a double interception from Jodie Gibson prevented Isabelle Eaton with the shooting opportunity. However, seconds later she took her chance after holding off goalkeeper Razia Quashie to receive the quick pass from Bethan Dyke. Stars began to grow into the game, but a strong end to the first quarter saw Mavericks ahead 18-10.

Heading into the second quarter, Stars Head Coach, Melissa Bessell, looked to freshen things up, replacing Dyke and shooter Paige Reed with Michelle Drayne and Katie Harris. Stars began to gain momentum as Leota played a looping pass over to Bolakoro, who was there to tip the ball into the hands of Harris. But, at the other end, quick play between Mavericks’ attacking players saw them score two in quick succession. Leota impressed with a jumping pass into the hands of Harris, who was there to sink her shot, but Mavericks drew an 11-goal lead after a quick counterattack in the centre third. Bessell made further substitutions, but the away side led at the half-time interval, 35-21.

Stars’ intensity increased as Bessell’s side began to feed the ball into the attacking duo at a quicker pace. A clever spin from Reed in the attacking third disorientated the defender, giving her space to take her shot. In the other shooting circle Venter continued her fine form, using her height and strength to prevent Bolakoro and Herdman from intercepting another goal. Despite a stronger quarter from Stars, Mavericks led 52-35 heading into the final quarter.

Stars started the final quarter positively. Defender Lucy Herdman intercepted the Mavericks’ pass and created a counterattack that Reed capitalised on. Player of the Match, Venter, looked to take a high ball, but it was Bolakoro who came away with the ball after claiming the rebound. An unforced error from Mavericks then enabled Reed to pick up and offload the ball to Leota who began the counterattack for another goal. A late attempt of a comeback was on for Stars as they reduced the deficit to eight goals, but the calmness of Venter and momentum of Mavericks reduced all chance, and they came away with a 62-52 victory.