Severn Stars welcome current Champions Loughborough Lightning to their University of Gloucestershire Arena with the first centre pass taking place at 18:00 on Saturday, March 19. 

Melissa Bessell’s Stars will be looking to carry their previous performance against Leeds Rhinos into the next round after her side produced a performance to be proud of despite being edged out in the final quarter. 

Opponents, Lightning, head into the game off the back of a double win in round eight which saw the side take a 57-53 victory against Wasps and defeated Team Bath 53-44 as they looked to retain their 100%-win rate in the League this season. 

Despite a double header at the start of the week, Victoria Burgess’ side will be feeling confident heading into the game as they look to remain undefeated against Stars. 

Last season, Lightning did the double over Stars after securing a 58-30 win in round four and completed the set with a 50-41 victory in round 15. 

However, Stars have put up a tough battle against the reigning champions, having come close to a win in a tightly fought game in 2019 which saw Lightning edge a 54-53 win. 

After last game’s great performance and increased confidence, Stars will be looking to turn the tide with results and hope to put a dent in Lightning’s form. 

A week without a game will enable Bessell’s side to be re-energised and ready for their next game and will be hoping their major signing Cat Tuivaiti will be nearing a return from injury. 

After missing their previous two, goal shooter Isabelle Eaton returned to the side against Rhinos and wasted no time in getting back to her best, scoring 25 goals for her side in their 49-53 defeat. 

Goal attack Paige Reed dropped to the bench after previously starting against Celtic Dragons but didn’t lack confidence when entering the court after scoring 19 goals during her cameos. 

Bessell stuck with her energetic mid court trio of captain Liana Leota, Bethan Dyke, and vice-captain Iman Thomas, with Nicole Humphys making an appearance off the bench. 

In the defensive third, the Stars head coach relied on the partnership of Summer Artman and Lucy Herdman to start, with Dee Bolakoro adding stability from the bench. At times, Thomas has demonstrated her versatility by dropping back into the goal defence position. 

For opponents Lightning, a double header at the start of the week saw Burgess rotate just one player heading into their second game as Suzie Liverseidge made way for Ella Clarke in the goal attack position. 

The defensive duo Alice Harvey and Fran Williams retained their places in the starting seven for both games against Wasps and Bath, but Burgess may look to freshen things up against Stars with Ella Bowen producing a player of the match display against Wasps. 

Wing attack Hannah Joseph and goal shooter Mary Cholkoh started in both games and have been vital to Burgess’ side as the goal shooter scored over half of her side’s goals against Bath, scoring 32. 

The two sides will meet in round nine at the Stars second home, the University of Gloucestershire Arena, on Saturday, March 19, with the first centre pass taking place at 18:00. 

Written by Grace Gunn