SEVERN Stars head coach Sam Bird is confident her squad can challenge anyone in the Superleague after watching her side reach the semi-finals of the British Fast5 All-Stars Championship.
The University of Worcester Arena franchise won two of their three fixtures to advance to the final four of the tournament at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday, before narrowly missing out on a spot in the final against a strong Team Bath outfit.
“We laid down a marker and were in it to win it,” said Bird.
“That was the first time the team had got together with three new players who had not played with the squad before and the atmosphere was really good.
“They’ve shown patches of play that show we can really challenge anyone in this league (Vitality Netball Superleague),” she added.
England Internationals Jodie Gibson and Eleanor Cardwell featured in Stars’ starting line-up, alongside South African internationals Maryka Holtzhausen and Phumza Maweni, who were Stars’ two global ‘All-Star’ players for the eight-team competition.
A slow start saw the club narrowly lose to reigning Superleague champions Wasps Netball 28-24 in the first round, but a 24-9 victory against Manchester Thunder saw them qualify to the quarter-finals to face Hertfordshire Mavericks.
Following great play between Laura Malcolm and Holtzhausen, Stars built an early lead which they would hold throughout the contest, before Cardwell demonstrated why she is one of the best shooters in the Superleague as she wrapped up the game with a huge five-point shot to give Stars a 24-8 win.
The semi-final proved too much for Bird’s side however, as Team Bath edged a 34-26 victory to advance to the £25,000 prize final.
Stars made the West Country side work hard for the win though, as impressive play by Malcolm and Cardwell reduced Bath’s advantage to 15-13 midway through proceedings.
But Bath’s Eboni Beckford-Chambers put on a sublime defensive display, keeping Stars shooters Cardwell and Holtzhausen at bay as her teammate Kadeen Corbin scored consecutive goals to open a 33-18 lead.
Stars kept fighting, but despite a late long-range six-point shot from Holtzhausen, they were unable to close the deficit.
Stars return to action in February when the 2018 Superleague gets underway.