SEVERN Stars head coach Sam Bird was left frustrated after her side’s 59-45 defeat in a physical encounter against Loughborough Lightning in the Vitality Netball Super League.
An impressive first half performance at the Leicester Arena saw Stars shock the now league-leaders, going in front in the first minute and holding it until the final seconds of the second quarter.
But a combative Lightning took the game away from Stars in a frustrating third quarter, building an impressive lead from which Stars couldn’t recover.
Stars, who had won three of their last four games, came out firing in the early stages of the first quarter, racing to an early 4-1 lead helped by an up-tempo passing game which their opponents struggled to deal with.
Loughborough soon levelled, though, with goal shooter Peace Proscovia finding her rhythm to keep the hosts in touching distance.
But Stars held on, and impressive defensive turnovers from goal keeper Phumza Maweni and scintillating attacking play from goal attack Maryka Holtzhausen and goal shooter Eleanor Cardwell helped Stars to end the first quarter 14-16 in front.
The away side carried their momentum into the second quarter, maintaining a three-goal advantage for much of it and defending solidly against a physical Loughborough side.
But Lightning enjoyed a strong end to the quarter, taking the lead for the first time in the game in the final minute of the quarter, and entering the half time break with a 29-27 advantage.
Stars made a tactical reshuffle at the break, with Laura Rudland coming on at wing attack and Iona Darroch moving to centre in place of Laura Malcolm.
Lightning’s high-pressing game disrupted Stars’ ability to move the ball into the attacking third in what proved to be a frustrating third quarter for the visitors, with the hosts taking control and ending the quarter 46-35 in front.
Malcolm replaced the injured Jodie Gibson at wing defence at the beginning of the final quarter for Stars, who continued to battle despite falling 11 goals behind.
Stars showed glimpses of good play in the final quarter, with goal defence Sam Cook’s impressive defensive-block leading to a defence-splitting pass from Darroch allowing Cardwell to net.
“I think today felt harder because we’ve been playing so well of late,” Bird said.
“I was really pleased with how we started. We really took it to Loughborough and they were worried.
“They looked like the team that were tense and we were in the ascendency and we won that first quarter.
“It was a very physical game. They were a big physical team; probably the most physical we’ve faced and we just didn’t cope with that very well in the third quarter,” she added.
Tickets for the UWS Sirens clash at the University of Worcester Arena on Monday (tip off 7pm) are available at www.severnstars.co.uk