STARS head coach Mo’onia Gerrard has called on her players to build on their first-ever Vitality Netball Superleague win after they turned over Celtic Dragons 53-46 at the University of Worcester Arena on Friday.
Making their home debut in the competition, Stars were forced to work hard for their first taste of victory as a spirited Dragons side fought back from an early double-digit deficit to reduce the arrears to one-point entering the final quarter.
But the Worcester outfit held on to claim the three points and move up to eighth in the table.
“It was a good opportunity for the girls to get out there and actually taste a win. It was definitely an improvement on the last couple of weeks,” said Gerrard.
“We’re heading in the right direction and we’re building, but I want more progression. There are a few things we need to address and fix. We like to put ourselves under pressure.
“But now we just have to build on this win for next week, because it’s going to be another big game for us.”
The hosts stormed ahead to take a four-point lead after just 90 seconds, through clinical finishing from attacking duo Afeisha Noel and Eleanor Cardwell.
Stars continued to dominate the opening quarter with swift attacking play, orchestrated by captain Laura Malcolm, to build an eight-point lead with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Dragons struggled to break down the hosts’ stubborn defence, as Stars closed the first period with a 16-10 lead.
The visitors continued to try and find a foothold in the game, before a crucial interception by their wing attack Bethan Dyke paved the way for Kalifa McCollin to net midway through the second quarter.
That proved to be the catalyst for a fightback from the Cardiff-based side. They continued to chip away at the deficit with back-to-back interceptions halving the gap to just five points.
Despite their early dominance, Stars had to settle for a 27-23 half-time advantage, but Dragons’ experienced Kyra Jones was introduced in the third quarter and caused problems as she worked the ball quickly around the attacking third.
With the deficit cut to 40-37 entering the final quarter, the hosts battled valiantly to preserve their slender lead, with patient build-up play allowing goal attack Cardwell to net twice.
Dragons hit back to come within just one point to set up a frantic final six minutes, but calm finishing from impressive goal shooter Noel allowed Stars to stem the flow and claim the victory, thrilling an enthusiastic home crowd.
Stars return to the University of Worcester Arena on Saturday to take on Team Bath (tip off 6.30pm).