SEVERN Stars head coach Sam Bird called on her team to be more ruthless with possession as they fell to a 52-44 defeat at Loughborough Lightning.
The East versus West Midlands derby pitted Stars against last year’s finalists with both sides looking to pick up their first points of the season after disappointing losses in round one of the Vitality Netball Superleague.
But errors cost Stars dear. They were not clinical enough in possession and despite Stars taking the lead in the first quarter, Lightning were able to edge over the line.
There was another standout performance at wing defence from Jamaica international Jodi-Ann Ward who swooped in to take clean interceptions and give Stars the chances they needed.
England Futures international, Halimat Adio, at goalkeeper, combined brilliantly with Sam Cook to deny Lightning at glimpse at goal.
The team were again without captain Maryka Holtzhausen, who is away on international duty with South Africa, so University of Worcester student and England A international Iona Darroch led the team.
“It was a better start and we rectified our errors from last week. Winning the first quarter was good, but I think we should’ve been further ahead,” Bird said.
“Essentially, we are competing, but we are still not confident enough and coming up short when we are in the ascendency. We need to be more ruthless with possession and punish opponents when we have the opportunity.”
The game started goal for goal and neither side could capitalise on a turnover to extend a meaningful lead. Whilst Lightning struggled to nail their shots, Stars made errors in feeding their shooters with the final ball just falling short of Stars’ 6ft 5in goal shooter Georgia Rowe or sailing just out of reach.
It looked like the quarter would end all square, but a flash of speed from Ward took the ball ahead of the Lightning attacker and Stars converted just ahead of the quarter time whistle to finish the first quarter 13-12 ahead.
Rowe continued her fine form from the opening week, sinking 93 per cent of her shots, despite a physical defence from Lightning flooring her more than once.
The second quarter continued in much the same end-to-end vein, but, while Stars were creating interceptions, it was their loose hands or inaccurate final balls that sabotaged their great defensive effort. Such failings were to prove costly throughout the game, as Lightning were more clinical when given second chance opportunities and edged ahead 25-22 at half-time.
In a change in mid court from Stars in the interval, Lucy Harris came on at centre and she made an immediate impact, helping Stars pull back to within one goal after just 60 seconds of the start of the second half.
Again, the game went end to end, with neither side able to mount a consistent scoring run. But the experience of the home side again showed, as they edged ahead 38-32 going into the final quarter.
A couple of big defensive plays in the fourth quarter made the enthusiastic travelling Stars fans believe their side could steal the victory. The gap closed to four, but Stars were left frustrated as Lightning quashed their resurgence and eventually pulled away to secure a 52-44 winning margin.
Stars return to action with the team’s first home game at the new University of Gloucestershire Arena against Celtic Dragons next Friday (January 25) from 7.30pm.