Netball: Team Bath battle to victory in Superleague opener
Team Bath's netballers made a winning start to their 2013 Superleague campaign with a 57-50 victory over Celtic Dragons at the University of Bath last night.
The four-time champions made a strong start, taking the opening quarter 16-8, but they had to rely on an equally impressive final quarter to eventually secure the spoils.
Head coach Jess Thirlby said: "I was particularly pleased with the spirit we showed in the last 15 minutes.
"We always knew Celtic wouldn't be an easy team to come up against and they proved that today."
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Team Bath started the game fielding all four of the England players that featured against Australia in the victorious recent test series, with Pamela Cookey joined by Kadeen Corbin, Stacey Francis and Serena Guthrie.
However, the visitors who made the better start and it was not until Corbin's goal six minutes into the game that Team Bath went ahead for the first time at 6-5.
Celtic Dragons dug in and the scores were tied at eight goals apiece, but gradually goal keeper Francis began to got the better of Dragons' giant shooter Lottysha Cato.
At the other end, sharp shooting from Cookey and Corbin saw Team Bath end quarter one with eight unanswered goals, taking the score to 16-8.
Any home fans expecting their side to run away with things were to be disappointed, though, as the visitors gradually whittled away the score and shaded the second quarter, reducing the deficit to 31-24.
Coach Thirlby shuffled her pack but Dragons continued to cut Team Bath's lead and, with six minutes left in the third quarter and the score at 38-37, Thirlby took advantage of an injury timeout to ring the changes again.
Cato struck for the Dragons to level the scores but Team Bath's changes began to pay off as Francis tightened the shackles on Cato and four goals without reply gave the hosts a 42-38 lead.
Rosie Allison came on for Asha Francis at the break and goals initially went with the centre pass as Team Bath kept the scoreboard ticking over.
The athletic Guthrie, revelling in her new role as vice-captain, helped Team Bath step up the pace with some crucial interceptions, while an effervescent Mia Ritchie and Yasmin Parsons provided a steady supply of passes to the shooters.
Cookey hobbled off with a knock in the final minutes of the game but the home side turned the screw to complete the victory.
"We made hard work of it, but the girls showed great courage and spirit to come away with the win," said Cookey.
Team Bath return to action with a trip to reigning champions Manchester Thunder on Saturday, February 16. The next home fixture is against Loughborough Lightning on Friday, March 1.
For fixture details and ticket information, visit www.teambath.com/netball.