Loughborough Lightning went back to their winning ways on Monday night, after a nail biting encounter with Surrey Storm, securing a 53 – 51 victory in the final seconds of the game.
A gruelling two weeks has seen Lightning face arguably the toughest teams in the league all in a matter of days, with a whopping four matches in ten days. Starting the second double header on Saturday with a loss to last year’s champions Wasps, Lightning were keen to secure a win ahead of next weekend’s break. Visiting side Surrey Storm also arrived at Loughborough University with a fierce determination after recording three defeats on the trot.
A slow start to the opening quarter for Lightning saw Storm quickly pull ahead to lead 4 – 9 within the first five minutes. Shocked at the acceleration from the visiting side, a tired Lightning quickly regained composure and with an outstanding flying interception from Sterling they were given the chance to turn things around. The quarter continued with both sides levelling at each centre pass before Lightning finally pulled ahead to finish one point ahead.
Quarter 1: Loughborough Lighting 15 – 14 Surrey Storm
Heading back onto court a weary Lightning needed to find all that was left to maintain their lead. Storm meanwhile boasted their fresh legs after a weekend’s break due and continued to apply pressure to Lightning’s attacking circle. Changes mid-way through the quarter saw Oyesola on at GD who quickly found her rhythm alongside the sensational Sterling who was off to a flyer once more, giving Lightning those crucial turnovers needed to increase their lead to three.
Half-time: Loughborough Lightning 31 – 28 Surrey Storm
Picking up where they left off, Oyesola soon spotted an opening, taking advantage of a loose pass, quickly feeding it back up the court to a waiting Proscovia. Changes in the quarter became a momentous occasion as fan favourite Lauren Nicholls stepped onto court for the first time in over a year after suffering from a season ending ACL injury in 2017. Leaving no time to savour the moment, Storm were hot on the tails of a readjusting Lighting side, closing the gap to just one point. Sterling however had other ideas, continuing to edge out the Storm shooters to provide Lightning with yet another lifeline.
Quarter 3: Loughborough Lighting 43 – 39 Surrey Storm
Just fifteen minutes remained on the clock and with Storm eager to secure their first win of the season, Lightning increased their intensity. Taking a well-earned break, Joseph and Clark retired to the bench to allow a fresh and hungry Grierson and Coleman to take to the court. However with just minutes left on the clock and a level score, their break was short lived. The final five minutes saw each side taking point for point, neither side letting up. Lighting trailed by just one point going into the final 60 seconds of the game however two terrific turnovers and a centre pass saw them score the three vital goals needed to secure the win, leaving the audience gripped to the edge of their seats until the buzzer sounded.
Final score: Loughborough Lightning 53 – 51 Surrey Storm
Head Coach Anna Carter was quick to share her thoughts on such a dramatic finish;
“We knew it wasn’t going to be pretty tonight but we knew we needed the win and got over the line so that’s great. The girls worked their socks off tonight, we had a lot of tired legs and it showed a true test of character that they were able to work through it and secure the win.”
After standout performance on court, Shamera Sterling earned her first ever Lightning MVP award in front of a standing ovation;
“We had to dig deep in the last quarter, it was a tough match, but we pulled through, we’re fighters. I’m really enjoying my time here at Loughborough so far and the rest of the players have ensured I fit right in place.”
Lightning are back in action at Loughborough University on Saturday 17th March, welcoming Team Bath to campus. Tickets are on sale now, so why not celebrate St Patrick’s Day in style with your favourite netball stars. www.loughboroughlightning.com