Vitality Netball Superleague: Loughborough Lightning keep title defence alive with semi-final win against London Pulse
The 2021 Superleague champions made home court advantage count and produced composed netball for 60 minutes against first-time semi-finalists London Pulse; Lightning will take on Manchester Thunder in Sunday's final at 3.45pm, live on Sky Sports Arena and Mix
Last Updated: 03/06/22 9:44pm
Loughborough Lightning remain on course to defend the Vitality Netball Superleague title they won 12 months ago, after a 56-44 victory over London Pulse in the semi-finals.
Lightning made home court advantage count against first-time semi-finalists Pulse and will now take on Manchester Thunder in Sunday's Grand Final at the Copper Box Arena.
Thunder prevailed over Team Bath Netball earlier on Friday in the first semi-final and a 64-54 victory means that their unbeaten Superleague season continues.
- Thunder stay unbeaten and book Superleague final spot
- Vitality Netball Superleague 2022: Fixtures, coverage and results
Loughborough Lightning's head coach Victoria Burgess had implored her team to be 'aggressive' in attack in order to take on Pulse's formidable defensive line-up.
Sam Bird surprised a few people by selecting Funmi Fadoju to start at goal keeper and Lindsay Keable out at goal defence for the play-off contest.
On the other hand, Lightning fielded a familiar line-up, but were forced to take to court without England international Beth Cobden due to injury.
Loughborough Lightning vs London Pulse - Starting sevens
|Loughborough Lightning||London Pulse|
|GS: Mary Cholhok||GS: Olivia Tchine|
|GA: Ella Clark||GA: Sasha McDonald|
|WA: Hannah Joseph||WA: Alicia Schoes|
|C: Natalie Panagarry||C: Ellie Ratu|
|WD: Ella Bowen||WD: Zara Everitt|
|GD: Fran Williams||GD: Lindsay Keable|
|GK: Alice Harvey||GK: Funmi Fadoju|
As the opening quarter played out, Lightning took advantage of a couple of mistakes from Pulse due to the visitors becoming static in attack. Ella Bowen, stepping in for Cobden at wing defence, provided the home side with a key turnover to lift spirits.
The accuracy of shooters Ella Clark and Mary Cholhok converted Lightning's growing number of turnovers and resulted in a 14-10 quarter-time lead.
Lightning felt significant scoreboard pressure during the early stages of the second quarter, as Pulse moved back to within two. Berri Neal, who was newly onto the court, provided the London-based outfit with good speed and purpose going forwards.
However, Lightning weathered the storm well and grew in confidence. The combination of deflections from Alice Harvey, treasuring their own possession and Cholhok growing into the game facilitated their work.
Loughborough Lightning vs London Pulse - Quarter-by-quarter scores
Pulse rolled the dice at half-time and started the second half with a new attacking line-up - Taylor Honey arriving at wing attack and Ash Dekker into centre alongside Neal and McDonald.
The formation never truly settled, while Loughborough calmly went about their business with their unchanged line-up. Last year's champions stretched 10 and then, 12 goals ahead.
The final quarter saw the Lightning remain settled while Pulse changed personnel again, in a bid to make quick inroads.
Fadoju, Zara Everitt and Jasmin Odeogberin were deployed in defence, with Kira Rothwell taking on the wing attack role.
Pulse showed their tenacity throughout the final quarter, drawing it. However, Lightning kept the ball in hand well in the early stages and their cushion of goals enabled them to get over the line.
Watch the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final on Sunday from the Copper Box Arena, live on Sky Sports Arena and Mix and streamed on YouTube from 3.45pm. The third place play-off takes place before from 1.45pm.