769 days after Manchester Thunder lifted the trophy and were crowned 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) champions, finals weekend is upon us.
Today, the Copperbox will host the top four teams to battle it out for the slots in next Sunday’s Grand Final.
With one of the most closely contested tables in years, we saw four teams all vying for the last place in the semi-finals.
Let’s take a look at the teams that did make it, and how their seasons panned out.
Semi-final 1: Leeds Rhinos v Loughborough Lightning
After their convincing win over Bath last week, Loughborough Lightning are coming into finals weekend in the top spot.
Loughborough will play the underdogs and newbies on the block, Leeds Rhinos, who will be playing without Fan’s player of the year Donnell Wallam due to family bereavement.
As if qualifying for semi-finals this season wasn’t stressful enough, Rhinos were dealt another uncertainty in the form of a positive COVID test on the 13th June.
This meant they were put into isolation and unable to play their final two fixtures.
Due to rules set out at the start of this unprecedented season, Rhinos were awarded the points for these games and snagged the last spot in the top four.
What to look out for
The battle in the midcourt will be the key to this match’s excitement with a thrilling match up in the middle between workhorses Jade Clarke and Natalie Panagarry in the C position and 2021 player of the year Beth Cobden defending VNSL All Star, Brie Grierson in WD.
However, Loughborough also has many exciting rising stars which could leave the Rhinos scratching their head.
It will be a difficult challenge for Leeds Rhinos to overcome 14 days quarantine, a slick midcourt, exciting defensive end and the shooting prowess of Ella Clark and Mary Cholhok.
But if we have learnt anything this season… anything can truly happen and this final is no exception.
Semi-final 2: Team Bath v Manchester Thunder
This is the game to watch with both teams impressive world-class rosters compiling, 2019 Fans player of the year Joyce Mvula and a total of 7 England Roses, including Serena Guthrie and Eleanor Cardwell.
Team Bath had the most comprehensive start to their season, remaining unbeaten for 9 rounds. However, they have struggled to find the same form for the latter part of the season resulting in their third-place trophy.
With almost the opposite trajectory, Manchester Thunder took a while to put out consistently strong performances. Thunder have also fallen short to Team Bath on both occasions this season.
However, they have won every game since their Round 14 loss to Bath, and they are definitely not a team to be counted out of the contest.
What to look out for
With exciting match ups happening all through the court, this game has the potential to be a tight one.
One of the most key battles will be Layla Guscoth versus Eleanor Cardwell, who have both been named in the VNSL All Star VII for 2021.
Guscoth sits 2nd for intercepts and turnovers and 3rd for deflections, but will have her work cut out against Cardwell, who’s combination with Mvula has gone from strength to strength this season, consistently putting out big performances.
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