Impressive Storm sail to victory over inconsistent Mavericks
A deadly new shooting combination was born at Guildford yesterday evening as Ashleigh Neal and Rachel Dunn combined excellently to get Surrey Storm off to the best possible start in the new Superleague season. Hertfordshire Mavericks fielded a side which mixed youth and experience but it was their inability to translate possession into goals which eventually cost Karen Atkinson’s side dearly.
A feature in Storm’s play from the 2012 season was their ability to move the ball to goal from centre-pass in rapid time. From the first whistle, the hosts were back in the habit. Dunn converted inside seconds and an equally quick turnover allowed Becky Trippick to combine with Neal to double the lead.
Another debutant catching the eye early on was Sophie Morgan who combined well with the attack to move Storm 8-3 clear after the first five minutes. The Mavericks attack stuttered but they had Naida Hutchinson and Josie Huckle to thank for keeping the visitors in sight with a series of turnovers. The game then took an entertaining and remarkable turn as each side scored in patches of three.
Storm raced seven clear but Mavericks reduced the gap to four. In the blink of an eye the lead was back out to seven as the hosts attack connected again. Mavericks responded with a trio of goals only for their opponents to repeat the trick. The pattern continued and was only interrupted in the closing stages of the quarter as Dunn beat the whistle to move Storm into a five goal lead, 17-12 to the hosts.
Although entertaining for the capacity crowd in Guildford, the play did show how many turnovers were being created in the opening exchanges. Early in the second quarter Mavericks missed a chance to convert a turnover and after Alice Ewer was called for a short pass, Storm were back in the ascendency.
England star Sasha Corbin was becoming frustrated on court and yelled to her teammates to work some space on the right as she urged her side to pick up the pace. Vicklyn Joseph was seeing several feeds fly over head as she looked to lead the Mavericks fight back. This inaccuracy allowed the hosts to move smoothly into a commanding lead.
When the ball did find Joseph and Ewer in the circle there was some sumptuous shot making, but the chances were more infrequent than at the opposite end as Dunn took control of the circle. The England international netted 13 from 13 attempts in the quarter and was dominating space with her excellent movement and ability to control feeds with her remarkable reach. At the interval Storm were ahead 33-23.
At the break, Atkinson introduced Sophie Hankin for Joseph and replaced Huckle with Layla Guscoth. Despite the changes, the hosts came out the stronger as Natalie Seaton made a fabulous tip which resulted in a free flowing move down court which was converted by the ever impressive Neal.
The pattern of play continued with Storm nudging further clear thanks to some great defensive work from the reliable partnership of Katy Holland and Hannah Reid. One particular turnover resulted in Dunn using all of her experience to pull the Mavericks defence out to the edge of the circle and allow Neal to be found completely free under the post to score.
Trippick was patrolling the mid-court brilliantly and was linking the defensive work with the free flowing attack in typically eye-catching fashion. As the quarter petered out Mavericks managed to get a foot hold back into the game as the youthful duo of Ewer and Hankin combined well to allow the latter to pull the score back to 46-33.
At the start of the fourth quarter Alex Sinclair came on for her debut in the Storm defence while Lindsay Keable came on for Hutchinson and Michaela McFarlane replaced Mikki Austin at WA with Corbin taking over at Centre. A medical time-out early on for Holland brought an abrupt halt to early Mavericks momentum and instead it was the hosts who were able to power and move 20 clear with ten minutes remaining.
It would have been easy for the visitors to have folded now but any squad coached by a player as tenacious as Atkinson was on court, it was no surprise that Mavericks continued to fight for every ball. Hankin was finding her groove and looking clinical in the circle while Guscoth was providing excellence in defence. However, the struggle to find their shooters earlier in the match had proved crucial.
The deficit was reduced to nine by full-time but in truth the hosts were relatively comfortable throughout and the last few minutes merely took a coat of gloss off a fine Storm display. There were many positives to take for the home fans to discuss as they flooded out of the venue in a game in which both sides gave an indication that they would be battling for top four spots once again this season.
Storm starting 7: GS - Dunn, GA – Neal, WA - Morgan, C - Trippick, WD - Seaton, GD - Holland, GK - Reid
On the bench: Stef Bello, Jo Davidson, Amanda Davis, Georgina Lees, Alex Sinclair
Mavericks starting 7: GS - Joseph, GA - Ewer, WA - Corbin, C – Austin, WD – Morgan-Smith, GD - Hutchinson, GK - Huckle
On the bench: Michaela McFarlane, Danielle McFarlane, Lindsay Keable, Layla Guscoth, Sophie Hankin
Storm: Dunn: 34/40 – 85%, Neal: 23/27 – 85%, Team: 57/67 – 85%
Joseph: 13/16 – 81%, Ewer: 22/28 – 79%, Hankin: 13/18 – 72%, Team: 48/62 – 77%