Super League Lacrosse Series 1
Super League Lacrosse launched the 2016 season in style on Sunday at Worcester University. A number of player transfers, in addition to some new Super League athletes and coaches have changed the face of the teams. The weekend’s matches provided the first indication of who would be the stronger team in 2016.
The first game of the day matched London Royals against Surrey Jets. Coach Kate Nelson-Lee returned for a 3rd consecutive year to lead the Royals, she has been blessed with a midfield packed with England talent; Claire Faram, Ruby Smith, Lucy Lynch and Katie Lehovsky are all in her squad this year. However, Nelson-Lee had to manage the first weekend without Smith, Lynch and Lehovsky, who were all unavailable. England attackers Florry Saunders and Holly Harrington, accompanied by the Welsh scoring threat of Sophy Coombes-Roberts provided Nelson-Lee with some interesting fire power and with the Welsh shot stopper Erin Walters-Williams between the pipes, when at full strength, Royals could be contenders this year.
Jets are an unknown this year, they are under new leadership with the debut of England’s U19 World Cup Bronze Medal winning coach Nicky Budd. Surrey Jets have received a few big name transfers for this year. England’s Katie Armstrong previously of Northern Storm has joined the squad adding experience and quality to their defensive unit. Liv Wimpenny who celebrated success at the U19’s World Cup last year as part of the bronze medal winning squad has also joined the Jets providing their midfield with an injection of pace and control at the draw. One of the 2015 league’s top goal scorers has also joined the Jets, Jessi Basch (previously of Northern Storm) steps into attack along side ex England and John Hopkins player Sarah Taylor.
The second fixture of the day was a repeat of the 2015 final, Warwick Mavericks v Northern Storm. Mavericks won the 2015 final by 1 goal.
Warwick Mavericks are another squad under new leadership with Justine MacKenzie taking control of the midlands based team. On paper Mavericks look like contenders again this year. Mackenzie has a solid attack unit at her disposal with England’s goal scorers Torz Anderson and Sophie Brett, in addition to the Welsh legend Ros Lloyd-Rout. The midfield is stacked with international talent and experience, Welsh stars Becky Thomas and Lottie Van-Praag, Scotland’s Ailsa Stott and England’s Ali Smith. At the back Mackenzie can count on Wales’ Charlotte Williams, Scotland’s Emma Economou and England’s Katie Evans, she also has the current England goal keeper Sally Keogh and ex England keeper Cat Gaunt to sure up the defence.
Northern Storm the 2014 Champions and 2015 runners up have performed well in each Super League. The attacking partnership of England’s Jenny Simpson and Jessie Basch has been disrupted with Basch’s transfer to Surrey Jets. However, England’s Sophie Morrill and Olivia Higson are on hand to fill the void, not to mention the scoring threat from midfield in the shape of the irrepressible Laura Merrifield. England’s Coach Hoffman continues in charge of the Storm and is able to build on her relationship with England generals Laura Merrifield and Ash Gloster during Super League 2016. Storm are another team that look good on paper, they have quality throughout their squad list. The defensive unit is comprised of England’s Ash Gloster, Annie Hillier, Emma Oakley and Georgie Hurt. Midfield stars include England’s Eliza Watson, Laura Merrrifield, Charlotte Lytollis, Kirsten Lafferty and Camilla Hayes.
London Royals 9 v Surrey Jets 10
Royals were the more composed side starting the game well, Sophy Coombes-Roberts scoring the 1st Super League goal of 2016 in under a minute. Jets were able to respond though Liv Wimpenny but it was Royals who stretched the lead to 3 -1 at the end of the 1st quarter. Royals then played their power play quarter in the 2nd period and used the advantage well scoring 2 goals through England’s Sophie Whitehead, Sophy Coombes-Roberts providing the assist each time. The rules state 2 points for one goal in power play, Royals were in control 7-2 as they started the 3rd quarter. Surrey Jets seemed to have used the 1st half the game to get settled into the 2016 series, they started their power play 3rd quarter with vigour. Liv Wimpenny controlled the draw area, handing her team possession throughout the remainder of the game. Jets were able to score 2 unanswered goals in their power play through Sarah Taylor and Laura Warren, levelling the score board. Jets started the 4th quarter as they finished the 3rd, scoring 3 quick goals seemingly putting the game out of reach for Royals but England’s Claire Faram scored twice to give the London team a chance of a draw. It wasn’t meant to be and Surrey Jets completed an impressive comeback.
Northern Storm 14 v Warwick Mavericks 5
Northern Storm took the lead early through Laura Merrifield and did not look back. They scored 5 in the 1st quarter Merrifield and Higson netting twice and Camilla Hayes scoring too. Storm have a number of draw options, giving them a solid possession % in any game. Possession combined with the strength of their defensive unit, Storm really are the team to beat. Merrifield was scoring for fun in this game, netting 7 goals from midfield. Storm’s power player quarter proved to be one of their quietest in front of goal, with only 2 goals (4 points). Mavericks goal keepers were under fire but managed a respectable 6 saves between them in the game. Mavericks scored twice in the 1st quarter through Martin and Anderson but then the score board stalled until the 3rd quarter, their power play. 2 goals scored by Anderson and Waterman added the much needed 4 points to the scoreline. Becky Thomas was able to add a further score in the final quarter but Storm had run away with the game by this point.
London Royals 12 v Warwick Mavericks 10
Having lost the 1st game of the day by 1 goal, Royals had a point to prove in this fixture. Sophy Coombes-Roberts started the game as she had the first by scoring in under a minute. Mavericks had other ideas though, and responded with 3 quick goals. Sophie Brett converted an assist from Lottie Van-praag to bring the score level, then Becky Thomas and Torz Anderson added to the scoreline. Royal’s Claire Faram was able to bring her team within 1 goal as the 1st quarter ended. Quarter 2 was power play for both teams, an important 10 minutes the team who scored the most in this period would hold the advantage. Royals ground balls stats (6) in this game display how hard they worked. Claire Faram and Sophy Coombes-Roberts leading by example, they both scored in power play to add to their personal goal tally and put their team in the driving seat. Royals outscored Mavericks by 2 goals in the decisive 2nd quarter, which proved to be the difference between the teams.
Surrey Jets 9 v Northern Storm 14
The final game of the day, both Jets and Storm victorious in Super league 2016 up to this point. Northern Storm again controlled the draw, giving them possession of the ball throughout the game. Jet’s goal keeper Sophie Allan produced 6 saves to keep her team in the fight and Liv Wimpenny continued her scoring streak for the Jets too. Storm proved too strong though, leading 2-1 after the 1st quarter and extending this to 7-3 going into the 3rd quarter they were in control. Both teams used the final quarter as their power play. Laura Merrifield ensured that Storm did not surrender any ground by scoring twice in the period and attacker Jenny Simpson added a third, giving Storm 6 points.