Women’s Super League Lacrosse returned for 2018 on Sunday with a stellar line up packed full of international stars that produced a great day of high-quality action.
Warwick University hosted the four teams in the opening round-robin weekend with four matches between the Northern Storm, London Royals, Warwick Mavericks and Surrey Jets.
Northern Storm, defending the title last won in 2016, opened up against London Royals in what proved to be a thrilling opening to perfectly whet the appetite for this year’s competition.
Game 1: Northern Storm v London Royals
The Storm opened the 2018 WSLL with the first score through Jenny Simpson, Claire Faram levelled for the Royals before Amelia Miller put the Storm back ahead at ¼ time.
As in previous years, the Super League runs on four 10-minute quarters with each side having a PowerPlay period to use with goals worth two and extra players on the draw circle.
Q2 was another end-to-end quarter with the sides exchanging goals; the irrepressible Laura Merrifield with two for the Storm, while the Uni of Birmingham duo, Taya Jackson and Rosie Baynham kept the Royals in touch 4-3 at the half.
And it was the Royals who came out the sharpest after the break, Sophy Coombes-Roberts tying the game with a quick stick goal before Faram put them ahead for the first time.
The Storm, under the guidance of coach Katelyn Hoffman, were then sparked into life, Eliza Watson pulling it back, Camilla Hayes putting the Storm ahead again and Merrifield completing her hat-trick to lead by two at ¾ time.
With both teams on their PowerPlay periods for the last, it provided the perfect opportunity for the Royals to make a comeback and Coombes-Roberts took advantage of the chance, making a free position to make it 7-7.
Things then got even better as Katie Lehovksy put the Royals 9-7 ahead with two minutes to play, putting all the pressure on the Storm to recover and avoid an early WSLL defeat.
It was up to Merrifield to rescue her side and she duly delivered, taking her tally for the game to five with the PP goal with 30 seconds to go, concluding the opening game at 9-9.
Full Time: Northern Storm 9-9 London Royals
Game 2: Surrey Jets v Warwick Mavericks
It was then the turn of the Jets and Mavericks to get their campaigns underway, Surrey led by England Women’s U23 Head Coach, Alex Carnegie-Brown and Warwick by ex-England captain Katy Hudson.
Due to a number of unfortunate late drop outs, the Mavericks were left just a squad of 11 for the day, and Surrey Jets set out from the off to capitalise.
Liv Wimpenny opened up with a first-half hat-trick and with another added by Sophie Tamblyn, were 4-0 ahead at the half.
While the Jets were up by four, the Mavericks were unlucky to be so far adrift but were denied by the rock solid goalkeeping of Emilie Chandler who registered at least five first-half saves.
Both sides then used their PowerPlays for Q3 and the Jets were able to really make it count and put the game to bed.
Two for Sophie Morrill, one for Emily Gray and an unfortunate own goal moved the Jets to 12 while Thomas was able to finally get the Mavs on the board to trail 12-2 at ¾ time.
Torz Anderson ended the game with her first goal of the day but another brace from Wimpenny saw the Jets run out convincing 14-3 victors.
Full Time: Surrey Jets 14-3 Warwick Mavericks
Game 3: Surrey Jets v Northern Storm
After their opening win, Surrey Jets were the side required to play back-to-back matches and after a 30-minute break were back up for game two against Northern Storm.
However, the short turnaround didn’t seem to affect the Jets, Sophie Morrill scoring a hat-trick in the opening 4:30 to lead 3-1, however the storm slowly began to work themselves back into the game.
Two goals for Merrifield and two for her England midfield partner Camilla Hayes turned the game on its head with the Storm 4-3 up at ¼ time.
Storm then kept the momentum going into half-time, Julie Wise, Jen Simpson and Merrifield all adding goals, Ruby Smith the only Q2 scorer for the Jets as they trailed 7-4 at the half.
Looking to power home their advantage, Storm took their PowerPlay for Q3, and although the Jets started the scoring through a Morrill free position, a devastating three PP goal spell, two from Hayes and one from Simpson took the game away from the Jets, the Storm leading 13-5 heading into the last quarter.
The Jets were then unable to score any goals in their PP quarter to force a comeback, Sketchley with the Q4 shutout while Stacey Wright added one more to make the final score 14-5.
Full Time: Northern Storm 14-5 Surrey Jets
Game 4: Warwick Mavericks v London Royals
In the day’s final fixture, the Mavericks were looking to make amends for their earlier loss and took a 4-2 first quarter lead.
A double for Thomas and FP efforts from Torz Anderson and Bea Webber was the prefect start, with Coombes-Roberts and Faram keeping the Royals in touch.
An early Q2 PowerPlay from the Mavericks in an attempt to shake things up, seemed to be going against them as Martin halved the deficit for the Royals with three minutes left in the quarter, but two big goals from Anderson gave sent the Mavs into the break 8-3 up.
A refocused Royals came out firing in the third; a Coombes-Roberts brace and goals from Anna Featherstone and Cora Delfini moved them to within one with their PowerPlay to take in the final 10 minutes.
And in the final quarter, it was all Royals as they pushed for a winner and while the Mavericks defence valiantly looked to hold on with their small squad, the Royals eventually found the breakthrough through England U23 Laura Beaman.
As the Mavericks pushed for the equaliser, Claire Faram hit them with a game decider from a FP and the Royals ran out winners to remain undefeated for the day.
Full Time: London Royals 11-8 Warwick Mavericks
The 2018 WSLL Finals Day will take place on Sunday 3 June at Warwick University with another four games to be played.
2018 WSLL Top Scorers
8 – Laura Merrifield (Northern Storm)
8 – Sophie Morrill (Surrey Jets)
7 – Camilla Hayes (Northern Storm)
6 – Torz Anderson (Warwick Mavericks)
5 – Liv Wimpenny (Surrey Jets)
5 – Sophy Coombes-Roberts (London Royals)
5 – Claire Faram (London Royals)