Severn Stars host UWS Sirens in the final game of the Vitality Superleague weekend, while Manchester Thunder look to join Wasps and Loughborough at the top of the table.
With another thrilling conclusion to the season and the race for the top four set to go to the wire, the Sky Sports cameras are focused on a couple of franchises looking to make their mark and finish on a high.
Stars and Sirens are out of the mix for the top-four places, but both are keen to improve on their debut year in the competition last season and Sara Bayman told Sky Sports that building is crucial for the future of both teams.
“It takes time to build – Thunder have a 5/10 year programme in place where they are creating players through their youth team and they are making it a seamless transition,” the Sirens centre said.
“Even from year one to year two and the amount of players that Stars retained – they are reaping the rewards as the season has gone on.
“When you look at the new teams trying to start from scratch you are looking to do that as well as create a fanbase, loyalty from supporters and players alike.”
Vitality Superleague – Latest standings P Pts (1) Wasps 15 39 (2) Loughborough Lightning 16 39 (3) Manchester Thunder 15 36 (4) Team Bath 16 33 (5) benecos Mavericks 15 30
On the court, Stars find themselves in sixth place, and know with a run of three home games to finish the season they have every chance of improving on 2017.
“We have been playing so well so we expect to challenge in every match,” said Stars head coach Sam Bird.
“We’re very positive going into the remaining three games. They’re all at home so it will be great to have a home crowd and we’re looking to showing everyone how much we’ve improved.
“It’s fair to say Sirens have improved as well since we last played them. We won’t be underestimating them; they have put in a couple of good performances recently as well, but we’re looking forward to playing them at home.”
Sirens, for their part, have struggled to find the consistency that would put together a top-four challenge befitting a squad full of quality players from around the globe.
We have just been massively inconsistent and that’s the reason we have underperformed for the players we have in our squad,” Bayman tells Sky Sports.
“We have showed flashes of what we can do, Bath was a highlight, but we have not produced often enough or consistently enough to take us up the league into the places we want to be.
“When we beat Bath: it was a big performance and that’s because we want to have a say in what happens in this league – we still have scalps to take.
“The difficulty when starting a team, as Sirens did last year, and then this year with the change in players from year one to year two means it’s so difficult to gel.
“We have players from all over the world and the difficulty is that there are so many styles of play which have taken a little too long to merge – that was unexpected and individually not everyone has performed as well as they would have hoped.”
Meanwhile, at the top of the table, the excitement continues with games fast running out. Manchester Thunder play their outstanding game from earlier in the season when they host bottom-of-the-table Celtic Dragons.
Thunder are in red-hot form having won their last five games, including victories over top-four rivals Mavericks and Wasps in the last two weeks and a win will see them level on points with Wasps and Loughborough.
At the end of the season, the top two will have earned home semi-finals so victory for Thunder will keep that racing going to the wire.
Vitalty Superleague – Round 16 Fixtures Friday Team Bath 42-43 Loughborough Lightning Saturday Celtic Dragons 42-83 Wasps benecos Mavericks 47-52 Manchester Thunder Surrey Storm 52-51 Team Northumbria Monday Severn Stars v UWS Sirens Live on Sky Sports Manchester Thunder v Celtic Dragons from Round Five
Our live coverage continues on Monday when Severn Stars host Sirens live on Sky Sports Mix, Main Event and Action from 6.30pm.
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