Semi-Final 1 - Saturday 10th June, Live on Sky Sports
Loughborough Lightning v Team Bath
Loughborough Lightning finished the regular season top of the Superleague table after picking up maximum points in 17 of their 18 games. A solitary defeat to Wasps was the only blotch on what was otherwise a flawless record for a team that failed to even qualify for the Final Four last season. With their mix of current and former England internationals, Lightning have established a solid core that has proved difficult to break this term, and with top scorer Peace Proscovia leading the attack, the ladies from Leicestershire could take some stopping.
Team Bath may have only confirmed their semi-final spot on the final day of the regular season, but they did so at the expense of defending champions Surrey Storm. The Somerset side enjoyed a spectacular end to the campaign that saw them pick up seven victories in their last eight outings, partly thanks to the goal scoring prowess of Chelsea Lewis and Shantal Slater. Both players racked up impressive conversion rates of over 85 percent as the team in blue and yellow registered important wins in the second half of the campaign.
After topping the division for the major of the year, Lightning will be confident of reaching Sunday’s final, especially after completing the double over their Superleague counterparts during the regular season. However, those games came prior to Team Bath’s astonishing revival and weren’t particularly high-scoring, with neither team able to notch over 50 goals. If Lightning are to triumph, they will need to find a way past the league’s tightest defensive line, with the side from the South West demonstrating just how difficult they were to break down on numerous occasions. That said, the team in purple will be full of confidence after rounding off a superb domestic campaign and should have too much in the tank for their opponents.
- Top Tip: to - Loughborough Lightning to win - 1/7
Semi-Final 2 - Saturday 10th June, Live on Sky Sports
Wasps v Manchester Thunder
Wasps have enjoyed a fabulous first season after their introduction to Superleague. Under the leadership of Tamsin Greenway, the Coventry-based outfit have thrived, chalking up 14 wins from their 18 games and finishing with just a single away defeat. The acquisition of Rachel Dunn from Surrey Storm was a massive coup, especially as the 34-year-old has helped herself to 618 of her team’s 1068 goals this term. Combine that with the tireless work effort of George Fisher and former Manchester Thunder favourite Natalie Haythornthwaite, and it’s clear to see why Wasps have created such a buzz.
Manchester Thunder may have reached last year’s Grand Final, but questions were raised over how the runners-up would dust themselves down and go again following such a disappointing defeat. Opening losses to Loughborough Lightning and Surrey Storm seemed to suggest that there wouldn’t be a fairytale ending to 2017 either, but a splendid unbeaten run saw Thunder surge their way into contention for a semi-final spot with some remarkable results, including a satisfying 66-58 win over Storm in Round 9. Late wobbles against Wasps and Team Bath may have threatened to derail their campaign, but the Manchester representatives successfully clung onto their top four status.
Both sides picked up an away win apiece as Thunder and Wasps continuously battled for supremacy. The Superleague newcomers narrowly edged out the two-time title winners in the final standings, picking up three more points and netting 52 more goals, possibly giving them a slender psychological advantage. Of course, anything can happen in a one-off encounter, but it is probably safe to assume that this meeting will be full of chances at both ends, especially given the two sides’ tendencies to feature in high-scoring games. Rachel Dunn and Thunder’s Joyce Mvula are likely to feature heavily, but the goal-grabbing exploits mixed with the defensive stability of Wasps should be enough to see them through to Sunday’s showpiece.
- Top Tip: Wasps to win - 2/5
*Please note, odds may fluctuate.