In part two of our Final Four preview, Karen Atkinson, Tamsin Greenway, Karen Greig and Jess Thirlby look ahead to a dramatic weekend of action.
Having heard their take on their journey to Birmingham this weekend in the first part of our preview, we turned the conversation to Finals weekend itself.
You can watch the action on Sky Sports Mix on Saturday with Loughborough Lightning v Team Bath on air from 3.30pm followed by Wasps against Manchester Thunder. The final follows on Sunday from 4.30pm when the two winners meet in the culmination to a dramatic season.
We got the thoughts of the coaches and directors of netball on their finals weekend rivals, the challenges of a hectic weekend and hopes of title glory.
How do you assess the four teams who made Final Four?
Karen Atkinson (Loughborough Lightning) – Bath are coming good at the right time so we have to bring our A-game to Saturday’s semi-final.
Thunder come from a winning culture, have a lot of stability and a lot of homegrown talent and they are hard as nails from that area when it comes to netball – they have got that big-game mentality.
Wasps are the new kids on the block but have pushed the boundaries which has made other teams step up. They are probably the most experienced of the four teams with many players who have played and won finals so they will be dangerous.
Tamsin Greenway (Wasps) – Manchester teams are always dangerous. The big thing will be shutting down that attacking unit, keeping Mvula quiet and keeping Kathryn Turner quiet who I think has been exceptional all season.
Loughborough will feel like it is the one that got away from them if they don’t win the title. Peace Proscovia has been the stand-out goalshooter for me.
Bath have fought really hard to get in there and on any day they could win it. Eboni Beckford Chambers and Layla Guscoth in the circle are incredible. Bath have a heap of experience and they probably have the strongest team across the board on paper and their players have been in pressure situations before.
Karen Greig (Manchester Thunder) – Loughborough have been building a solid squad over the last two years and to see them at the top of the table is no surprise to me.
Bath are always building and always have such a strong squad.
As for Wasps, Tamsin has come in and collated a strong group of seasoned Superleague players.
Jess Thirlby (Team Bath) – Very classy sides, all different in terms of approach and style. Loughborough have a winning culture and will be hard to break down and have every right to be confident coming into the weekend.
Thunder will be over the moon to have put their critics to bed from early in the season, they had a flying run which put them in a great position. They have some great combinations who have played together and that is hard to break down, Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey are a stand-out and Kathryn Turner has been fantastic.
Wasps are a new team but Tamsin put a backbone together that she knew would start them in a good place. They have got matchwinners throughout their squad and they have people that have won the league before and that counts for a lot.
Vitality Superleague – Finals Weekend Semi-Final Loughborough Lightning v Team Bath Saturday Wasps v Manchester Thunder Saturday Final Loughborough/Team Bath v Wasps/Thunder Sunday What are you expecting from your semi-final opponent?
Karen Atkinson – Just because we beat Bath twice in the league we are not complacent about that. They have got a strong defensive record and this is a good test
Tamsin Greenway – Thunder have won the league a few times and were in the final last year. They will give themselves the underdog tag but I don’t believe that for one second. They lost a lot of players but have real quality and players who have been playing as long as I have!
Liana Leota and Joyce Mvula are real quality they are all good players and we will not be taking them for granted.”
Karen Greig – Our performance against Wasps last time out we were not happy with. They came at us hard and we were still in the changing rooms. We have looked at both games and what could work for us and what we need to do to stop them.
We are 1-1 and my group of passionate player are determined to make it 2-1.
Jess Thirlby – We haven’t played Loughborough since our turn to form so we are looking forward to playing them and putting up one of our second-half performances, we were flat on both occasions.
How difficult is the prospect of two games in two days?
Tamsin Greenway – I am not a fan of back-to-back, I think tactically it makes things a bit of a nightmare and if I had my way I wouldn’t do it this way but we are all in the same boat.
We have known all season and the hope will be to get a lead in the semi-final and to change things around but the focus is on Saturday and to get through that, then attention would turn to the final.
Karen Greig – We have put things in place in terms of recovery, making sure the girls eat well and recover with ice baths, massages.
Mentally some of the girls have done this before, back in 2012 the competition was very similar, when I played we played semi-final on Saturday and final on Sunday.
Kerry, Emma and Kathryn were all there and are used to it so having them knowing all about it will be crucial
Jess Thirlby – It’s been a couple of years since we have done this format but we have all been aware of it from the start of the year and every team is in the same boat.
We feel we have the depth in our squad to cope with that scenario and that we cope mentally as well as physically.
We are very confident and comfortable that we can use the whole squad across the weekend but it will be for impact and to get over the line. We believe those players can come on and get the result for us, there is no room for worrying about people physically because we have to get through Saturday.
If you find yourselves in the final, it is not physical anymore, it’s mental and adrenaline will get people through, it’s a challenge but it’s really exciting.
And how much would winning the Superleague title mean?
Karen Atkinson – It would be the icing on the cake. We have to be incredibly proud of what we have done this year as three years ago Loughborough were at the bottom of the table with one or two wins.
But it is two more games, that is how we have to approach it, game 19 and game 20 and do what we have been doing all season
Tamsin Greenway – It would be incredible. I put together a team that could challenge for the Finals but finals are funny things.
I would love to win the league with Wasps but this is a long-term plan for me and to get into the top four we have done a great job but to win would be a cherry on the top.
Karen Greig – It would be everything to win it. We have already exceeded what most people expected of us this season.
We have ticked the box in getting to the final four and I have said all along, it’s like the FA Cup once you get to this point you have got nothing to lose and two good performances will see us lift the trophy and that’s what we are aiming to do.
Jess Thirlby – We are proud of our history but we are not resting on that and it has been a few years since we won the title.
I’ve been involved with Team Bath from the start and 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2013 are fantastic journeys but if this group can put out the performances they have done recently and get over the line it will be the biggest turnaround and I would be extremely proud.
I think it would be a huge testament to the style which they have done it and the ruthlessness and relentlessness to keep going and believe in themselves
You can follow all the action from Finals weekend on Sky Sports Mix with both semi-finals live from 3.30pm on Saturday and the final live on Sunday from 4.30pm