VNSL Semi Finals – Loughborough Lightning vs London Pulse – Netball Scoop

Netball Scoop’s Zara Collings breaks down the second semi final between Loughborough Lightning and London Pulse and looks at which matchups on court could potentially decide the outcome.

Image: Team Talk Photos

Loughborough Lightning


2022 Season Record

Won: 18

Lost: 2 

Goal Difference: +198

2022 regular season final ladder position: 2nd 


Stats Leaders:

Most Appearances: Alice Harvey, Hannah Joseph, Suzie Liverseidge , Zanele Vimbele (20)

Most Goals: Mary Cholhok (564)

Most Feeds: Hannah Joseph (414)

Most Rebounds: Mary Cholhok (42)

Most Intercepts: Alice Harvey (31)

Most Deflections: Alice Harvey (67)

Most Penalties: Alice Harvey (236)


Image: Ben Lumley

Injury Updates

Wing Defence Beth Cobden has not taken to court since Round 16 back at the beginning of May and it is not known yet if she is likely to be available for Friday’s semi-final. 



Much has been said about Loughborough Lightning flying under the radar this season, yet they have ended with double wins against all opponents barring the undefeated regular season winners Manchester Thunder. They have exposed a number of young, talented players and put out some hugely impressive scorelines, so it’s somewhat puzzling they haven’t attracted the same fanfare and discussion as other teams in the top four. Yet, I believe it’s the nature in which they have done this in which makes them a deadly threat in finals. Lightning are a team that operates as a complete unit and it takes a full team effort to execute performances the way they have done this season. Despite having a number of Roses squad members, their players don’t attract the same amount of attention as an Eleanor Cardwell from Thunder or a Funmi Fadoju from Pulse, but it is clear that each player knows exactly what their role is and how to execute it on court. 

Throughout the season Lightning have lost a number of key players through injury; Mary Cholhok, Beth Cobden and Captain Nat Panagarry all spent a number of games on the sideline. Yet we saw young players like Emma Thacker, Ella Bowen and Hannah Williams step up and really make an impact in their absence. The depth of Loughborough Lightning has grown immensely throughout this season and it is something that we would perhaps not have seen if it had not been for these extended periods of injury to more senior players. 

Despite going down to Manchester Thunder on Monday night, Lightning will be feeling relatively positive about their recent form. They put in a convincing victory over Severn Stars in Round 19 and proved they were able to maintain composure and grind out a win when under pressure, beating Wasps by just two goals in Round 18. 

Lightning have recorded two solid victories against semi-final opponents London Pulse this season, an eleven goal victory in the opening round and a massive twenty goal margin when they last played in Round 11. Yet, it would certainly be naive to write this match off as another easy victory, a fact Lightning will be well aware of. Pulse have developed immensely since they last matched up against Lightning and with so much at stake, both teams will be gunning for the victory. For Lightning, it is about harnessing the depth in their squad that has been unearthed over the last few months and drawing on it at the right time to really inject a change of pace into the game. 


Image: Ben Lumley

Matchups to watch & Key to Success: 

This game will be won and lost in the midcourt. Both Lightning and London Pulse play a similarly structured game, they have a tall target shooter at one end supported by a goal attack that isn’t afraid to shoot from distance and both defensive units are able to turn over so much ball. For me, the player that really needs to stand up for Lightning is whoever will be wearing the Wing Defence bib. We don’t know yet whether that will be Beth Cobden, returning from injury, or young gun Ella Bowen, whose impressive performances this season have earned her a callup to the England Future Roses Program. Pulse have a whole number of players that could wear the starting Wing Attack bib and each offer something slightly different; Alicia Scholes is a real dynamic pocket rocket, who will take as many short and nippy passes as it takes to break through a defensive line, Tayla Honey has speed and is incredibly strong, Ashleigh Dekker brings a unique creativity to the attacking line and we have even seen Ellie Rattu and Kiera Rothwell don that bib in the past. It will be the job of the Lightning Wing Defence to really break down whichever attacking connection takes to court and give the Lightning Goal Keeper and Goal Defence plenty of protection to hunt for ball. Whichever player wears that bib will be vital in Lightning securing the victory. 

Image: Ben Lumley



Image: @NetballSL


London Pulse


2022 Season Record 

Won: 14

Lost: 6 

Goal Difference: 91 

2022 regular season final ladder position: 3rd   


Stats Leaders:  

Most Appearances: Alicia Scholes, Zara Everitt, Olivia Tchine, Kira Rothwell, Jasmin Odeogberin, Sacha McDonald (20)

Most Goals: Olivia Tchine (686)

Most Feeds: Tayla Honey (167)

Most Rebounds: Olivia Tchine (24)

Most Intercepts: Funmi Fadoju (44)

Most Deflections: Funmi Fadoju (103)

Most Penalties: Lindsay Keable (242) 


Image: Team Talk Photos


2022 has been the year that many of us have been waiting for when it comes to London Pulse. Stacked with young talent, it was only a matter of time before this team broke the top four. Whilst they kept a number of key players from their 2021 campaign, some key additions changed the club from one bursting with potential, to one that truly believes they have what it takes to win. With one of the strongest defensive ends in the league, Zara Everitt marshals a backline that brings a real mix of experience and talent, with Lindsay Keable and Funmi Fadoju claiming the starting bibs most often throughout the season. Various injuries have forced some rotation in this throughout the season and we have also seen former Lightning title winner Jas Odeogberin and young stars Jayda Pechova and Peace Akinyemi take to court, both of whom made immediate impact when injected. 

Yet it is in attack where Pulse have arguably witnessed the most change. After a breakout season in 2021, Olivia Tchine commanded the starting Goal Shooter bib throughout the season and each match repaid the trust shown by her coach. It’s hard to downplay the impact that former Melbourne Vixens squad members Sacha McDonald and Tayla Honey have had on the squad, bringing an intensity both on and off the court that has certainly helped in the development of the players around them. Of course, the addition of former Australian Diamonds Head Coach Lisa Alexander to the Pulse coaching team will have also done no harm. 

With fourteen wins and only six losses this season, it has been Pulse’s most successful campaign since their inception in 2019. The latter half of the season saw Pulse settle on an attacking line up and really step up in intensity. Pulse have won seven of their last eight matches, with that loss coming against Manchester Thunder in Round 19. This was a real missed opportunity for the side, who led against the unbeaten Thunder right until the final quarter, where they posted a pretty poor nine goals compared to Thunder’s 20. However, this match saw a lot of player rotation, perhaps a more tactical move from Head Coach Sam Bird in preparation for the finals campaign, for which Pulse had already qualified. With this match being relatively fresh in their minds, Pulse will have been thrilled with the opportunity to further analyse a Manchester Thunder vs Loughborough Lightning Round 20 match, gaining further intel on their semi-finals opponents.  A team that oozes grit and the determination to prove they are not just that young up and coming team anymore will make Pulse a real threat come Friday. 


Image: @Pulse_Netball

Matchups to watch & Key to success: 

As I mentioned above, I do think this match will be won and lost in the midcourt and Captain and Wing Defence Zara Everitt has a huge job containing the League’s most prolific feeder Hannah Joseph. But once that feeder gets the ball into the circle, it’s more than likely going to be passed into the hands of the Goal Shooter and Olivia Tchine will be hoping for another huge performance against Lightning Goal Keeper Alice Harvey. Despite not starting in the final match of the season, I think Lightning will go with Harvey to match up against Tchine. Olivia plays as one of the more mobile, tall shooters and has timed her pop out the circle to alleviate pressure to perfection. Yet, the footwork of Alice Harvey has continued to develop and she is one of the best in the League at using her footwork to confuse the space around the shooter. If Olivia can stay focused and continue to provide a strong target in the circle for her feeders, Pulse have a real opportunity to make history for their club.


Image: Peter Rattu