Shooting stars Chelsea Lewis and Kalifa McCollin will be key players for Celtic Dragons in their Vitality Netball Superleague home clash with Wasps.
The teams go head-to-head at Cardiff’s Sport Wales National Centre this evening (Monday, 7pm centre-pass) when leaders Wasps aim to extend their winning run.
Wales international Goal-Shooter Lewis, originally from Aberdare and now living in Swansea, is building a prolific partnership with Trinidad and Tobago Goal-Attack McCollin.
“We hadn’t played together before this season and we were thrown together a little in our opening friendly,” says former Cardiff Metropolitan University student Lewis.
“Khalifa is an extremely good player, we have been building from that first time on court and it’s been going well.”
Lewis started her Superleague career with Celtic Dragons at the age of 17 before joining Team Bath. Now the dynamic, composed GS is back in Wales, rejoining Dragons from Team Bath.
“It’s good to be back,” says Lewis. “Different, but good.
“Dragons have a brand new team and it’s great to be a part of woking to create something different.
“There is a lot of work to do, but we have a good mix of players and are getting there.
“Tania Hoffman, our coach, has been brilliant with us. She always puts the team first.”
Dragons have earned two Superleague wins this season, including their 50-46 victory against Strathclyde Saracens in Scotland last time out.
Green Army Dragons supporters will turn out in force this evening to cheer on their team.
The match is a sell-out and captain Nia Jones says: “We have a brand new squad and need to approach every game like it’s a fresh start.
“It being such a close game against Strathclyde Sirens and I was really pleased the character we showed.
“We dealt with the physicality really well and stayed within reach throughout.”
Wasps captain Hannah Knights says strength-in-depth has been the key to their unbeaten start to the Superleague season.
Changes at half-time have proved pivotal for the Black and Golds in each of their previous four wins – with Sophia Candappa named player of the match for her second half performance against Saracens Mavericks.
Knights, who plays Goal-Keeper or Goal-Defence roles, believes that the ability to make quality changes will be crucial as they go in search of a third successive Superleague title.
“We’re in a fantastic position to have such brilliant depth in our squad,” says Knights.
“It allows us to put different combinations out on court and give our opposition something new to think about.
“We’re still building our connections on the court, whether that be in the attacking third, defensively or coming through the court as a whole team.
“But it’s tough for opposing teams to have to work hard against someone like Bongi Msomi for 30 minutes and then have somebody completely different to deal with, like Sophia for the second-half. It’s brilliant for us.
“There isn’t another team in the league that has those kind of changes at their disposal.”
Dragons impressed during wins against London Pulse and Strathclyde Sirens and Knights said: “We want to keep up momentum, but we won’t underestimate the challenge facing Dragons will provide.
“They have started the season well with some outstanding performances. They are highly accurate in the shooting circle and it will be important that we take advantage of any turnovers we force.
“To go and beat Sirens in Scotland is no easy thing to do, so we know how much of a test they will be to play against Dragons in Cardiff.”
Celtic Dragons: Chelsea Lewis, Kalifa McCollin, Suzy Drane, Kyra Jones, Nia Jones (capt), Dee Bolakoro, Stacian Facey, Lucy Howells, Lucy Herdman, Abby Tyrrell, Clare Elsey, Eleanor Roberts.
Celtic Dragons TICKETS
Round six results: Manchester Thunder 60, Loughborough Lightning 65; Severn Stars 46, Surrey Storm 55; Saracens Mavericks 68, Team Bath 45.
Fixtures, Monday, February 18: Celtic Dragons v Wasps (7pm), London Pulse v Strathclyde Sirens (7.30pm).
VITALITY SUPERLEAGUE 2019