MATCH REPORT | Saracens Mavericks 44-44 Strathclyde Sirens (Pre-Season)
Saracens Mavericks played out an enthralling draw at HSV, as fans were given a taste of what's to come this season.
With the Netball Super League season starting in three weeks, Mavericks fans were excited to see the team’s new signings at home for the first time in 2024.
After a superb win for Saracens Mavericks U23s in a warm up game against Sirens Development, it was all eyes on the senior team in this pre-season fixture.
At a sold out Hertfordshire Sports Village, the match against Strathclyde Sirens saw Camilla Buchanan hand out starts for new signings Emma Thacker, Vicki Oyesola and Indya Masser, with Oyesola in particular showcasing what she will bring to the side this season.
An early overturn of a Sirens centre pass gave Mavericks a perfect start as Thacker netted two goals within the first minute of the match.
At the other end of the court, Oyesola was keeping the team ahead with some exceptional defensive play, as she continued the form that saw her named NSL Players' Player of the Season in 2023.
Mavericks continued to look good in attack with some great link up play between Masser and Thacker, as they ended the first quarter with a slim 12-11 lead.
Thacker continued to show confidence in the second quarter, finding the net with shots from long range, as her side looked to build an advantage.
A second quarter highlight came from a beautifully constructed Mavericks goal, as Georgia Lees fought hard to win the ball in the centre third, before feeding the ball into Kira Rothwell, who laid up Thacker to score.
This link up play was a theme of the middle two quarters and was something that captain Jodie Gibson would no doubt have been proud of as she rallied her team to press on.
Some great defending from Gibson and Oyesola on the stroke of half time was enough to maintain a four goal lead for Mavericks, as they went into the break.
After coming on after the half time break, Britney Clarke scored three goals in three minutes, putting Mavericks in the driving seat with a seven goal buffer, as they looked to be in control of the match. A home debut for Peace Akinyemi also came in the third quarter as she played her part in defence and maintaining the Mavericks lead.
Sirens did not want to go down without a fight though, and came back into the match towards the end of the third quarter, closing the gap to just three to set up a nailbiting finale.
A dream start to the fourth quarter for Sirens saw them score two quick goals to pull themselves back into contention, but Clarke remained calm and took her chances to restore a five goal buffer.
Despite a dominant defensive performance from Mavericks for 50 minutes, the final 10 minutes of the match saw unforced errors which Sirens capitalised on to level the match with seven minutes to go.
The two teams went toe-to-toe from then until the final whistle, and with seconds to go, a Mavericks chance went begging as Clarke landed just millimetres out of court as she received the ball to shoot.
In the end, an exciting match ended all square, with lots of positives to take forward into the upcoming NSL season, in particular how lively all of the new signings looked on court.
Whilst Mavericks will no doubt be disappointed to not have secured the win, they will be buoyed by the superb home support they experienced, as they look ahead to the season opener against Cardiff Dragons in a few weeks time.
Report by Ayisha Gulati.