Sunshine Coast Lightning will use the solidarity built during a challenging Round 7 as a launchpad for the second half of the Suncorp Super Netball season. 

Sunshine Coast sit in sixth place on the ladder, just one win and percentage outside the top four after their 82-54 loss to GIANTS Netball at USC Stadium on Sunday. 

Players from both clubs rallied in support of defender Kate Walsh who was subjected to online bullying and trolling via social media in the build-up to the game. 

The distraction made it a difficult preparation, but defender Tara Hinchliffe said the side was only more determined to show their unity and return to the winning circle, starting at home on Saturday against the Adelaide Thunderbirds. 

“We’ve got so much love for each other. We really respect each other and have that passion,” she said. 

“You’ll see that fight next week.” 

Coach Kylee Byrne faced an unanticipated hurdle when shooter Cara Koenen was ruled out on match day due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. 

Koenen’s absence gave Reilley Batcheldor her second start for the season and the side led during the first quarter before the GIANTS went on a super shot spree. 

Walsh (ankle) and Mahalia Cassidy (head knock) both suffered injuries during the game which affected Lightning’s planned match-ups. 

“I am really proud of what they did do as a unit,” Byrne said. 

“The girls got in this week, put their heads down and trained. We thought we were going to put it together, but it just didn’t come off for us.” 

Wing attack Laura Scherian was a standout, with her mid-air, fingertip assist to Batcheldor a highlight. 

Tara Hinchliffe, with an intercept, five deflections and two rebounds, enjoyed one of her best games for the Lightning and Batcheldor continued her development with a longer stint in the shooting circle. 

“It was exciting to see Reilley out there and getting some opportunities that she deserved,” Byrne said. 

“We’ll build and go again.” 

Tickets are on sale now for the Lightning v Thunderbirds match at USC Stadium on Saturday 7 May 2022, from 7pm

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