Bristol Jets recorded their third loss of the AJ Bell NBL season going down 3-2 to Loughborough Lightning on Monday night.
A dominant first match of the night saw Jets get off to a flying start when Mizuki Fujii and Ben Lane took a commanding 1-3 victory over the hosts.
Jets led throughout the first game but it was tight right up until the 9-6 victory.
Loughborough always looked favourites in the second game but again it was close right up until the final points with Loughborough winning levelling the score at 1-1.
Thunderous play from Ben Lane, dispatching all errors with ease, combined with multiple Loughborough service errors, saw the Jets dominate the third game.
Jets carried the momentum through to the next game, with Mizuki’s solid defence pivotal in fighting of a late Lightening comeback to win 7-9, taking the first event.
Plaudits should go to Mizuki Fujii, usually a level doubles specialist, who shook off early teething problems and adapted suitably to the mixed event.
The women’s singles match saw youngster Kirby Ngan play only her second game for the Jets.
Ngan struggled with Birch’s power in the first and her opponent dominated the opening exchange 9-2. The England no.2 never looked troubled and Birch attempted to jeer up the crowd throughout.
Ngan showed signs of promise in the second but experience again prevailed with Birch seemingly biding her time in each rally until the opportunity for the finisher inevitably arose.
Birch concluded proceedings with a 9-2 win in perhaps the Jet’s most one side duel of their debut campaign. Kirby has a bright future ahead of her and huge potential but couldn’t handle the might of the England No.2.
Tactical rallies constantly varying line and length saw Lane take the early psychological advantage with a number of deft drop shots, but Hurskainen clawed his way back and in the end leap-frogged Lane using the power play at 7-8 down to take the first. Potentially the shot of the match was played by Lane in this game; an overhead cross court sliced drop shot from an impossible angle.
A back and forth 3-3 start to the second game began to take its toll on Lane and errors crept in and despite fighting back to 6-8, the Swedish number 1 took the 2nd 9-6.
0-2 down, Lane looked to mount a comeback and keep the 3rd event alive, but Hurskainen forced an early timeout with a 3-1 start. Lane took the power play at 4-6, losing the rally with a wide defensive return falling long. This seemed to deflate Lane and Hurskainen went onto compete the 3-0 victory (9-6).
The score line didn’t reflect the match and whilst the score was 0-3, Lane was in every game and competed throughout.
After two 0-3 defeats and 1-2 down, Jets needed a spark badly in the quest for their maiden NBL match night win. Both sides elected to utilise the new rules allowing a player of each gender to double up, with Mizuki Fujii and Chloe both returning to the court. Westwood, playing in the level doubles as opposed to her usual mixed event, would be tested.
The pair showed early communication issues but recovered to 7-8 before falling at the last hurdle losing 9-7.
Hart seemed to set the rhythm of the rallies whilst Birch again displayed her power, but Jets edged early proceedings 5-6. After a hugely entertaining rally which was locked at 8-8, Jets won potentially the rally of the match night with a precise Fujii finisher.
1-1 in a must-win event for the visitors, Loughborough looked the hungrier and ran up 6-3 lead, but Jets showed fight and bounced back to 6-6. At 6-8 down Jets took an unorthodox premature power play, but it wasn’t to be and Lightening won 9-6.
Fighting for their lives in not only the event but the fixture, the Jet’s girls needed to find some momentum. They flew out of the blocks, keeping Loughborough at bay and running out 6-9 on top.
Shootout time! Lightening looked rattled and Jets thundered to a 0-3 win and taking the event 2-3!
Locked at 2-2 it’s all to play for, with the stage set for another heroic Coles and Eidestedt performance. Not sticking to the script, Lightening comfortably took the first with too many unforced Jets errors.
Despite the improved play, they fell again 6-9 in the second game and things became desperate for the men in white.
A full throttle 4-4 start and it was clear that Bristol wouldn’t roll over, with a a run of form and a power play winning propelling Jets to a 7-8 lead, before Lightening tied 8-8. An emphatic last rally saw the hosts seal the game 8-9, the event and the match night.
Another 2-3 loss for the Jets, their 3rd straight, but another 2 points gained! So close to that elusive first win but better for it to come at home in one of our two remaining home match nights.
Tickets for the final two games of the season are available now online by clicking here.