WNBL1 Preview: Week 1 (2/3 October 2021) - live streams, stats and more

With the pre-season wrapped, it's time to get down to business. The WNBL is back!

Teams need to be ready to go this weekend, with no side wanting to endure a slow start to the season. There's five games on the slate for the next two days, with a trio on Saturday to get proceedings underway.

We take a look at all the action below, with links to live stats and live streams at the bottom of the page.

Ipswich v Thames Valley Cavaliers

Reigning league and playoff champs Ipswich head into the new season with a much-changed roster following a number of departures.

Player of the Year Harriet Welham has taken up a pro contract in France, whilst Young Player of the Year Esther Little has now joined up with Gonzaga University in the USA.

With another long-serving player in Danni Cazey taking a year out to focus on her professional commitments, plus Charlotte Redhead and Ella Pearson also moving onto the next step of their basketball journey, Ipswich will be embracing a new generation of players for the new campaign.

“We are not trying to replace anyone who has left, this is about finding and developing the next generation of great Ipswich players," explained head coach Nick Drane. "The likes of Susannah [Rafiu], Saruna [Gudza], Hannah [Gray], Millie [Pearson] and Alice [Fallon] are more than equipped to take the club forward.”

Thames Valley lost all three games to Ipswich a year ago, including both regular season match ups plus the opening round of the playoffs. The Uxbridge set up will no doubt be looking to turn that form around here given the roster upheaval from their opponents.

Little has been released by the club throughout the off-season to show how their summer recruitment has progressed, making them somewhat of a dark horse with the new campaign ready to tip off.


Elsewhere this weekend

After withdrawing from D1W in 2020/21, Bristol Flyers are welcomed back once again as they face a tough road matchup against Worcester Wolves.

Flo Ward and Liisa Juul have both left the programme, but Mai Zilbeti returns alongside veteran Fiona Fox and US import Kayla Goldsmith.

Worcester got off to an impressive 4-1 start in their debut D1W season a year ago before closing with a 6-12 record. With the likes of Shanice Turner, Carolina Marques and Grace Brownell back in the mix, plus the addition of some young talent in Kacey Cox (Loughborough), Caitlin Collier (Solent) and Ella Whitehouse (Sheffield), the Wolves look ready for an improved season.

Saturday's other contest sees Team Solent Kestrels hosting London Lions II.

Solent's head coach CJ Lee will no doubt be eager to welcome back Faye Endean after a highly impressive debut season with the senior set up, with former Leicester Riders' guard Lauren Dabbs also now in the mix for the Kestrels.

Forward Leia Edwards has left the Lions for US Prep set up Sierra Canyon, with Paula Pazule also heading stateside. A new influx of talent is available for coach David Lavinier though, with Fatima Janneh, Nicholle Lavinier, Grace Strickland, Neve Marville and Tamara Smith-White all entering the fold.

Last season's league and playoff runners up CoLA Southwark Pride get their schedule underway with a visit from Reading Rockets.

So close to success a year ago, CoLA have lost the talents of captain Simona Henshaw but have retained most of their core, including Emily O'Connell, Isi Ozzy-Momodu, Molly Lavin and Emilie Black. Team England youth standout Violet Stutz also takes the step up to D1W basketball as part of what is set to be a youthful CoLA roster.

After notching up an incredible 5.1 steals per game to earn the league's Defensive Player of the Year award, Reading's Sitota Gines Espinosa has moved on to New York based St John's University. That will be a tough loss for the Rockets, but expect Gaila Comesana, Candela Hermida Nunez and Saioa San Francisco to all feature once more.

Finally, Cardiff Met Archers II are at home to former #3 seeds Loughborough Riders in Sunday's only other game.

The Riders were in mix for the D1W title a year ago, but faltered down the stretch as Ipswich pulled away. After a stunning debut season, American Makana Stone has progressed up to the WBBL with parent club Leicester, though Robyn Ainge and Katie Januszewska should both return after productive campaigns in 2020/21.

Cardiff propped up the table at 2-16 last year, but American Amber Deane should now be free of a hamstring injury that caused her to miss a chunk of the season, and Eloise Ferguson, Issy Bunyan and Carys Roy also return with a year of experience under their belts.

Cardiff head coach Sarah Wagstaff said: "We are looking forward to our second season in D1 this year and I think last season was a great opportunity for us to ascertain what it is like to play at this level.

"Our juniors continue to develop and are exciting to watch so I can't wait to see their impact in D1 this year."

This weekend's fixtures:

Saturday 2 October

3:30pm - Team Solent Kestrels v London Lions II - LIVE STATS/LIVE STREAM

3:30pm - Ipswich v Thames Valley Cavaliers - LIVE STATS/LIVE STREAM

4pm - Worcester Wolves v Bristol Academy Flyers - LIVE STATS

Sunday 3 October

3pm - Cardiff Met Archers II v Loughborough Riders - LIVE STATS/LIVE STREAM

3:15pm - COLA Southwark Pride v Reading Rockets - LIVE STATS

Main image credit - Luke Simcock