by Jamie Thomas
Finishing the regular season positively and sitting in fourth spot going into May Madness, the Nottingham Wildcats will be feeling good about their prospects for the post-season, and one of the stars of a recent positive run of form, Simone Costa, is looking forward to the challenges ahead.
The second-year star for Kenrick Liburd’s side has been in fine form herself in recent weeks, and she spoke of how pleasing it is to reach the playoffs in a positive manner and how pleased she is for all of the teams who have qualified.
“I’m really excited for the playoffs this season, especially because last season – my first in England – was cut short and we didn’t get to experience that. I think we have a team that can compete at a high level in the post-season and the outcome will be positive for us.
“This season has been more difficult, obviously, and especially for us with the amount of injuries we’ve had and the adversity, but I’m happy for all of the teams that have reached their goals for this year and will be there with us, because it has been so tough for all of us.
“I think we’re finishing the season in the right way, we’ve loved every single week and every game we’ve had together and I feel like we’re ready for the playoffs.
“I always think I can give more.”
Particularly since the WBBL Trophy Final where star forward Jasmine Joyner went down with a season-ending injury, Costa has had to step up and help fill the considerable void left by the absence of the team’s leading scorer.
The Portuguese international certainly done that with aplomb as Costa has been averaging not far off 20 points per game in the eight fixtures leading to the playoffs, and the 24-year-old reflected on her fine form and how she’s grown as a player in her two WBBL seasons.
“I’ve really enjoyed my last two years in the WBBL. I’ve had to play in different positions to what I’m used to and had to be more of a leader than I’m used to, but I’ve enjoyed being a positive influence on the younger players as well.
“It has been more competitive and physical than I expected in the WBBL, and I still feel like there is so much more room for it to grow as well, but it has been a really positive experience for me to come here and I’ve really enjoyed all of it.
“I can always do more, my game can grow a lot, and my ambition is to win a championship, cups and trophies, but individually I just want to be stronger, more consistent and find new ways to help the team by developing my game and I always think I can give more.”
“The Trophy Final was a massive learning experience for us.”
The Wildcats have already played on one particularly challenging stage this season, as they contested the WBBL Trophy Final against BA London Lions earlier in the term.
Losing Joyner after some 90 seconds of action made the experience of the final even tougher for Nottingham against a Lions side that was rolling at the time, but Costa discussed how that experience will help them going into the playoffs and how the team has grown this season.
“I think our season has been pretty challenging, but we’ve progressed and become stronger every week. We wanted to finish top three, but we didn’t quite manage that, however that’ll always be our goal going forward and look forward to working towards it next year, but for now we’re fully focussed on the playoffs.
“The Trophy Final was a massive learning experience for us, especially losing a big piece of our group so early in the game, but the experience of that game is going to help us tremendously with the type of pressure we’re going to face in the playoffs.
“Stepping up without key players in the team is something I went through that last season as well, and I had to play a little bit out of position then, so that’s certainly helped me this year with Jasmine out, knowing I have to be more aggressive defensively and on the rebounds. It has been a challenge for me being a go-to player and a bigger piece, but that’s where I want to be as well.”
“Every team will be super motivated to win.”
Finishing fourth in the championship represents Nottingham’s joint-best league placing since the 2017/18 season and in that season they reached the WBBL Playoff semi-finals. Costa discussed the pressure and competitiveness she expects from the playoffs, before outlining what it would mean for her team to be successful in the post-season.
“Every team will be pumped and the amount of pressure will increase everybody’s performance, because this is what we’ve all been working towards, but I’m expecting great games and competition from every team which is what we want.
“This is a do-or-die situation, but I think the unpredictability is why we play and what we all enjoy. If we prepare right, stick to the plan and perform as well as we can then the result will follow. Every team will be super motivated to win, so this is a good place to be, competing against the top teams and still in a good position to win out and achieve our goals.
“If we won the playoffs it would mean everything to us after the season we’ve had. It has been extremely difficult for us, especially after all the hard work we’ve put in every week. Nobody is going there to lose the first or second round – we want to win it all and it would be a great reward for all our hard work.”