April 27, 2016 by Laura Cowperthwaite
LEICESTERSHIRE U15 V YORKSHIRE U15
PLAY OFF SEMI FINAL – 24 APRIL 2016
In the car on the way to Babington for the big match against Yorkshire, I was contemplating how the team would get on. I thought that even with Vardy suspended, Leicester should have too much for a Swansea team with not much tooplay for and so it proved – in spectacular style. Come on you Foxes!
Ok, to the much anticipated Shires play off semi-final against Yorkshire. This cohort of players have twice reached this stage of proceedings and failed to advance. Would it be third time lucky?
Team Manager Laura gave her usual Ranieri style team talk and inevitably reminded the players to take it one game at a time and that all they had achieved so far was to reach the play-off semi-finals. There was no mention of qualifying for Europe or winning the league. It was well and truly a time for taking the pressure off her players and concentrate on the match in hand.
First up, the mixed doubles…. Today’s starting line up featured Dan and Hritika, Tom and Eve, Tom and Jas, Martin and Ella. It was top pair, Martin and Ella who from the whistle made the fastest start going 10-0 up, with Ella a real predator in front of goal. They quickly won their match 21-7, 21-16. It was however, Dan and Hritika who claimed the first point of the day winning 21-11, 21-18. During his post matchinterview Dan said, “We played alright, our first game was better than our second!” There was clear evidence that that the midweek training was paying off for the remaining pairs on court. Both Leicestershire duos running out victors, Tom and Jas winning 21-15, 21-17 and Tom and Eve winning 21-18, 21-18.
LEICESTERSHIRE 4 YORKSHIRE 0
On paper the first 4 singles matches looked evenly matched with each of the opponents having played each other at least once before. Perhaps the most intriguing match up was Martin who was playing against his doubles partner Nathan. Bragging rights were certainly up for grabs. Thankfully for Leicestershire it was Martin who kept his composure and got his tactics right, keeping the pressure on his opponent to win 21-7, 21-14. During his post match interview Martin stated, “This was a match I wanted to win as it was important for the team”. Hritika was playing an opponent in form, but despite numerous good shots and 100% effort eventually went down 21-14, 21-8. The same could be said for Tom, who despite not feeling well never let his head drop eventually losing 21-16, 21-13. Last on court was Ella who having lost her first game, set up a decider after winning the second. It was her Leicester never say die attitude that saw her overcome a good opponent 10-21, 21-13, 21-16.
Next on were Eve, Jas, Tom and Dan. Eve was always in control of her match and supported by the biggest cohort of family and friends this side of the King Power won comfortably 21-8, 21-10. After the match, Eve said” The crowd were great, it was like having 12th man on court with me”. Tom won many gruelling, long rallies, but despite his “Huth like” defence lost to a talented opponent 16-21, 11-21. Dan was involved in a match that the spectators really got involved in. He looked in control taking first game 21-18. However, his opponent fought back winning the 2nd, 14-21 only for Dan to get a great start in the third. He never relinquished his lead and won the game 21-10. The last singles match saw Jas stand firm working quietly and effectively much like LCFC’s Danny Drinkwater winning a tight match 21-19, 21-15.
LEICESTERSHIRE 9 YORKSHIRE 3
With only 2 points required to claim victory, the players stepped onto the pitch to play their first level doubles games. With Martin and Tom quickly claiming their first game, it seemed like it would be a race between the girls doubles pairs to see who would claim the winning point. But the Yorkshire boys put paid to this reportersprediction winning a tight second game against Martin and Tom. Meanwhile the girls were performing to the Manager Ranieri’s expectations with both pairs turning out dominating performances. Ella and Jas claimed the point that guaranteed the match draw, with Hritika and Eve claiming the vital winning point. Back with the boys and in one of the matches of the day, in a tie that either pair could have won, it was Martin and Tom that claimed victory winning 25-23 in the decider. Home advantage played its part as the net cord favoured Leicestershire at 22 all! It wasn’t a tale of two halves in the reverse girls doubles matches as both Leicestershire pairs continued to keep the pressure on their opponents to roll out comfortable winners. Dan and Tom showed their fighting qualities during both their doubles matches ran out a close second on both occasions against strongYorkshire opponents. Martin and Tom finished the match in style for Leicestershire to round off what was a great team performance by all eight players who gave 110%!
So it was third time lucky for the team and this performance books a place at the play finals on 8 May 2016 in Aylesbury. Thanks to Manager Laura and Coaches Chris and Neil for their input. Special mention and thanks to Neil Cooper who has worked and volunteered tirelessly for the Leicestershire Schools Badminton Association for many years. He is taking some well earned time out to perfect his golf game. You are welcome back anytime Neil!
Match reporter – Noel Haines