After an undefeated season, the women’s badminton 1st team faced premier play offs for a second year in a row.
Narrowly missing out on promotion last year, the girls were hungry for a win. In a strange turn of events the girls had to play Leeds 1s twice, home and away, in two consecutive days.
We started with the home fixture: a very nervy affair with Newcastle having lost their No.1 player Aika Nagai, as she had returned to Japan.
First up was CiCi Lu, our sports scholar and undefeated singles player. To put it briefly, CiCi smashed it, winning 21-3 21-9 against Leeds’ Emily Fearnley. This is a girl who needs to be competing in the prem.
24/26 games won by CiCi Lu this season
Meanwhile, Maria Hall fought it out against Leeds’ No.1 singles player, Annie Karn. Very much the underdog in this contest, Maria battled it out taking her opponent to 3 ends and narrowly missing out in the third end 14-21.
Next was the turn of the doubles, NUBC veterans Cara Vincenti and Claudia Heggie took to the court to play Leeds 2nd pair, Meg Anderson and Ashleigh Buck. Some early nerves saw the girls lose the first end 25-23, a strong middle set of 21-16 wasn’t enough as the girls lost in three 16-21, vowing to win the next day.
During this saga, Rebekah Puttick and Isabelle Cain delivered the goods beating the 1st pair of Jess Walker and Tilda Tierney comfortably 21-13 21-14, putting the match score at 2-2.
The turn-around at the home game saw CiCi smash it once again, strolling round the court like a gazelle to beat Karn 21-8 21-9. On the court next door, Maria engaged in another epic battle, taking Fearnley to 3 ends once again and unfortunately repeating history being unable to clinch the third losing 15-21.
The doubles turn-around saw a more comfortable Vincenti and Heggie take Walker and Tierney 21-13 21-13 in straight ends. The girls stretched off and watched the final game of Puttick and Cain against the Leeds pair of Anderson and Buck with the home crown in full support.
Lightning fast reactions saw the girls one end up, a confident start. Unfortunately, the opposition upped their game with some powerful attack and the girls couldn’t keep up the tempo losing in three closely battled ends.
4-4 draw in the home tie
With the home score tied at 4-4, it was all to play for away. As every game we won had been won in 2 ends and all games lost were lost in 3, we were 4-0 up on game difference. Any type of draw away would see the girls into the prem.
The away day started the same as any other: spreading out the badders bags on the train and discussing team tactics. After much deliberation, the girls took the bold decision not to change team formation believing they had been robbed the day before.
CiCi Lu did her thing, winning with an incredible margin against Emily Fearnley, in doing so confirming her status as a badminton goddess. Maria Hall faced off against Annie Karn, after some advice from the team not to tire herself out in her first game, Maria lost in 2 close ends 17-21 18-21, conserving her energy for the 2nd singles.
Claudia and Cara took to court to face the 2nd pair of Meg Anderson and Ashleigh Buck that had defeated them the day before. The nerves were out of their system and they came with active feet, ready to dominate, winning in two straight sets 21-16 21-12.
Meanwhile, Rebekah and Izzy played Jess Walker and Tilda Tierney, who had substantially upped their game from the day before. The girls couldn’t quite match the opposition whilst getting used to the away environment, they lost in three sets 21-16 14-21 18-21. Match score at turn around 2-2, a dangerously similar scenario to the day before.
“Izzy and Rebekah were playing better than ever”
For the turn around, CiCi strolled onto court to complete her part for Team Newcastle. Always making it look easy, she barely broke a sweat and defeated Karn in two straight ends, ‘doing a CiCi’ as it is now called.
Whilst CiCi was celebrating four wins from four, Maria Hall was looking for her first win of the play offs. She was hungry for it. The game was tight as Fearnley took the first set 17-21 and Hall won the second 21-12, but Maria had just enough in her tank to claim the win, sealing it with a 21-19 victory in the third and final set. A monumental game for our captain who proved that she can take on premier singles too.
In the doubles, a slow start from Claudia and Cara saw them unsuccessfully playing catch up to lose the first end 15-21 against Walker and Tierney. The girls got their act together to win a close second end 21-18 before smashing through the third 21-16. A 100%-win record for Claudia’s last ever BUCS match after 5 years of service, a dream come true.
With the match score now sitting at a comfortable 5-2, the girls were guaranteed the win. But Izzy and Rebekah were playing better than ever, determined to show Leeds exactly what they can do.
After winning the first end 22-20, the girls struggled against the strong attack of Anderson and Buck in the second end, losing 18-21. Some inspirational words at the turn around and a team huddle led to Puttick and Cain smashing through their 3rd end with ease. Set score 21-16, match score 6-2, Team Newcastle domination away in Leeds.
10-6 victory across the two ties
This is the first time that the girls have been promoted to the Premier League since the 2010-11 season, with them having a brief stint in league 2 in 2012-13. A monumental achievement for these girls and for Team Newcastle and a great way to round off a winning season.
POTS: CiCi Lu