Approaching the semi-finals with plenty of gusto and enthusiasm, we wonder what is in store…
By Katie Garner
Excited as we were to make it through the first round of the notoriously difficult Challenge Cup, we knew that the hard work was far from over in this annual cross-club knock out competition. With a plus eight advantage stowed safely away, we were able to use our handicap, plastic shuttles and some skill to defeat Harold Hill in our first round, held on our home grounds. With that done and dusted, we were looking forward to our next round, against friendly faces Emerson Eagles 2 on their home turf at Emerson Park School.
At first glance, you would have thought that this would be a rather even face off. Last season when we were in Division Two for the Mixed Doubles, we were able to beat Emerson Eagles 2 so the faint stirrings of hope began to arrive once we learnt who our opponents would be. However, what we hadn’t counted on was the very handicap that helped us get through the first round, would now be our undoing. For the very first time ever in Wychelm history, we started on zero…whilst Emerson Eagles 2 started on a mini mountain of six points.
It was all very good and well me scoffing at the last league meeting that the handicapping in our first round was fair – of course it was fair, we won because it levelled the field nicely. What I now realise, is that being on the other side of this handicap business, is in fact very unpleasant. It throws you completely off and gives your competition such a booster of a start, that it really is an uphill struggle right from the off. You have no time or space for any mistakes, off moments or laziness. I have always genuinely believed that we were on a par with Emerson Eagles, so to find ourselves ranked somewhat above them in this fashion was not only highly surprising, but also juggled the balance to work very much in their favour.
- Jess and Katie: 16-21 / 21-20 / 10-21
- Helen and Mike: 20-21 / 9-21
- Katie and Helen: 17-21 / 6-21
- Mike and Gary: 11-21 / 11-21
- Jess and Helen: 21-17 / 20-21 / 16-21
- Katie and Gary: 12-21 / 18-21
What you may have noticed from these results is that we were down a player. Challenge Cup teams are formed of three men and three women, and our third fella was our smashing superstar Het, who has recently been recovering from a football leg injury. In his first game of the evening, he collapsed on court in evident pain, clutching at his leg. Despite playing earlier in the week and feeling that his injury was well on the mend, his leg decided otherwise meaning that we had to concede all of Het’s games as he couldn’t continue on after the first few opening points. It was such a shame to have to already go three down, especially as Het is one of our best players, but naturally our main concern was that Het wasn’t in pain and that we didn’t want him to do any permanent damage. We all wish Het a speedy recovery and hope that he puts his feet up properly this time!
As is also evident by these results, is that we did pretty rubbish. For us, the six points against us were just too much to surpass. Talking to the others, we feel that if we had all started on level pegging, then we could have snuck a win, and we may even have been able to do it with a handicap of maybe two or three points against us, but six was simply too high, and it was a struggle to grasp the lead, let alone keep it and continue on to a successful win. All of the games that we did win seemed to be 21-20, which shows how difficult it was to work against the handicap. Granted, Eagles did play well and they showed how they had won their first round – with enthusiasm, positivity and a great attitude.
For us it was just so baffling to have such a handicap, and as I have already said, it is the first time in Wychelm history that we have started on zero and the other club has had the lead. We’ve never been that good! Obviously going up a division in the mixed may have wreaked havoc with our rankings – it’s just a shame more than anything that we couldn’t keep up with it, as frustratingly enough, I believe that they were beatable. I’d love another shot without the handicap, and it would be interesting to see if the results were still similar, or which way they would swing. Eagles have always provided a good side, and this match up was no different, and I have always enjoyed our games against this club.
So, once again, we have been knocked out of the Challenge Cup – maybe not surprisingly, but still a shame nonetheless. We wish Emerson Eagles 2 all the luck in the world for the next round and fingers crossed they can succeed. For us…there’s always next year folks!