We headed to the home of Emerson Eagles for the second clash of the ladies pairs in division one

By Katie Garner

(l-r) Jess and Katie

Granted, the first round of the Ladies Pairs matches in Division One, didn’t go as planned. We came up against two of the strongest pairs and ended up losing after close brushes with victory, taking both matches to the full three games. However, tonight is a new night, facing off against new pairs, and as we entered the shockingly neon home of the Emerson Eagles, we tried to put our losses behind us and focus on only one thing.

We were firstly playing Corinthians B today, who weren’t in their usual pairing, which I believe affected the tactics of their game slightly. Bringing in a more Mixed Doubles player, meant that we were expecting lots of front and back action and we were readying ourselves to retaliate in like. In the opening game, we found that we were still finding our feet with the feather shuttles – our clears avoided the tram lines like plague and always opted to steer clear well off the court, with the side lines shrinking suddenly as we smashed. The points steadily built up, neck and neck, however there was hope. They had a very similar style in playing to us, making use of front and back attacking mainly, but also rotating when necessary. It was just a matter of who could do this better.

We did have some communications issues, so we weren’t calling for shots as frequently as we usually do which caused a few mishaps on our side of the net, but we actually pulled it together rather nicely for a sneaky win of 21 to 18 in the first game. Pleased with this, deep down we knew we close this match out in the second game so for us, it was all about maintaining the energy and the momentum to carry us through. The style of play in the next game mirrored that in the first really, with Jess mainly at the net and myself adopting a range of cross court drops that caught them out nicely. We went on to win the second game 21-10, giving us our very first win of the season, on away turf as well, which is brilliant.

Next up were the host team, Emerson Eagles A, with a new pairing for this season – another young yet strong duo. In the first game, I believe we really played to our strengths. This particular Eagles pairing are strong with regard to their smashes, drives and clears, really powering through the shots, so we were level pegging in this department. We tried to avoid giving them too much ammo in these areas though, as we didn’t want to hand points to them. Instead, we used our mixed skills. After a short serve, they couldn’t do much but lift it and this enabled us to test out some drops and smashes. We managed to net rally our way to a win with 21-11.

We really wanted to continue our thus far successful night into the second game but as soon as we stepped on the other side of the net we once again began our battle with the tram lines, hitting loads of shots out, unfortunately giving Eagles a comfy security cushion of points that we couldn’t quite climb. They also managed to gain the upper hand and ensure our mixed play didn’t surface as often as we would have liked, so they definitely held the reins in this face off, winning while we gained a measly 12.

Stepping on court for a decider is never pleasant – it always feels like a last chance salon feeling of now or never. If you lose, you came so close it’s incredibly bitter but if you win, it’s like you’ve climbed a mountain and are strutting down the other side. We both wanted this last win so much. After a disappointing last season of coming so tantalisingly close almost every match, we really wanted to bag some wins early in the season to hopefully build upon.  We managed to steal control early on, this time with Eagles hitting the shots out which gave us the good lead – a much better scenario. We definitely deployed our mixed tactics to great advantage as well, especially in the second half of the game, where my short serves were leaving them stumbling into the net or lifting, while Jess was producing some of her best drop shots from the back of the court. We tried to keep our noses ahead throughout and luckily they never managed to build up steam, so we won the final game 21-11.

And yes sports fans, you added correctly – Jess and I won both our matches tonight, only dropping one game. Yes, we know this is incredibly rare but it is always a very pleasant surprise and one that we hope happens more often. If we were going to win, we knew it was going to be tonight as we had the advantage of a different Corinthians B pairing and our mixed experience was always going to come in handy against big gun Eagles. It feels amazing to finally chalk up some victories, especially this early in the season, so fingers crossed we can maintain some of this for our next line ups…