Only our third fixture of the season and our first of the new year, the Mixed Team gets stuck in…
By Katie Garner
So far, our Mixed season has been a little quiet to say the least. With only two fixtures played before Christmas, we now have an awful lot to cram in before April comes around, a lot of them home games. This year we have taken the unprecedented step of hiring out a second hall to play our mixed and men’s matches, on a Tuesday night, due to the increased membership on a Monday. With worries of angry members waiting around for court space, we hired the nearby Royal Liberty School, to use their sports hall for the duration of the season.
To be honest, the quality of both the hall and the equipment is under par, and I think the whole squad would welcome a return to our natural home ground, but nevertheless, there was business to attend to in the menacing shape of the away team Harold Hill. Always floating near the top of the league, we knew the evening was going to be a challenging one, adjusting to our new environment as well as tackling the huge shot range of this experienced club. The ladies of Harold Hill we had already faced in numerous ladies pairs divisions when they represented different clubs, so we had a vague idea of what to expect – lots of smashes and kills, and none of it pretty.
1) Het and Jess:
Game 1 : 15-21 / 21-16 / 19-21
Game 2: 15-21 / 17-21
Game 3: 18-21 / 14-21
2) Stuart B and Katie:
Game 1: 11-21 / 12-21
Game 2: 18-21 / 20-21
Game 3: 16-21 / 16-21
3) Mike F and Helen:
Game 1: 19-21 / 10-21
Game 2: 11-21 / 8-21
Game 3: 13-21 / 21-19 / 12-21
Facing Harold Hill in the end didn’t turn out to be as daunting a task as I originally supposed, despite the lack of wins from our side. None of the scores were as terrible as I had feared, some actually tantalising close, and I’m sure when we next see them again we could even push for a win. Harold Hill are definitely one of the big guns of the division, the majority of the pairs opting to play sides, instead of front and back, as all of the players are equally strong in their smashing and attacking play. The games consisted of long rallies of smashes and clears, and to honest, covering the front of court I felt rather useless and uninvolved in what was happening over my head. I found it difficult to get stuck in the points and felt terrible when all I could hear was poor Stuart behind me being ran ragged.
However, we knew our best tactics and we stuck to our guns despite Harold Hill attempting to push us into a different routine. I began to see my goal as trying to do as many net shots as possible, as they very rarely came to the net, providing quite a good opportunity for me to dink it over, brushing the tape. Granted their excellent movement means that no shot is out of reach, however if they did get them back, it was as a lift – the perfect set up for one of Stuart’s famed thundering smashes. This was definitely our best approach and did work rather well, but once again, getting the chance to play the net shots was the main problem.
Stuart and I came so close to taking our first game to a decider, so was bit gutting not to feel like we delivered and for me, it was frustrating not to get more involved in the points. Harold Hill have a decidedly big playing style and don’t really use the net much at all. Only one of their pairs also played front and back, but the lady playing at the front was incredibly tall with amazing reach, which did cause us a few difficulties.
Interestingly, our Challenge Cup match approaching on the 26th February is against Harold Hill, so at least we would have had recent playing experience against them. With a handicap of eight points to our advantage as well, we may even be able to tip a few wins over the edge, which would be a lovely result for us.
As for the Mixed league though – we’re still ploughing away and doing our best not to make it too easy for them or be deemed the division push overs. We worked incredibly hard to get here, and although Division One is like a class of its own and seems so much more superior than our reckless style, at least we are still learning and developing all the time.