It’s the first mixed match of the season – and Wychelm means business…
By Katie Garner
There’s no denying, but our Mixed season last year was a complete rollercoaster from the chugging and intimidating start to the confidence-crushed and injury-laden finish. Being promoted up to Division One for that season showed us a lot of things and it was a definite learning curve, even for a squad as solidly consistent as we were. Now back where we started, we weren’t expecting Division Two to welcome us with open arms and a cup of tea, but we were intrigued to see how we could bring it…and we really, really wanted to bring it. We were relieved to be back at Frances Bardsley for our home games after the very unpleasant stint at the dust-ridden and disgusting hall of Royal Liberty. With our comforting and shiny home advantage we had hopes for snatching some wins.
Our first fixture was against a new club featuring in the Mixed Doubles, although they have already taken the Men’s game by storm with their ferocious smashes, light hearted jumps and elastic style flexibility. Shuttlers have gained themselves an imposing reputation, but we weren’t going to let that frighten us off in any way, shape or form. Forcing our beacon-like yellow plastics on the shuttle snobs caused some confusion in their ranks, but no major arguments as we all hit the courts for battle to commence…
Jess and Gary:
- 19-21 / 15-21
- 21-13 / 21-10
- 21-6 / 21-2
Katie and Stuart B:
- 20-21 / 12-21
- 21-18 / 14-21 / 21-20
- 21-13 / 21-8
Helen and Barry:
- 11-21 / 15-21
- 13-21 / 10-21
- 21-15 / 18-21 / 21-9
It’s great to chalk the first match of the Mixed season as a victory, even if it was a near run thing with five Wychelm wins to Shuttlers four successes. The male players in particular were really talented and I could completely understand how they had run rings around the Men’s squad last season. The furthest four corners of the court seemed to be their closest companion, whether they were flinging their bodies dramatically into them, or skilfully aiming the shuttle to hit the lines with annoying precision. The men all had amazing smashes – as in lightning fast, I was still tangled in my arms kind of fast. Blink and you had quite literally missed the point, so this meant that every clear, lift and floating shot was riddled with danger, as you attempted to brace yourself for whatever may be coming back at you. The ladies still played decently, but they didn’t seem as experienced as their fellas, who constantly felt the need to stop play for mini team talks and tactic titbits.
Playing at the front of the court, I don’t think I was an involved in the games as poor overworked Stuart, although it was up to me to make sure my short serves were spot on and encouraged as many lifts as possible, as well as forcing as much net play as I could to try and catch the women a bit more unawares. Although I wouldn’t say it was my best play, I think on the whole we played decently. We played their second pair first, attempting to avoid aiming at the bloke with studious attention to detail. The games here were incredibly close and when we won the decider from 20-20, I have never seen someone look so bitter and sneering as I did when I shook that boy’s hand. Credit where credit is due though, he was fantastic. The first pair, who we played next, were also very good, bursting with agility and feline pounces to snatch at shots. We came incredibly close in the first game against them, getting 20, but they upped it for the second game so we disappointingly lost, which is a shame as I feel if we had been playing at our best we could have had them. Our final game against their third pair was a straight games win which is always a boost to the confidence.
Shuttlers are an impressive side, especially the young guys who are clearly the driving force behind the partnerships. They knew what they were doing and they knew what they wanted – the disappointment when they were thwarted was clearly visible. They had exceptional deceptive play, constantly catching me out with sneaky cross court shots that never ended up where I thought, but their main starring shot was evidently the smash, which they had fine-tuned and honed to a very sophisticated level. It was tricky trying to place the shuttle where they weren’t, as they did seem to be everywhere, but we stuck to our guns and it paid off in the end, especially when I was winning runs of points where they failed to return my short serve.
Well done to our new Mixed Team for our first win of the season, and long may the run of luck continue! We accept congratulations in the form of sweets and cakes…just saying…