Lillington Free Church Table Tennis Club had two three-player squads competing in the first weekend of the 2018/19 Junior British League, held at the Derby Arena, writes Tom Brocklehurst.
For Lillington Girls it was a return to the competition for the first time since the late 1990s and the trio of Emily Beasley, Milly Green and Ciara Hancox were able to follow in the footsteps of that side by lifting the Team of the Weekend trophy.
The trophy, which Lillington Girls lifted in the 1997/98 season, is awarded to the team who, in the opinion of the umpires and officials, show not only good play but an outstanding attitude and excellent sportsmanship throughout the two days.
The club is incredibly proud of this achievement, which is in keeping with their long-standing ethos.
On the table, though, the girls faced some tough opposition and were given a testing introduction to the tournament by Ormesby.
Beasley picked up a win against Reem Raseem and Green came through a five-setter to beat Katie Bates. The remaining sets were well contested but the girls could not add to their total and fell to a 4-2 defeat.
If the first match was tough, then the second one stepped it up a level.
Lillington competed well in every single leg against a very sharp Woodfield side containing Megan Jones, Jyothmaji Ghanti and Maliha Baig but could find no way past any of them and lost the fixture 6-0.
Saturday’s final match against Bishop Auckland saw the girls pick up their first point of the weekend.
They each claimed a game, with Beasley beating Anya Milne and Green and Ciara Hancox overcoming Ebony Hempsell in the 3-3 draw.
Sunday’s first match saw the girls pick up where they left off as they promptly added their second point with another 3-3 draw.
Beasley was instrumental against Byng Hall, completing an excellent maximum with victories over Nicola Dawson and Isabel Webb, while Green added the crucial third point by beating Dawson.
The weekend was completed with a match against table-topping Wensum.
Although Beasley obliterated Victoria Coll 3-0, the match ended in a 5-1 defeat.
The two points from five games left the girls at the foot of Division Three but within touching distance of the two teams above them and they will no doubt be stronger for the experience next time around.
Lillington Boys, having won Division 3B last season, were always likely to be up against strong opposition in Division 2A and it certainly proved to be the case.
First up for Ricardo Bolanos, Jack Green and Nikit Sajiv were Greenhouse Sports.
Bolanos took out Cacherel Merjer-Mercer, while Sajiv accounted for George Long but although Green just missed out in a deciding set, nothing more was forthcoming and they lost the match 4-2.
Ormesby Boys were unlikely to prove to be any easier, with Tom Rayner leading them as a very strong number one.
Green pushed Rayner all the way in a pulsating five-set clash for which he deserves immense credit but a 6-0 whitewash could not be avoided.
The boys completed their first day against Sussex Blades and Sajiv excelled with a maximum.
He beat Owen Brown 3-1 before dishing out a 3-0 defeat to Will Mitchell.
Bolanos narrowly missed out in a deciding set which left Green to show steely focus to beat Mitchell 3-1 and earn a draw for the team.
Sunday morning brought another severe test with Lillington facing off against Cardiff City.
The Welsh trio of Joseph Roberts, Martin Johnson and Benedict Watson were in red-hot form and rattled off a 6-0 success.
The boys’ weekend was completed with a match against a St Mary’s Tigers side boasting two notable players in their ranks.
Although the match was lost 4-2, Sajiv picked up a good win against Che Goulbourne before Bolanos took the scalp of the high-class Harry Dai thanks to an outstanding 3-1 win.
The boys’ side sit fifth in the table at the end of the first weekend, the draw against Sussex Blades proving crucial in avoiding the bottom rung of the ladder.
Although points were hard to come by, the lads from Lillington fought well in what was an exceptionally strong division.
Both teams will be back in action at the start of February for the concluding weekend of the Junior British League.