The Harrogate 1 Wetherby mixed team lined up tonight as follows. From left to right we have Paul Archer, Rachel Hill, Lucy Wright, Marc Bickers, Helen Robinson and Rob Payne.
On a murky evening the Harrogate One mixed team opened their campaign against old foes Starbeck at Castlegarth. The visitors had finished three points ahead of Wetherby in a competitive division two last term when the honours were shared with a win apiece. Before the game the teams looked well matched and a good contest was promised.
Paul Archer has stepped up this season to replace Josh Bayliss who has joined York 1 and he made his competitive debut at this level playing with the experienced Rachel Hill. Parading an impressive new pair of footwear which shone out well in the gloom, Hill was her usual agile self at the net and played some excellent baseline returns. Archer served well and his excellent court coverage certainly helped especially against a strong visiting team. They made a bright start defeating Katie Draper and Chris Noddings 7-5 but found Jo Douglas and Shaun Horne too hot to handle and suffered a 4-8 reverse. They finished the evening with a 8-4 success over Simone Carrick and Richard Noland for a final points tally of 19.
Helen Robinson and Marc Bickers teamed up and this pair needed little introduction after both competing in the team last year. They too suffered the full force of a very impressive performance from Shaun Horne, who was arguably man of the match for Starbeck this evening. He and partner Douglas were too classy in the opener and recorded a 3-9 victory. However with the rain now starting to fall and the light fading Bickers used the conditions to help restore parity against Draper and Noddings. Sliding graciously around court in a manor Robin Cousins would have been proud of, he chased down many lost causes and would not have looked out of place on the ice rink!. Ably assisted by a resourceful Robinson, whose tidy backhand caused the opposition a problem throughout the pair fought gamely before narrowly succumbing 5-7. Not down hearted they battled manfully in the last to turn the tables on Carrick and Noland with an impressive 9-3 victory which meant they finished on 17 points.
Lucy Wright was an influential member of the team last year in her debut season and teamed up with Rob Payne who was called up from the reserve list due to holiday and injury problems in the squad. Wright has suffered with injury of late herself but was ready for action tonight. The pair were involved in a long opening match with Carrick and Noland which was very much in the balance before the extra consistency from the visitors saw then run out 4-8 winners after a good contest. However they found Starbeck top seeds Noddings and Draper too strong in the second round with Noddings showing why he had been the team’s top points scorer last year with some tremendous play. Despite the best efforts of the Wetherby duo they lost out 3-9. Determined to readdress the balance they then produced an excellent effort to stop Douglas and Horne completing a hat trick when denying the Starbeck couple after a dramatic and well fought encounter which finished 6-6. They ensured they contributed 13 points to the hosts total.
However Starbeck were to finish as winners overall finally prevailing 49-59. It was great credit to all on show that this contest produced such good action for an enthusiastic crowd to witness as conditions were far from ideal with most of the evening spent trying to stay dry from incessant rain. As the courts became slipper there was plenty of improvisation needed which certainly added to the enjoyment and suspense.
Well done to the visitors and good luck to both sides for the remainder of the season and Wetherby can look forward to revenge when the sides meet again in Harrogate on June 21st. The team are quickly back in action when they make the short journey to play at Boston Spa next Tuesday evening with a 6-30pm start for those intending to watch.