The Harrogate 1 mixed team were in action tonight at Castlegarth when they played host to Academy B. Both teams have struggled this term and have yet to trouble the judge. However Wetherby have been very competitive during their three defeats and against teams that currently occupy the top three positions in Division Two. Rachel Hill and Paul Archer were absent this evening with Marc Bickers and captain Sue Jacklin stepping in. For the visitors they too were missing key personnel with Mark Bowman been called up from the C team that had lost heavily at Wetherby A in division 5 recently along with Robyn Sheridan and Callum Mackinnon who were making their seasonal debuts. With the team news in the bookies were making Wetherby favourites to finally break their seasonal duck! A pleasant, dry evening welcomed the players although there was a hint of rain in the air as the match commenced but a warm feel ensured playing conditions were good.
Mike Butterworth teamed up with Sue Jacklin at seed one and they took on Marcus Hewlett and Sheridan. Hewlett is a tall and slender built individual with a good serve and a strong forehand and he was very consistent throughout this contest. Sheridan returned well and although struggling to cope with the power of Butterworth on occasions remained unfazed and confident as the tie continued. Sue Jacklin was using her left handed baseline returns to good effect with Butterworth always eager to approach the net. At 2-2 this game looked set to become a tight battle with neither pair dominating. However the visitors lower error count began to sway the game dramatically in their favour and a final winning margin of 2-10 was somewhat surprising.Marc Bickers is one of the most laid back, easy going and polite chaps on the circuit and a decent player as well. He was back in tandem with the busy Helen Robinson who can always be relied upon for a massive effort. This duo looked calm, composed and determined from the outset as they entertained Bowman and Sue Bowden. Bowman was trying to bridge a three division gulf in class and was finding the going tough, especially as the Wetherby seed two’s were both in clinical form. The extra pace and power the home pair generated had the visitors on the back front from start to finish and in an impressive performance they ran out 10-2 winners.Nigel Williams was hardly recognisable with his deep skinned tan but as he walked on court he had the air of a man hell bent on victory. With playing partner Lucy Wright looking equally determined it was going to take a big effort from Mackinnon and Sonya Morgan to stop them in their tracks.Williams was serving well and with Wright leaping like a salmon at the net to gobble up numerous chances with a killer instinct Wetherby dominated this rubber.Morgan is accustomed to playing at this and higher and her court coverage was excellent. Mackinnon however was starting to struggle and could never get to grips with the more experienced Williams who ensured he would win the battle of the males. With Wright having an increasingly more significant effect on the outcome there was no stopping this battle hardened duo and they were delighted to run out convincing 10-2 winners.
An excellent first round left the hosts leading 22-14 and with a useful 8 point cushion to protect. Butterworth and Jacklin were looking a little shell shocked at they took on Mackinnon and Morgan and perhaps with confidence dropping the visitors sensed a chance to pounce. They certainly improved from an opening rubber together with their team work starting to reap dividends. This was a very close and interesting affair with little to split the quartet. However Academy secured a narrow victory 5-7.Bickers and Robinson picked up from where they left off in the opener to continue playing an attractive brand of thoughtful tennis. Bickers has always been a superb court coverer and with Robinsons strong short game and deft touch at the net they proved too good for Hewlett and Sheridan to win 8-4.Williams and Wright would have been confident of securing another win over Bowman and Bowden but credit to the visiting pair who had not let a disappointing first round ruin their game. Adopting a safe but aggressive policy they proved difficult to beat and frustrated the Wetherby couple with some backs to the wall recovery play. The tie could have gone either way but in the end Academy took the spoils 5-7.
The rain that had threated pre match now materialised and with the score 40-32 the match was still firmly up in the air as play started for the final round. Luckily for the hosts Butterworth and Jacklin took this opportunity to produce their best tennis and with Mike turning up the serving tempo and cleverly spraying the ball effortlessly around the court and Sue remaining an excellent foil and solid, Wetherby did not allow Bowman and Bowden much of a sniff. The visitors knew they would have to play extremely well and they were never able to match the consistency of their latest performance finally succumbing 9-3.Bickers and Robinson were another couple who looked in cruise control and with the benefit and knowledge of a winning lead were able to continue playing at a high tempo. Their rubber with Mackinnon and Morgan was entertaining with both pairs producing some lovely winners but the Wetherby duo finally added a 8-4 win for an excellent nights work and 26 point contribution to the team kitty.With Williams and Wright also sensing that the action elsewhere was going in Wetherby’s way they too played with a freedom afforded of a team leading and were able to keep Hewlett and Sheridan at arm’s length in another tight and intriguing affair. The extra determination from the hosts meant they wrapped up a 7-5 success and a final Wetherby winning margin of 64-44 was richly deserved.
A great team effort to finally secure an opening win of the season which should provide much needed momentum for the rest of the campaign. Thanks to a cheerful Academy six who provided good opposition and games played in a nice spirt. Wetherby make the long trek to Bedale next Thursday against a team who are expected to be close to Wetherby this season and who currently have also recorded a single success.. Good luck in that crucial encounter and we look forward to bringing a report of the teams progress then and throughtout the season.
A beaming and delighted team from left to right – Marc Bickers, Helen Robinson, Sue Jacklin, Lucy Wright, Nigel Williams and Mike Butterworth. Even the stag on the wall seemed impressed!!