Wetherby A went into their final game of the season hoping to put the icing on a fantastic season which has seen them finish runners up and win promotion into Division Four next term. Tonight they entertained third placed Ripon at Castlegarth and after a narrow 53-55 success away earlier in their campaign were expecting another tough encounter. The weather gods were kind and after a mixed day the sun was shining and the wind began to calm allowing for perfect conditions.
Fiona Chantrey was a late withdrawal with illness so lady of the moment Debbie Vines, who had helped mastermind a win for York 2 on Tuesday night away at Poppleton, made a quick return to action and she teamed up with Mike Richards at seed one . They began on the show court and faced the wily veterans of Carol Tetlow and Colin Bowes. This was to prove a very good contest with some excellent tennis on show. Bowes has a lovely disguised short game and with Tetlow serving and retuning well they made life difficult for the Wetherby duo. However Richards was attacking well from deep and with some thunderous smashes and tidy volleys coupled with some great recovery shots from Vines, the pair managed to secure a useful 6-6 draw. Mike Triffitt and Louise Williams were on Court Two playing as second seeds and they hosted Ripon captain Peter Atherley and Alison Reed. Atherley is a big hitter and strong server whilst Reed belies her small stature to hit many lovely cross court winners and her sliced serve was difficult to contain. However the Wetherby duo have enjoyed a profitable season and are very familiar with one another’s game and this good team work and understanding allowed them to start extremely well. They built up a quick 4-0 lead and were able to keep the visitors at bay with Williams using her famous and always reliable forehand to keep the Ripon duo pinned back and Triffitt dominating at the net. The hosts ran out 8-4 winners. Barry Johnson and Dawn Steel continued their productive partnership as they took on Helen Hutchinson and Jake Wilson on Court Three. The Wetherby third seeds were quickly into stride and taking advantage of any slip ups from the Ripon duo they clinically kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely. Steel was returning everything and with Johnson hitting many winners and controlling the net the duo ran out impressive 11-1 winners to ensure Wetherby led 25-11 at the end of the opening round.
Johnson and Steel found the going tougher in round two as Atherley and Reed continued to play some free flowing tennis. With Steel struggling with a leg injury that reduced her mobility, the visitors seized on their chance and despite a close encounter it was Ripon who shaded it 5-7. Richards and Vines moved over to Court Three and they began exploiting the space with some clever tennis. Richards was in full flow and with Vines once again difficult to pass they had too many big guns for their outclassed opponents. They ran out comfortable 10-2 winners. On Court One Triffitt and Williams were finding things tough and trailed 0-4 against the impressive Tetlow and Bowes. However they regained their composure and with Triffitt having success with his serve and Williams unleashing the forehand they battled back. Although never able to overcome a bad start they went down narrowly 5-7 which left Wetherby ahead 45-27.
Needing another 10 for victory Wetherby were confident although Steel needed more treatment with Trish Bell playing the nurses role and bandaging up Steel to get her back on court. However Richards and Vines were already in the ascendency on Court Two against Atherley and Reed and were nicely adding to an ever increasing home total. It was much of the same with the successful game plan they had adopted all evening continuing to reap dividends. They closed out a cosy 8-4 victory to accumulate an excellent 24 points on the night and once again make Mrs Vines part of the top scoring couple two games running this week. Triffitt and Williams were also enjoying themselves on Court Three as they raced into a 7-0 lead against Hutchinson and Wilson. However youngster Wilson was serving superbly and notching up a number of aces he and his partner began to find their best form of the night to reel off 4 of the last 5 rubbers for a creditable 8-4 loss. However the Wetherby couple had done enough to help the team to victory and were happy to add another 21 points to the kitty after a professional performance. With Steel clearly struggling she and Johnson were unable to offer much resistance on the show court which was a shame as this rubber had promised to be competitive. Instead at 0-9 down the hosts raised the white flag and conceded their remaining rubbers as Tetlow and Bowes recorded a 0-12 victory and a 25 point haul on the evening.
However Wetherby still ran out cosy 61-47 winners to confirm themselves worthy runners up in Division Five this campaign and with a seven point gap to third placed Ripon it has been an excellent season. Title winners Spa incidentally remained unbeaten and won all 14 games for a maximum 28 point haul and one would expect them to be strong favourites again in Division Four next season.
Well done to Barry Johnson and his team on their achievement and good luck stepping up in class next term.
For Ripon they will feel their squad is strong enough to mount a serious promotion push next season and we wish them well with that goal.
Tonights winning team from left to right was – Dawn Steel, Mike Triffitt, Louise Williams, Debbie Vines, Captain Barry Johnson and Mike Richards.
Louise Williams with player of the week Debbie Vines and a touch of humour from Greg Vince pre match with a well wishes gift to the team!
Gallent runners up tonight from left to right – Captain Peter Atherley, Alison Reed, Carol Tetlow, Jake Wilson and Colin Bowes with the departed Helen Hutchinson the final player.
The Harrogate first team were also in action last night as they made their way North to Knaresborough safe in the knowledge they had already secured their place in Division Two once more next term. With several absentees Rachel Hill took over the captaincy and was joined by men’s first team captain Roger Fawcus for his first outing of the campaign for the team. This extremely strong duo were to have a good night although they met a very hot couple in Boro seeds one Alex Kragiopoulos and Arina Fjodorvain during their opening contest. This proved to be a very high quality affair with both couples playing some aggressive but attractive tennis before the hosts took the honours 8-4.Marc Bickers was back on court after helping York 2 to success on Tuesday and he teamed up with regular partner Lucy Wright at seed two. They too were involved in a tough rubber with Janice McMillan and Matt Walton and despite a battling and brave attempt the home pair were too mobile and quick and ran out 8-4 winners. Nigel Williams and Emma Abel formed a strong looking pair three and gave Wetherby a good six on the evening. They were on fire from the start and had far too much weaponry for Ed Walton and Aimee Cross. The Wetherby pair played some well thought out tennis and with tactics spot on completed a 0-12 whitewash which left the team ahead 16-20 following the opening action.
It was the ability to put pressure on the Boro third pair that would prove the difference on the night as they fell next to a 1-11 defeat to Marc Bickers and Lucy Wright who played some attacking but accurate tennis in a very professional manor. It was needed as the home top dogs were continuing their fine form from round one as they defeated Williams and Abel 9-3. Hill and Fawcus bounced back to form however as they piled on the aggressive style to good effect against McMillan and Walton who were unable to cope with the power of Fawcus or the guile of Hill and Wetherby ran out cosy 2-10 winners.
With the last round beginning Wetherby led 28-44 and would ultimately ease home comfortably. The outclassed home third duo were grateful for the evening to end as they couldn’t cope with a rampant Fawcus and Hill who dished out further punishment 1-11. This left them with a useful 25 points on the evening. Bickers and Wright found the Boro top seeds too hot to handle and although a 12-0 score line rather flattered the hosts, they displayed a killer instinct which the Wetherby duo couldn’t match. However they added another crucial 15 into the Wetherby pot. Williams and Abel produced a good effort however to run out excellent 4-8 winners over McMillan and Walton. They combined well to create a number of stylish moves and with great teamwork wore down their opponents, remaining calm and calculated throughout. They contributed a very much appreciated 23 points which gave Wetherby a well deserved 45-63 success.
A special mention for Kragiopoulos and Fjodorva who bagged an incredible 29 points on the night which when you consider the strength of the visitors team was particularly eye catching for Knaresborough. However Wetherby proved their squad depth to be greater and were worthy winners which left them well clear of the relegation places and, with a bit more luck, would have seen them much higher up the table this season. Ripon and Boroughbridge were well clear for the promotion spots but Wetherby will hope to emulate these sides with a strong challenge themselves next season.
Thanks to Roger and Emma for stepping in tonight and well down to everyone on a job well done.