The Winter League weather gods were kind this evening and despite late afternoon rain and early drizzle the conditions relented enough to ensure a good contest was played out tonight between Starbeck and Collingham. Collingham captain Tony Cutler was away and the rest of his squad were either injured, ill or on vacation so Wetherby kindly provided replacements to ensure the match could be played. Winter League organiser Mike Triffitt stepped in to partner Lucy Wright with Barry Johnson, who has played for Collingham twice already this term and is becoming somewhat of a standing dish, teaming up with Janine Smith.
Starbeck sent a solid looking four with Chris White, fresh from promotion to Harrogate League three last summer, joined by Katie Draper with fellow promotion winning pair Steve Hubbard and Ali White making up the quartet.
This promised to be a fascinating affair with Stabeck favourites but Collingham looking competitive.
Lucy Wright gave Collingham a touch of class and she was quickly showing why she has become a leading figure for the Wetherby One mixed team in Division two of the Harrogate league along with the ladies first team as she is improving and playing high quality tennis. Her and playing partner Triffitt are no strangers on court and once more provided a strong duo. They took on Chris White and Katie Draper who is also a mixed participant in Harrogate Division two and has locked horns with Wright on many an occasion. Despite entering her fiftieth year Wright was running around and dominating like a teenager and her excellent fitness levels and hard hitting meant Collingham started the rubber well. Draper and White were struggling to adopt to the conditions and with the Collingham pair dealing with the light better they always seemed confident of success. Wright found some exquisite angles as she fought tooth and nail in a number of long drawn out rallies whilst the consistent Triffitt pounced effectively at the net and pushed the Starbeck pair back with a number of towering and often punishing lobs. Playing with a freedom Wright and Triffitt remained consistent throughout. White is a lovely left hander and was serving well and also creating some lovely angles whilst Draper was hard to beat with some hard baseline hitting. However ultimately the score line ran away from Starbeck as Collingham ran out deserved 3-9 winners on court 5.
Over on Court 4 the ever dependable Barry Johnson and Janine Smith were in action as they took on Ali White and Steve Hubbard. Johnson and Smith have played many matches together and once more formed a useful partnership here. Johnson was unleashing some ferocious backhands whilst Smith is often deadly at the net and tonight was no exception. Hubbard is a strong player but also struggled in the light whilst White wasn’t able to get into her stride and replicate the form that had seen her top the Starbeck charts in the title winning campaign last summer. However it was a keenly contested battle with little between the pairs before Collingham ran out narrow 5-7 winners to end round one leading 8-16.
The threat of rain still lingered but on a calm but chilly night conditions were pretty decent for late January. Draper and Ali White teamed up in the ladies rubber against Wright and Smith and this also proved a very close match. Wright and Draper were enjoying their own private duel whilst White and Smith were lurking dangerously at the net ready to make a winner. A fascinating cat and mouse game evolved with both pairs having chances to close out the win. However a 6-6 draw was probably a fair reflection of both teams efforts and Collingham were happy to see their advantage remain at 8.
On court 5 the men’s rubber was also proving close although Starbeck always held the upper hand. Chris White and Steve Hubbard had a little bit too much firepower for Johnson and Triffitt although the unorthodox play from the Collingham men meant Starbeck could never relax or more crucially pull clear of their lower rated opponents. Mixing things up nicely the Collingham men were delighted to keep the scoreboard close and despite a 7-5 reverse it meant entering the final round the underdogs led 21-27.
Smith had taken a nasty tumble earlier and had to take time out to bathe a nasty wound but she battled away manfully and was determined to see the evening out. Johnson was still unleashing a number of impressive back hand winners and the pair were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Chris White and Katie Draper knew they needed to win well but were frustrated at the considerable efforts from Collingham and could never put enough daylight between themselves and their determined opponents. An 8-4 victory was also a moral victory for Collingham although it meant the gap was now just two points.
Over on court 5 Wright and Triffitt however had made a cracking start to their rubber with Ali White and Steve Hubbard and as court 4 finished the Collingham duo were leading 5-0 and closing in on an impressive success. Wright was once again in exceptional form and returned everything a hard hitting Hubbard threw at her. There was a number of long drawn out rallies but Wright stayed strong and once more used the width of the court to produce some breath taking winners that left playing partner Triffitt gasping in awe and much appreciation. The Collingham duo both served well and kept errors to a minimum and with the night drawing in they remained extremely calm and consistent to eventually run out 2-10 winners to the delight of both.
A really entertaining and well contested match played in a good spirt finally saw Collingham celebrate a 31-41 win and move on to four league points for the season which moved them up two places to fifth. Starbeck drop to seventh but have only played three times so will feel they can still climb the table.
Well done to all on show and thanks for once again giving us some excellent Winter League tennis. Starbeck are quickly back on court to face Boston next Tuesday whilst Collingham face champions elect Rufforth on February 6.
Lucy Wright and Mike Triffitt produced some eye catching tennis this evening to help Collingham to success.
Janine Smith played through the pain barrier but thoroughly enjoyed her evening.
Once more Bar 3 provided the venue as from left to right Katie Draper, Janine Smith, Barry Johnson and Chris White relax afterwards for a drink and chat.