A young Oxfordshire 18U team travelled to Wrexham with high spirits but knowing that they were in for a tough battle.
Darcy Herring Johnson
Day 1 vs Herefordshire & Worcesteshire (9-0 loss)
Singles were on first and leading the team out were Darcy Herring Johnson, Elizabeth Cairns & Athina Schlepphorst. Darcy and Elizabeth played smartly but were out gunned by their stronger opponents. Athina took the game to her opponent played herself into a set lead before eventually succumbing in 3 tough sets. Next up were Bea Painter, Hannah Denly and Patrisia Radan. Despite having great energy Bea & Hannah struggled to get a foothold in their matches but Patrisia caused her older more experienced opponent plenty of problems. She eventually lost 6-3 6-3 but along with her teammates could hold her head high.
Doubles was next and it was great to see the communication and tactics the team had practiced in action. All the teams eventually lost out but not before Athina and Patrisia took the number 1 pair into a 3rd set.
Day 2 vs Durham & Cleveland (9-0 loss)
Oxfordshire knew they were going to be underdogs again on day 2. They were heavily out ranked against Durham and Cleveland. The team were sticking together and the warm up showed that they were ready to go.
Darcy had a really tough first set but did incredibly well to fight back and take the second set to a tie break where she was unlucky to lose out. Elizabeth tried all her tactics and battled her blisters but lost out in 2 sets. Athina was always in her match but couldn’t quite string enough positive points together and also went down in 2 long sets.
Bea showed some brilliant shot making in the number 3 singles but lost out to a strong opponent and at times Hannah was showing some real creative skill to lob her opponent but eventually lost 6-2 6-1. Patrisia played against a very powerful athletic opponent and showed mental strength and great skills to challenge her opponent but lost out 6-1 6-2.
The doubles gave Susanna her chance to make her debut and all the teams put up a great fight but the team lost again 9-0
Day 3 vs Cornwall (5-4 loss)
Day 3 was a relegation battle between Oxfordshire and Cornwall. Both teams started the day without a rubber on the board so were keen to play a competitive fixture.
Team spirit was still high and the girls warmed up really well. Darcy, Elizabeth and Athina started us off again. Unfortunately Darcy had to retire from her match feeling unwell so Oxfordshire were 1-0 down early on. Elizabeth used her tenacious attitude to keep consistent and came away with a hard fought straight sets win and Athina used her smooth hitting to get over an energy dip to also win in straight sets. That left Oxfordshire 2-1 up in the race to 5. Bea had already been battling for a while now in the number 3 singles and just lost out a tight 1st set on a tie break. She responded brilliantly using her ‘chill’ attitude to come back and win the next 2 sets with consistent hitting 6-4 6-0. This left Oxfordshire 3-1 ahead with and with Hannah and Patrisia both a set up in difficult match ups things were looking good. Cornwall hadn’t given up though and won the 2nd sets in both the number 1 and 2 singles. Hannah and Patrisia were both still playing great. Hannah recomposed herself to take the 3rd set 6-2 which meant Oxfordshire needed one more rubber for victory. Patrisia battled hard against another hard hitting opponent and despite putting real score pressure on her Cornish opponent she couldn’t quite get over the line losing the 3rd set 6-4.
This meant it came down to the doubles. Oxfordshire needed one rubber, Cornwall needed 3. Susanna and Elizabeth showed great teamwork and tactics but couldn’t put the volleys away in a narrow 7-5 6-3 defeat. Athina and Patrisia showed again they could play really well together with some hard hitting and good volleys but they couldn’t string enough points together in a row and lost out 6-3 6-4.
So, it all came down to one match. Hannah and Bea were playing very well and had comeback from 3-0 down in the first set but just lost out in the tiebreak. In the second set they were down again but dug deep to find some extra energy and took the set 7-5 with some aggressive play. This meant the whole day came down to one match tie break, first to 10 points. All four players were playing cautiously with Bea playing super consistent and Hannah producing some hard hitting at the right times. Volleys were a rarity and many long baseline battles kept the crowd on the edge of their seats. First change of ends Oxfordshire led 4-2, Cornwall bounced back to lead 7-5 at the 3rd change of ends it was all square at 9-9. It was now who could win 2 points in a row. Both teams had plenty of match points. Hannah saved 2 with massive first serves, Bea kept her nerve in some monster baseline rallies. They changed again at 12-12 and then again at 15-15. Finally Cornwall edged it 19-17 and took tie which relegated Oxfordshire.
All 7 girls did themselves proud, they came together as a team, worked hard and learned a lot. They were already talking about bouncing back next year and many of them will get another chance in the 14U event.