UNBEATEN FIRSTS PROMOTED

The first team entered the final weekend of the Senior County Championships proudly atop of Division 2 North but knowing they would have to play well to maintain their 3 point lead over Lanarkshire, especially as they had to play the 3rd and 4th placed teams in Cheshire 2 and Lancashire 2 respectively on the Saturday, whilst the Scots were only up against the bottom two sides Lancashire 3 and Cumbria. Second place would be good enough for promotion but sights were set on the title. With various people unavailable, Aphrodite Christodoulou was drafted in from the second team and Richie Eaton played for the first time this season.

Garrylee McMullen got on the scoreboard first, defeating ex-Newcastle University student Josh Au Yeung in two sets. Rich followed that up with his own straight sets win and Aphro did well to take her match in three sets 24-22, 17-21, 21-18. Despite both taking a set, Philip Pahatouridis and Catherine Thomas couldn’t add to the tally but they nevertheless led 3-2 going into the doubles.

The men’s were shared, with Ryan Jelley and Philip winning, to maintain the lead at 4-3 and an excellent three set win from Eleanor Laws and Catherine, 21-19 in the third, also saw the women’s shared, the lead now 5-4 with just one mixed for the match victory.

Both Ryan and Lucy Dixon, and Richie and Eleanor, took their opening sets before, in turn, being pegged back to one set all. The deciding sets were really tight but Ryan and Lucy just got over the line 21-19 whereas Richie and Eleanor just missed out by the same score.

6-5 then, the victory preserving their unbeaten run for the season and keeping Cheshire 2 behind them but Lanarkshire had meanwhile beaten Lancashire 3 9-2, to make them level on 37 points.

The afternoon started well against Lancashire 2 with both Philip and Garrylee winning in straight sets. Richie then took his singles comfortably, 21-9 in the third, and another win from Aphro in two tight sets 22-20, 21-19 meant a 4-1 lead after the singles.

Ryan and Phil won in two at top string but Garrylee and Richie lost out in 3 sets and with the top string ladies lost, Lancashire were still in it at 5-3. Ryan and Aphro had meanwhile lost their opening set but rallied strongly to take the second to 12 and, crucially, the decider 21-17. Another match win at 6-3 but both mixed vital in the race to get ahead of Lanarkshire for the title.

Ryan and Lucy took their opener but Philip and Eleanor lost theirs, only to come back and just edge their second set 21-19. Meanwhile, Ryan and Lucy maintained control to take their second set to 16 for 7-3 and 8-3 duly arrived as Philip and Eleanor held on well to take their third set 21-18. Jubilation was tempered though with the news that Lanarkshire had beaten bottom county Cumbria 10-1 to take the lead by two points. Lothian had also had a good day taking 17 points from their two fixtures to move into third place on 42, only 3 behind, so all still to play for in the final matches on Sunday morning.

This time Lanarkshire had the stiffer test against Cheshire 2, as too did Lothian against Lancashire 2, whilst North were to finish their campaign against seventh placed Lancashire 3. With Lucy and Aphro missing on Sunday, Rachel Frobisher and Lauren Young were drafted in, fresh from their exploits with the second team the previous day, having won the Division 4 North title.

Philip and Garrylee again won in straight sets in the singles and, with Catherine victorious at top string, coming from a set down to win 21-23, 21-16, 21-13, the lead stood at 3-1 with Lauren venturing onto a singles court for the first time for the county. Having been thrown in at the deep end she did the county proud winning 21-18, 21-13 to increase the lead still further.

Ryan and Philip started slowly at top string in the men’s doubles but came back strongly to take their second set 21-19 for one set all. Garrylee and Richie did a mirror image of that, winning their first and then being edged out 21-18 in the second. Both deciders were nip and tuck with all four knowing that a 6-1 lead was on the cards. It was not to be but only by the narrowest of margins, Ryan and Philip going down 23-21 to Northumberland ex-pat Andy Fowler and Joe Steele, and Garrylee and Richie also agonisingly close at 21-19.

The lead kept at 4-3 but their unbeaten record under pressure, let alone the points needed to best Lanarkshire. Rachel and Loz were competitive throughout but went down 22-20, 21-18 for 4-all that left much depending on Elle and Cat. They had taken their opener 21-18 but were just edged out when in sight of victory, 21-19 in the second. Stung by that reverse they quickly established a lead and ran out easy winners 21-10 in the third.

5-4 then and one mixed needed for an unbeaten season. Both pairs won their opening sets, Garrylee and Rachel with little to spare at 22-20 but they went on to take their second set 21-15 to clinch victory. Ryan and Eleanor had meanwhile been pegged back by Fowler and Emily Miller 21-17 in the second but Ryan was determined to get revenge for his men’s, and he and Elle rallied to take the deciding set by the same score. That made it 5 wins out of 6 for Ryan over the weekend.

The unbeaten season preserved with the final score 7-4 but the news that Lanarkshire had won by the same score meant that the title had gone north of the border. Lothian had lost to Lancashire 2 though, also by 7-4, so North finished second two points behind but 6 clear of Lothian in third. The result means promotion to Division 1 North, the highest they have been for a number of years.

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