This year’s ICT provided another great experience for our juniors – but it was tough going for the team, several of whom were young and relatively inexperienced. Team coach Rob Wetherell and manager Ken Conway were full of praise for the attitude shown by all of the players and were confident that the experience will have helped develop their games. Nevertheless, despite that, out of the 40 counties taking part the team could do no better than 32nd overall, one position lower than last year – and also one behind neighbours Durham.
Facing an extremely tough first group, we opened against current champions Buckinghamshire but failed to take an end. The next match against Leinster yielded a good win for the doubles pair of Dan Conway and Jishnu Bhattacharya but we went down 9-1. The last game in this group against Gloucestershire was certain to be tighter. There were two good singles wins by the Dans (Conway and Rogerson) and a doubles success for Garrylee McMullen & Dan R: but we lost both three-enders which could have swung the match our way, thus leading to a 3-7 scoreline.
Round 2 saw us playing off against fouir other counties that had come 3rd or 4th in their first round groups. Against Cornwall, Alisha Israni in singles, Dan and Jish in boys doubles and Annie Karn and Jish in mixed scored good wins: but again two close three-enders were lost and the match ended 3-7. Next up was Guernsey and this match gave us a 7-3 win with several players scoring their first wins: special mention here for Sarah Wilson, still an under 13, who had wins in both girls and mixed doubles. Worcestershire proved a tougher proposition, winning 9-1: our only success came from Jish and Jonny Gilchrist at mens doubles. The last match in this group was against Staffordshire. Rhonwen Arthur scored an excellent first win in girls singles and there were two more wins for both Sarah and Annie to give us an overall score of 7-3.
In the last group, the team now knew they would be playing for positions 29 to 32. Two wins for Jish, one with Dan C in doubles, were the best we could manage against Kent. And it was Jish and Dan C again who gave us two more wins against Durham – but that was it: match lost 2-8 again. And so, wearily, to the last match on Sunday morning against Cambridgeshire. Dan R was a double winner here but the match was lost 3-7.
Special mention must go to North Tyneside’s Megan Porter, who stepped in at the very last moment when injury forced the withdrawal of her clubmate Robyn Luckley. This was a very steep learning curve, but she emerged all the stronger for it and epitomised the fighting spirit of the whole team.