DESPITE battling admirably, Leeds University’s women’s badminton doubles teams ultimately failed to bridge the gap to two well-drilled Loughborough pairings, and racked up losses despite stoic displays on Wednesday.
The Leicestershire University left with the spoils after defeating Leeds duo Joanna Minihan and Ashleigh Buck in straight sets. Serena Midha and Ellie Travers were staunch and resilient for Uni, but marginally overpowered as they grappled doggedly from the outset.
It was a joyless afternoon for hardy Minihan and Buck, losing by sizeable margins. Leeds were willing in their resistance but handled well by an athletic Loughborough, as Minihan’s strong drive from the rear of the court rendered academic as Loughborough’s net play proved difficult to combat. The disparity between the teams was becoming increasingly hard to detect as Leeds grew in stature, Minihan repeatedly retorting with uncompromising returns, but the visitors were too potent in their presence and rolled out eventual winners. In the second round of ties, Minihan and Buck were undone with two scorelines of 21-6.
It was via Midha and Travers that Leeds showcased their most dominant play. In a high-octane rally, the duo responded assertively to sustained phases of pressure. A low shot from Loughborough offered scant hope of a return, but there was no chance of riposte for the visitors as Travers equalised through a forehand clearance from the baseline. Although losing the first game 21-15 and the second 21-11, the bar was set for the restart.
An increasingly complacent Loughborough initially struggled for cohesion yet increased the tempo, which saw Leeds reply with equal intensity. Loughborough sealed the inaugural game with an eight-point margin, but the hosts nonetheless exhibited grit and guile in their reply. With the game locked at 19-19, a ruthless high-drive from Midha handed Uni the edge, before an audacious net shot from Travers trickled over to clinch a win by the narrowest of margins.
With the bit between Leeds’ teeth having forced a third set, furious phases of play followed, the sides inseparable for long spells. Travers was commanding from the baseline, twice restoring parity with bold clearances, while Midha patrolled the court with intent and levelled with an artful drop shot as the visitors upped the ante.
Despite their best endeavours, however, Leeds could not dent the deficit, and a short backhand clearance trickled over to seal the win for the visitors.
Featured image: The Gryphon