University of Leeds 1sts 5 – 3 Birmingham 1sts
LEEDS saw off a strong challenge from Birmingham to claim the spoils in their women’s badminton match at The Edge, and in the process emulated their performance in the cup match against the same opponents last season.
First up was Hannah Down, who faced off against Birmingham’s number two Emily Lewin. Down quickly established a healthy lead in the first game, with her deep strokes pushing her opponent back to the baseline early on. A dainty drop shot at 6-3 also showed her ability to mix things up, while a ruthless clear and smash combination at 11-6 demonstrated the power that she possessed. The second game began as a more of an even contest. However, Down slowly began to dominate once more and she took the match comfortably 21-11, 21-14. The Gryphons’ second singles player Agnes Zhong was unfortunately on the losing side in her first encounter, running Anette Martin very close in her first game, before the Birmingham girl ran away with it to secure a 21-19, 21-6 victory.
The second doubles pairing of Jojo Minihan and Ashleigh Buck seemed like they would be in with a tough task against Birmingham’s top duo, Anna Manley and Emily Mills, but the girls put on a superb attacking display to ultimately win in convincing fashion. Winner after winner rained down on the beleaguered Birmingham partnership, as Leeds romped home 21-16, 21-4. Ellie Travers and Vanessa Jill also shone in their opening doubles duel to put Leeds 3-1 up at the halfway stage.
It was clear that Birmingham were not willing to let the contest slip from their grasp easily, as they came out firing in the second lot of singles matches. Martin adopted a very aggressive strategy that was paying dividends, as Leeds’ top singles player was forced to defend a lot of smashes and deep clears. Down approached the second game in a slightly more attacking manner, with more of her smashes finding the desired areas. However, the Birmingham girl proved too strong on this occasion, winning 21-10, 21-11. With Zhong battling hard, but coming up slightly short, the match was now level at three apiece, and the West Midlanders must have been sensing that they could pull off a dramatic turnaround.
However, the Gryphons showed superb resolve, with Travers and Jill taking to the court and putting in an enthralling performance. In the early stages, the scoreline was tight, with both sides finding joy on the offensive. However, the Leeds girls began to turn the screw, and sent down three ferocious smashes in quick succession in a particularly feisty rally, with the final shot finding the court. Jill was causing problems at the net as the pair established an eight-point lead. At this stage, there was some controversy over the score, as the away team alleged that Leeds had two fewer points than they were saying. The home pairing graciously gave them the benefit of the doubt (even though Birmingham were wrong), and as the visitors notched up point after point, it looked as though that show of sportsmanship might come back to haunt the home side.
Leeds regained their composure though, with Travers once again in the ascendency at the back of the court. With the wind in their sails, Leeds continued to force the issue, and it was fitting that it was yet another Travers smash that finally broke Birmingham’s resistance and secured the victory. With Minihan and Buck claiming victory in their second match, the final score read 5-3 to Leeds.
After such an inspired performance today, there won’t be many teams looking forward to meeting West Yorkshire’s top university badminton team.
Featured Image: The Gryphon