Wednesday saw the University of Leeds going up against the University of Lancaster in the first BUCS fixture of 2018. This was a return fixture between the two universities, with Leeds previously winning 5-0 at Lancaster back in November. They hoped for a repeat of this and to continue last year’s stellar run of form last year that resulted in them being undefeated and sitting at top of the Northern 1A league. In contrast, Lancaster were at the other end of the table, having managed only one victory this season.
The first match of the day started off with Leeds’ ace and world ranked 551 Omar El Tahry, battling not only Lancaster’s No.1, but also the flu. Leeds won many points through hitting the ball parallel to the wall, leaving little space for an effective return, and the first game ended quite comfortably 11-5 to Leeds. The first point of the second game went to Leeds through a drop shot, however Lancaster then used this very tactic to go 5-2 up. After winning an extended rally Lancaster looked to have the momentum at 7-3 and then pulled ahead to further their lead to 9-4. Despite this Omar mounted a stunning comeback, winning three points in a row to make it 9-7, eventually tying the game at 10-10. With the momentum back on his side, he finished the second game 12-10. The third game started off very even at 4-4, but Lancaster once again pulled ahead to 8-4, and after trading some points Lancaster was at game point 10-6. However, much like the previous game, the flu ridden Omar pulled off another unbelievable comeback winning the game and match 12-10, proving why he is ranked internationally.
Peter Joyce was next for the Leeds team and wasted little time establishing a 7-0 lead. His taller opponent could not keep up with the speed and agility of the Leeds No. 2 and only managed two points in a game that finished 11-2. It was total domination in the second game with Lancaster not getting a single point to end game two 11-0. The third game looked to be a repeat of the first two with Leeds storming ahead to a 7-2 lead, but Lancaster’s No.2 was unwilling to go down without a fight. He brought it back 8-5, but Leeds regained focus and finished off the game 11-5 to take the match.
Leeds’ No. 3, Matty Powell, was the last to play, winning the first point after a long rally. However, Lancaster were not deterred and managed to keep the score even at 4-4. Leeds then went on a run of three points to go 7-4 up, before a ball that went out gave Lancaster a point back. The first game was close and finished 11-8 to Leeds. The second game was even closer than the first with scores tied at 7-7 as a result of some fantastic angled shots off the wall from the two players. However, Powell managed to cross the finishing line, wrong footing his opponent with a late change of direction on a drop shot. By the end of the third game Lancaster’s No.3 was visibly tired and struggling to reach balls that he would have previously, and Leeds seized the chance to seal the game 11-5, winning the match and the overall tie.
The other two games featured captain, Henry Worrall and Paul Allen at No.4 and 5 respectively on court 1. These games were played concurrently with the others and ended in straight games, with Henry’s match ending 11-6, 11-5, 11-8 and Paul’s ending 11-1, 11-2, 11-6. These victories resulted in Leeds winning the tie 5-0 and not dropping a single game to Lancaster.
Captain Henry Worrall said afterwards: “It was a great win and it puts us in prime position for a chance at promotion. Hopefully we can get back into the Premier League, but we still have a game left against Liverpool and then win a play-off game against one of the bottom four in the Premier, so there’s still a lot left to do. The best situation would be for the women’s team to also go back up to the Premier League since they are also at the top of Northern 1A right now.” He also expressed some disappointment, but at his own situation. “Unfortunately I won’t be here next year to play, which is slightly disappointing, but it will be a great achievement for the society to get back to the top, since we haven’t been there for about 5 years.”
By Ryan Wan