Sunday 23rd April saw the culmination of the 2016/17 Shires League season and after a nail biting play-off earlier in the month against Lancashire, the U18 team came together one last time, now playing for one of the top 8 places alongside Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Devon, Cheshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Essex.
With the team being a man down – Jai being unable to make the event – they knew it was going to be a very tough day but nevertheless travelled to the Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Buckinghamshire determined to make a final effort to place as highly as possible. Representing Leicestershire on Finals Day were:-
Martin Beynon, Nikhil Chotai, Tom Cowperthwaite, Ryan King
Eve Dale, Ella Haines, Hritika Modi, Issy Paterson-Watts, Izzy Pike
There was to be no such thing as an easier draw today and the team went into their first round match knowing that every win would involve a huge effort and players being at the top of their game. Leicestershire vs Devon came out of the hat and proved to be a predictably difficult rubber with the green and yellows only able to carve 3 wins out of the 20 played; Martin & Ella with an excellent 21-18 win against the Devon 1st pair, Ryan winning his singles against a much better opponent on paper and Hritika with a brilliant win against the C graded 1st Devon girl for a final score:
Leicestershire: 3 Devon: 17
With the next round offering the chance to play for positions 5 to 8, the team now faced Oxfordshire, making a good start in the mixed with both Tom & Eve and Ryan & Izzy comfortably winning their mixed, Martin & Ella and Nikhil & Hritika losing their games only narrowly. The team didn’t fare so well in singles however with only Eve and once again Ryan able to overcome their opponents; there was still everything to play for with the team 4 – 8 down going into the level doubles. While the boys won 4 from 4, unfortunately the girls struggled against the strong Oxfordshire girls with only Eve & Issy able to win a close match 21-20. The final score:
Leicestershire: 9 – Oxfordshire: 11
The final match play-off saw Leicestershire pitched against Cheshire, a repeat of the ICT rubber which saw Cheshire win a close tie 6 – 4. Could the team reverse this? With Jai missing this time, they knew it wouldn’t be easy but would give it their all nonetheless.
Another good start in the mixed with Tom & Eve and Nikhil & Hritika winning their games to share the scoreline going into the singles. Once again this proved to be a barrier with the girls unable to claim any wins, despite Eve and Izzy pushing their opponents very close. With an on-form Martin beating a very strong C grade opponent to 14 and Ryan making it 3 singles wins from 3 for the day, the scores going into the level doubles saw Leicestershire trailing 4 – 8 once again. With Tom & Nikhil and Martin & Ryan splitting the honours with the Cheshire boys and an excellent final push from the girls which saw them win 3 of the 4 games, the final score reflected another narrow loss for Team Leicestershire:
Leicestershire: 9 Cheshire: 11
After a tough day’s competition against all the very best U18’s in the country, the team can be very proud of their achievement in having made it through to Finals Day and an overall 8th place position for the League for the 20167/17 season! Well done to all the players!