Sometimes in sport, as in life, you have just got to be patient and wait for the moment to appear. This was certainly the case for the Dane Court Girls Under 16 Table Tennis team as at the fourth time of trying they magnificently qualified for the National Final of the Butterfly English Schools’ Table Tennis Team Championships. Twice the girls had been Runners Up at the Regional Event but this time they went one better by winning the Southern Event at Bristol on Saturday 3 February.
This time the team had the luxury (well the Filton, Bristol Travelodge) of an overnight stay and so avoiding a 5:00am start from Broadstairs and this might have made a difference? They certainly came flying out of the blocks in the opening match of a three schools contest with only the winners gaining a place at the National Final. The opposition from the Holte School, Birmingham were beaten by a margin of 7-1 but that result was bettered by the third team in the tournament, Budmouth College from Weymouth who thrashed Holte 8-0, which meant it was winner take all in the final game between Dane Court and Budmouth.
This turned out to be a tense and enthralling battle between two very talented and closely matched teams. Budmouth had the advantage of having an unusually strong fourth player but not an outstanding top player so it really was difficult to predict the outcome before the start.
Dane Court made the perfect start with Number One player Catherine Banks comfortably defeating the Budmouth Number 2; on the other table Annabel Cole, the Dane Court Number 2, hung in there brilliantly to beat Budmouth’s top player in five sets to establish a 2-0 lead for her team. Tayla Bayley, the Dane Court Number 3, then made it 3-0 with a win against the Budmouth Number 4 before the Dorset school got back into the match with a win for their Number 3 against Dane Court’s Number 4, Beth Brenchley.
Catherine then extended the Dane Court lead to 4-1 with another win and then the nerves began to jangle a bit as Annabel lost to the Budmouth Number 3 meaning that Dane Court still needed one more win from the last two matches. Cometh the hour cometh the girl and this time it was Tayla who produced a great victory against the Budmouth Number 2 to clinch the victory for Dane Court. In the final game Beth played superbly to take the first two sets against the very capable Budmouth Number 4 but then ran out of steam as her opponent came back to win another five-set thriller; this then meant a 5-3 final score in Dane Court’s favour.
The Dane Court parents and coach had by now aged at least ten years watching the last hour and a half’s top quality Table Tennis but thankfully the team had emerged victorious against talented and stubborn opponents who sportingly wished us well in the upcoming Final.
So, it was job done and Dane Court can look forward to playing in the National Final for the first time ever at Hinckley in Leicestershire on Saturday 10 March.
All four of the girls, as ever, produced tremendous individual performances to see the team home. Catherine, the most experienced player, rarely dropped below her very best, and did not lose a single set in either match, using her favourite forehand hit time and time again to win crucial points. Annabel who ended the match looking as if she had run at least a couple of marathons kept calm at crucial times and pulled off the result of the day by beating the Budmouth Number One; Tayla also dug in at difficult times to win all her 4 games while it is hard to believe that Beth, a Year 9 student unlike the others who are in Year11, had only started playing Table Tennis properly a few months ago. She has come on in leaps and bounds as her technique and knowledge of the game improves and it was great to see her achieve 2 wins in the first match and come very close to beating the Budmouth Number 4.
Thanks to all the parents for their great support and especially to Annabel’s Mum for driving us there and back, and along with Tayla’s Mum, staying overnight with the girls and supporting them during the tournament. Thanks also to the Dane Court PE staff for their support and to many people within the Thanet Table Tennis community who have helped, supported and coached the three older girls to become the players they are.