An excellent Stirling side inflicted the Loughborough 2s first loss of the season, but there were positives to take away from the heavy defeat. Loughborough 2nds had begun the season in promising fashion, with two wins and a draw from their opening three matches. A terrific opening day victory over Warwick 1st’s was followed by a valuable draw in Nottingham, before a 12-0 demolition of Newcastle. Stirling topped the league coming into this match after steaming to three comprehensive victories. Loughborough were unfortunately the next victims of Stirling’s relentless excellence. Whilst there is no denying that this result is a setback for the team, it should be put into the context of their impressive start to the season and the quality of the opposition.

The two doubles matches were completed first, with Lindsay Young and Carys Gilbert taking on the strong Stirling pairing Veronika and Lenka. They struggled against the slick groundstrokes of the opposition, going down 6-1 6-1. Stirling’s lead was quickly doubled to 4-0 when Joanna Henderson and Patricia ran out comfortable winners against Sophie Williamson and Sophie Botham of Loughborough, by a score line of 6-1 6-3. The two Sophie’s showed admirable resistance in the second set, steadying the Loughborough ship with some solid holds of serve, before the polished teamwork of Joanna and Patricia was enough to secure victory for the visitors.

The four singles matches might have provided an opportunity for Loughborough to regroup and get back into the tie, but unfortunately there was to be no let-up in the relentless high-quality tennis from the Stirling girls. Veronika put on a tactical masterclass against Gilbert, taking the first set 6-0. To Gilbert’s credit, she was much better in the second set, fighting hard to dig out some spirited holds, before eventually being defeated 6-0 6-2. Young also found the going tough in her match against Lenka, with the 6-3 6-1 win for the Stirling player sealing an unassailable 8-0 lead for the Scots. Sophie Botham showed flashes of brilliance in her encounter with Patricia, but not enough of them to unduly trouble her opponent, with Patricia closing out a 6-3 6-0 win.

Williamson’s tussle with Henderson was an engrossing encounter, with vicious winners and pounding groundstrokes flowing from both ends of the court. Henderson managed to combine this high quality attacking tennis with the valuable asset of simply getting lots of balls back into play. This proved frustrating for Williamson, who was playing excellent attacking tennis without much reward. The home favourite seemingly had to hit the cover off the ball just to shake off her irritatingly tenacious opponent and in the end this proved telling with the first set finishing 6-2 to Henderson. This pattern continued into the second set, with an increasingly irate Williamson furiously admonishing herself for a missed forehand in the third game. Although in individual points Williamson held her own impressively against the big serving, powerful returns and consistently crisp groundstrokes of Henderson. This wasn’t translated into games on the scoreboard, with the Stirling player eventually prevailing 6-2 6-0 in a match of high quality. Williamson succinctly summed up the encounter afterwards when she remarked ‘there were moments I was playing well, but she was a very tough opponent, who made it very difficult.’

That defeat for Loughborough completed a 12-0 victory for Stirling 1sts, who will extend their lead at the top of the Premier B North standings. Loughborough remain in 3rd place, and will want to get back to winning ways next Wednesday when they go away to play Durham 2nds in another tricky encounter. Good luck girls!

Rob Godmon


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