Loughborough Women’s 1st team demonstrated just why they are the favourites to take the inaugural BUCS National Premier title with a crushing 12-0 defeat of Leeds Beckett Carnegie. The team, in the absence of Captain Olivia Nicholls, doled out yet another 12-0 drubbing, making it five whitewashes from their six fixtures so far. Truthfully, the outcome of the tie never looked in doubt as Loughborough outclassed their struggling opposition and sent out a powerful statement of intent. It will take some side to stop Loughborough claiming the title on this evidence.

The doubles began proceedings with Loughborough cruising into an early 4-0 lead by virtue of two quick victories. Natalie Hayden-Scott and Louise Holtum had far too much for opponents Charlotte Payne and Nikki Clarke, and despite a lapse in concentration in the second set ran out comfortable 6-0 6-4 winners. Emily Rodbourn and Tori Bullock, meanwhile, were in the process of comprehensively dismissing Joan Gadsby and Alice Robson for the loss of just three games. Gadsby and Robson were faced with a barrage of blistering backhands and thumping forehands for which they had no answer.

Loughborough were firmly in command, and there was to be no let-up in the singles matches. Tori Bullock put on the headline display, blasting Robson with both barrels in a double- bagel demolition job. Showing off a lovely array of groundstrokes, drop shots, and volleys, she made the stark divide in quality between the two plain for all to see. Hayden-Scott was almost equally ruthless in beating Payne for the second time, this time 6-0 6-1, and remarked afterwards that she ‘was happy with my performance considering I haven’t trained all week!’ By this point, victory was assured, and Holtum further widened the lead with a 6-0 6-2 win over Gadsby. The task of finishing Leeds off was left to Rodbourn, who met Clarke. The Loughborough player proved far too powerful for her opponent, dominating from the baseline in an uneven first set, taking it 6-1. The second followed a similar pattern, also finishing 6-1, with Rodbourn underlining the underlying theme of the tie: the women in purple being far superior to the women in white. Leeds Beckett, who have been heavily defeated in all six of their matches so far, sit rock bottom of the National Premier standings, and look likely to face a relegation playoff at the end of the season to preserve their place in the elite top flight.

Loughborough established a six-point lead at the top of the table with this victory, although Durham 1st’s, their nearest challengers, have also enjoyed a flawless start to the season with four wins and have a couple of ties in hand. Loughborough’s next two fixtures, both against the Northeasterners, will therefore go some way to deciding the destination of this season’s National Premier crown, so it would be great to get some rowdy Loughborough support for the girls during the home fixture against Durham on December 2nd. Although based on this display, it’s doubtful that they’ll need it!

Rob Godmon


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