This summer saw Nottinghamshire Ladies travel to North to Ilkley with a strong team and experience throughout. Group 3 is always a great standard and this year was no exception and we knew we had tough opposition. With Sarah Usher returning to the Captain's slot for the first time in 20 years on a joint basis with Sarah Wright, it meant we had a huge amount of experience (and age) in the management team. Arriving at Ilkley we were slightly disappointed with the condition of the grass courts due to the dry summer and clear overuse but were were not going to be deterred.
Day one saw us face Berkshire who had a very experienced team. Natasha (Tash) Marks, playing for the first time since heading off to University in the USA partnered Sarah Wright, Emelia Box making her Summer County week debut partnering the experienced Emily Crowe at 3rd and Charlotte Phillips and and Rebecca (Bec) Wood at 2nd. With a couple of close sets going against Notts were trailing 2-1 heading into the second round with a fine win from Emelia and Emily played some great tennis to see off their third pair. Picking up 2 of the 3 rubbers in the second round winning the crucial 1st vs 1st rubber we were deadlocked at 3 matches each. Tash and Sarah picked up a comfortable win against the Berkshire thirds and Emelia and Emily just missed out against the firsts, we were 4-4 with the last match on court seeing the second pairs battling it out for a victory.. Charlotte and Bec played great tennis and won the second set to take it to a decider but just didnt have enough for a fantastic 2nd Berkshire pair who were one of the strongest of third set nail biting finish but sadly we lost on the last hurdle.
Not to be downhearted Tuesday saw the East Midlands derby with Notts playing Leicestershire. Sadly having had rain overnight we started on the on the artificial grass courts and fielding the same team as the day before we were 2-1 up after the first round - having played through the rain. Hats off to both teams who agreed to continue to play in the rain rather than wait for a share of the indoor courts which would have meant a very very late finish for all 6 teams. A great second round saw us take all three rubbers and we had the match won heading into the final round. Laura came in using the substitute rule for Sarah (who was struggling with old age on the artificial grass) and partnered Tash to a convincing win. Emelia and Emily carried on their fine form and took their second win of the day against the Leicestershire 1sts. We came out overall 7-2 and despite the pretty grim weather day the sun was certainly shining in our camp.
Day 3 was a day of ups and downs, losing Emily who had to go on student placement was a big loss but we were greeted with the fantastic surprise arrival of Jocelyn Rae, who certainly came in with a bang and everyone was instantly lifted. With a team swap Joc partnered with Tash, Sarah and Charlotte rekindled their previous county week partnerships and Stephanie Barling playing with an on-from Emelia we took on Sussex in a must win encounter. Joc and Tash certainly made their mark and Charlotte and Sarah picked up a secure win over the first pair so we were 2-1 up after the first round. Another 2 convincing wins from our number 1 and 2 meant a 4-2 lead with just one rubber needed from the third round to make it another win. Using the substitute rule again Steph came in to partner Laura against a very strong pair and lose out in close match. However the mighty Joc and Tash were off within what seemed like a matter of minutes to clinch the tie leaving Charlotte and Sarah battling away. After a gruelling 3 set match Notts were unable to extend their lead but took a great 5-4 victory against one of the favourites at the start of the week.
With promotion in our sights but with the weather against us Thursday saw us face an extremely strong Yorkshire team. Having to start play on hard wasn’t in our best interestes and certainly didnt help our style and we were quickly 2-1 down after the first round. With the sun coming out and us taking an early lunch we were able to restart play on the grass and we knew we were still able to get something out of the day. Joc and Tash continued their dominant form and with Charlotte and Sarah finding the form of their week battling through a close 3 set match to win 7-5 in the third we were 3-3 all heading into a tense final round. We gave it everything we had but came up just short unable to find that extra win losing out 5-4 to the eventual winners of the week. Had the whole match been played on grass we feel the outcome would have been 5-4 in our favour.
Knowing we had secured our Group 3 position for the second year in a row we were delighted and playing against our lovely friends from Avon. Notts enjoyed a great friday finishing off 4-2 up with final positions completed the Referee called it a day finishing 3rd overall.
A thoroughly enjoyable week with some old and new faces enjoying the joys of County Week tennis, and proving what a great competition it really is for all ages. Sarah U did a great job with the hands on Captains work during the week allowing Sarah W to focus on her tennis and certainly kept moral and spirit high on and off court. Well done Team Nottinghamshire. Great work!