This summer saw Nottinghamshire Ladies travel to Frinton on the East Coast, a new venue for a lot of the team, and some chances to reminisce for others. Group 3 is always a great standard and this year was no exception and we knew we had tough opposition. With Sarah Usher teaming up with Sarah Wright again as Captains we certainly wanted to carry on where we had left off the previous year. With the slight drama of booking into one of the worst hotels in the UK, we spent the first night huddled in a stifling room talking team tactics for the next day awaiting our Breakfast In a Box the following morning. After some panic searching to try and find an alternative hotel for the team both the Sunday Evening and Monday morning we managed to find a hotel we could check into after play the Monday and everyone’s spirits were lifted! Thank you Rick and Jill for all your help!
Group 3 this year was made up of the same 6 teams as two years previously and we knew that matches were going to be very close. On Monday we met local rivals Leicestershire but play was delayed due to rain and we knew we were in for a late one. Finally starting at 1pm, Rebecca (Bec) Wood partnered Sarah Wright at pair 1, Emelia Box alongside the experienced Natasha (Tash) Marks at 2nd and Ellie Horton making her summer debut with the now veteran Laura Cooper at 3rd,. With a few close matches Notts were trailing 2-1 after the first round. Livvy Tomkins replaced Ellie for the 2nd round to make her senior County Week debut and we were back on track and with all to play for a 3-3. Sarah and Bec completed 3 out of 3 and with Livvy and Laura narrowly losing to a fantastic number 1 pair we were 4-4 with one still on court. Tash and Emelia lost a close first set but with great tennis won the second set to take it to a decider. Sadly they didn’t quite have enough to clinch the win but what a nail biting way to start the week!
Not to be downhearted and after a decent night’s sleep in the new hotel, Tuesday saw us play Avon. With the arrival of Emily who had raced across on the first train after completing her dissertation we were raring to go. Emily partnered Livvy at 3rd pair. After a close first round going slightly against us we were 2-1 down so the captains called a team meeting – in the car park under a tree which was probably the only bit of shade in the whole of the beautiful club. Emelia struggling with a previous calf injury was replaced by Laura and the team played amazing doubles to take the lead at 4-2. This however meant that the ridiculously superstitious Sarah Wright got everyone together at the tree as it had worked so well!! It became known as “The Faraway Tree” and our go to place after each round from there on! (Avon even cursed the tree and stuck a Sherwood Forest sign on it!!) But it worked and the next round saw 3 more fantastic wins and a 7-2 victory.
Wednesday saw us in 2nd place on the table so The Faraway tree was the start of the day again. Tash had sadly had to return to work duties and we were up against Berkshire with some very experienced doubles players. Going into the 2nd round we led 2-1 but in what turned out to be the match of the week Bec and Sarah narrowly missed out on a tight 7-5 6-4 to Berkshire’s first pair in what turned out to be the only match they lost all week. This left us at 3-3 and with Emily and Livvy already having had 2 close 3 set matches they made a valiant effort against the 2nd pair losing 6-3 in the third to go down 5-4.
Thursday is traditionally a day of pain!!! It’s where the older players are using tiger balm in bulk, taping every joint and using plasters that barely cover the blisters (you may well laugh but it will come to you all one day). We were playing Yorkshire who were unbeaten and strong so we took the decision to rest Laura, and Emelia had left due to other commitments. Fran Benson came in to make her summer but despite some great tennis the team narrowly lost 5-4 again!!
This left the division in an incredible way. Yorkshire were guaranteed promotion. Sussex who we play on Friday were definitely demoted. Avon and Berkshire could either go up, go down or stay and we needed a win to guarantee a place in Division 3 next year. However – the one thing we couldn’t guarantee was the weather and with the forecast for storms from 11am the referee brought the teams in early to ensure 1 round was at least completed. Going on to the hard courts following early rain, Notts went 3-0 up after the first round and with Avon 2-1 down if the rain came we were safe! However the rain didn’t come and a second round went on – Notts on the grass and the others on the hard. Avon and Berks levelled their game at 3-3 and Notts took a 5-0 lead. Which left an interesting predicament. If the entire round was completed by all teams the score would stand. If not it would revert back to the score at the end of round 1. So despite the fact we were likely to be 6-0 up, out 2 points for the win would put us on 4 points. However Avon and Berkshire were already on 4 and their 3-3 meant each would be allocated a point and we would be relegated. It was a long long wait to see if the rain stopped and lots of singing and rain dancing from the team who knew if we went on then we would be relegated unless we could also complete round 3 as well. Luckily God was on our side as storm and flood warnings were issued and the ref took the decision to abandon play. PHEW!!!!
So we go back in Division 3 next year and have also the benefit of some of the younger players having debuted and gained experience and also been mentored by some very good experience old folk!!! A special mention to Sarah and Bec who won 13/14 so were the top scorers of the week - a fantastic achievement at this level and also to the supporters who came along to spur us on.
Team: Fran Benson; Emelia Box; Laura Cooper; Emily Crowe; Ellie Horton; Natasha Marks; Livvy Tomkins; Sarah Usher; Rebecca Wood; Sarah Wright
Click here to see full results