Eldon Ladies 2018-2019 Season Review

Fresh from a successful 2017-2018 season the Eldon Ladies team remained largely unchanged, with Charlie Latham-Warde replacing Iris Coe, who had moved out of the area, Kat Beeson returned at no.3 after missing last season with a serious injury, while Helen Dobinson continued her successful captaincy for a 2nd season. The Ladies season works slightly differently to the men's as it starts with 2 divisions then splits into 3 after the Christmas break with the bottom 2 team from the top division and the top 2 teams from the bottom division forming a middle division (trust me, I'm as confused as you!)

The opening game saw us come up against a youthful Hexham Ladies team. Charlie kicked things off but lost out 3-0 to a seasoned team player, however, Katherine Hunt levelled the tie-up by winning a tense 3-2, 15-12 in the 5th. Up next was Shef Popat at no.3 and, despite her array of flick and tricks, her opponent was too strong taking a close 3-0 win and putting Hexham 2-1 up in matches. Captain Helen was next on court in a match which she had to win if Eldon had any hopes of winning the fixture! Helen put up a valiant fight but her opponent just snuck the win in 4 tight games. The overall result may have already gone in favour of Hexham, but Michelle Fawdon still gave her all to win us as many points as possible. All 5 games went the distance, showing just how evenly match the players were, but once again Hexham managed to edge it, 15-12 in the 5th. A tough 4-1 loss in the end, but given that we were missing our no.1, 3 and 5 there were a lot of positives to take from the result.

The next match was another stern test, this time against Tynemouth 2, a team who dropped down a division after relegation last season. We had a full strength team out, for the 1st and only time this season, and this showed in the final result, as we come out 4-1 winners and picked up 17 points along the way. This was an excellent team performance as we got some good wins across the board.

There was no respite for Eldon Ladies as we had to face another strong team, this time in the form of Northern 3, a team who were nailed on promotion favourites. We lost comprehensively 5-0 but; Grace pushed their no.1 in 4 very competitive games and was the only player in the 1st half to win a single game off of her, and Michelle was unfortunate not to get at least 1 game at no.2. We picked ourselves up from this defeat and turned over Tynemouth 3, picking up maximum points and losing just 2 single games in the process.

The last game before the mid-season break was against a struggling Concordia team. Despite missing our 4 and 5 for this encounter, we won 5-0 for the 2nd consecutive match, although this scoreline didn't do Concordia justice as there were some very close games across the board. This shows the strength in depth that the ladies team have and was a welcome confidence boost going into the 2nd half of the season, however, we had missed out on promotion into the middle division for the 2nd half with the earlier 20-1 defeat to Northern proving costly.

The promotion at the half-way mark saw Northern and Hexham, the only teams we lost to in the 1st half, move up a division giving us confidence that we could mount a substantial title challenge.

We kicked off the 2nd half against Concordia. This time the result was nowhere near as straightforward, Concordia took the win at 5 against Charlie and without Grace at 1 Michelle had stepped up, but also lost 3-0. This left us needing to win the remaining 3 matches and Kat duly obliged with a quick 3-0 win at 2. Caitlin Burns levelled up the tie win another 3-0 win in our favour setting up a decider! Helen faced off against the experienced, and former Eldon player, Vera Wealleans. Vera won the 1st game 15-14, but Helen overturned the early deficit to win 3-1 and give us the overall win, 3-2!

We backed up this crucial win with another 5-0 win against Tynemouth 3 which saw wins for Katherine Hunt, Shef, Helen, Michelle and Grace to add another 20 points to our points tally. However, Tynemouth 2 were our next opponents and they were looking for revenge after our 1st half win. Grace managed to extend her winning streak to 4 after beating Tynemouth's new no.1 Louise Robertson 3-2, but the same could not be said for the remaining matches, where we only picked up a solitary game despite some good performances. This left us sitting 2nd with 102 points, only 9 points behind the aforementioned Tynemouth 2, with 3 games remaining.

These next 2 matches were crucial, as we would need maximum points to give us any hope of setting up a title decider against Tynemouth 2 in the final league match of the season. We did our part in the 1st fixture, only dropping 2 points against Concordia in which there was some cool and calm performance by Katherine, Shef, Helen and Kat with only Michelle losing out at no.1. Even with this big win, Tynemouth 2 managed to extend their lead to 11 points, beating their 3rd team 20-1. Our penultimate game was against Tynemouth 3 and we hit a stroke of good fortune, as they were unable to field a team so we won with maximum points by default, but even this couldn't help us close the gap on top spot as Tynemouth 2 romped to a 20-0 win at Concordia.

The decider was upon us and we had home advantage. Finishing top spot would take a monumental effort (and some on the spot maths) but it was doable, all we had to do was win by a minimum of 12 points. We field our top 4, and Katherine Hunt, who was on good form after winning 3 of her previous 4 matches, stepped in at 5 giving us as strong a team as possible. There was almost a disastrous start for Tynemouth as the 3 and 4 string matches had just gotten underway only for their team captain to realise they were playing in the wrong order! Luckily only a few points had been played and after a quick swap over we were underway after the false start! Captain Helen got Eldon off to the best start possible, beating her opponent 3-1, but Kat was beaten by the same scoreline at no.3. With the tie in the balance, the next match was pivotal as if Tynemouth won our title hopes would be over. It was Katherine who would bear the brunt of this pressure and although she played well, against an opponent who had gone unbeaten in the 2nd half of the season, Tynemouth prevailed winning it 3-1. Nevertheless, we fought through this disappointment and Michelle beat her opponent, who had beaten her in their previous match-up, by a score of 3 games to 1 and Grace put on an exceptional performance to win 3-0 at one. This victory was, sorely, in vain as Tynemouth 2 were crowned division 2 champions by the narrowest of margins.

Overall, we finished in 2nd place with 156 points, just 4 agonising points off of top spot, with 8 wins from 11 matches. This season is another step in the right direction for Eldon Ladies as, even though we finished in the same position last season, we picked up an extra 26 points having played 1 less game and only lost 3 matches in this team campaign! We look forward to building on this and making another title push next season!

Player of the Season

Grace Goodchild - Won 6 of 7 matches (86% win ratio) and was awarded Northumbria Ladies Division 2 Player of the Season!

Honourable Mentions

Shef Popat - Won 4 of 5 matches (80% win ratio)

Kat Beeson - Won 6 of 8 matches (75% win ratio) after returning from a season-long injury

Helen Dobinson - Won 4 of 5 2nd half matches

-Adam Coates