Captain Holly Mowling hailed the newcomers introduced to the Shropshire ladies side at the LTA’s Winter County Cup – while Alex Parry, captain of the men’s team, insisted his side will come back stronger following a challenging weekend.
The new additions handed the opportunity to impress for the ladies team made the most of their chance to shine as Shropshire consolidated their place in Group 5A, finishing third in the familiar surroundings of The Shrewsbury Club.
Meanwhile, the county men’s team – a year after the thrill of sealing promotion, at Sunderland, to the highest level they have ever played – were relegated from Group 4A after what promised to be a tough weekend at Southampton proved exactly that.
With an eye to the future, the ladies handed senior County Cup debuts to Hanna Cadwallader, Sarah Willacy and 13-year-old Tamzin Pountney, as they joined long-serving captain Holly, Chloe Hughes, Cheryl Evans and Sue Dunn in the team.
Captain Mowling said: “Having a new injection of players in the team was exciting. The future of Shropshire ladies tennis is now starting to look really promising after many years of not having any new players coming through.
“I feel it is important to get the younger generation in to start giving them a chance to gain some experience for future events. We have a great mix of youth and experience in the team.”
Shropshire opened in style with a 9-0 victory over Suffolk, with Cheryl and Chloe both coming through tough singles matches to ensure the county enjoyed a 100 per cent start.
Day two saw a 6-3 defeat at the hands of Herefordshire & Worcestershire. Shropshire were beaten in the final set of three of the matches to underline just how close it was. Sarah and Tamzin played brilliantly in their singles matches before narrowly missing out in the decisive third set.
Chloe was the county’s only singles winner at No. 1, with Shropshire’s other wins both coming in the doubles as Sue and Hanna, followed by Holly and Cheryl, gained impressive results.
Gloucestershire’s line up had depth right the way through, with Hanna proving to be Shropshire’s only singles winner, before then also going on to win Shropshire’s second rubber, partnering Sue to a convincing victory in the doubles.
Captain Mowling added: “Hanna Cadwallader came away from the weekend winning five out of her six matches, an amazing achievement on her debut, despite being injured all weekend. Her success is testament to her true determination.
“Sue Dunn won all three of her doubles matches, also a great achievement. Sarah Willacy fought hard and played brilliantly on her debut, while Tamzin Pountney, at 13, showed just how talented she is and how she is the future of this team.”
Shropshire’s men’s team made the long trip to Southampton in Group 4A with Tomas Cores Birch handed his debut in a young side led by Alex Parry and also featuring Ed Gibbs, Matt Lee, Luke Henley, Jordan Evans, Tom Loxley and Roan Jones.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight were the first day opponents. Tom enjoyed an excellent singles victory as Shropshire were beaten 8-1, with Matt, who was beaten in three sets by the big serving Jake Norris, Roan and Luke, who was defeated by British Tour winner Liam Hignett, all competing well in their matches.
Next up was Buckinghamshire, another extremely strong side with 1.1 ratings through to No. 5. Roan, the youngest member of the Shropshire side, gained an excellent victory, but the Buckinghamshire players were just too strong in all areas as the county went down 8-1, a hard result to take given the effort put in.
The last day saw Shropshire face Dorset, another very strong side with 1.1 rated players running down to No. 5, including Toby Samuel, who reached the doubles semi-finals at Junior Wimbledon earlier this year.
Roan again stepped up to beat a similarly aged opponent in straight sets. Both Tom and Alex fought hard to try to help Shropshire stay in contention, but both were beaten 6-4 in the third set of their matches. Ed gained an excellent win at No. 2, before the Wimbledon quality of Samuel proved too strong for Luke.
That meant the doubles were a must win for Shropshire, and they won two of the three matches, but were ultimately pipped 5-4, a result which meant relegation.
Captain Parry said: “We will come back stronger from this experience. For our players to be exposed to such a good level of men’s tennis at a young age can only be good for the county.
“I knew it would be a big ask for a small county such as ourselves to remain in such a strong division, especially if the other teams brought out their big guns, which they did.
“But we will go again next year in the Summer County Cup, where we want to push for promotion after going close this year.”