Both Shropshire teams underlined their potential with encouraging performances which impressed their captains at the LTA’S 18U County Cup.
Both the county’s girls and boys teams finished third in their groups following impressive victories in their final matches to ensure they will remain in the same divisions in the prestigious annual national competition next year.
The Shropshire girls competed in Group 6a played on the indoor courts at Ellesmere College.
They were pipped 5-4 in a close encounter with Devon on the opening day. Shropshire were then beaten 8-1 by a strong Berkshire side, the eventual group winners, before responding in style to get the better of Isle of Man 8-1 in their final match.
Team captain Lauren Banks said: “The girls were an absolute credit to the county and made my first captaincy an incredibly enjoyable experience.
“The weekend started off with a tough battle against Devon. After the singles we were 4-2 down, with some brilliant tennis being played and a couple of extremely close three set matches. In the doubles we narrowly missed out, winning two of our three matches.
“Imani Shah and Alexandra Strauss put together an incredible performance to win in three sets, as did Amy Dannatt and Tamzin Pountney. Amy Humphries and Imogen Dudson put up a great fight against Devon’s very strong number one pair. It was an extremely positive day with lots to learn from.
“Day two saw the girls compete well against a very strong Berkshire team. Despite it being an 8-1 defeat, the girls played some fantastic tennis and the scorelines were so so close as they battled until the last point. There were some stand out performances with Alexandra Strauss winning in three sets, while Amy Dannatt just missed out but displayed some great fight in her last year in the age category. Amy Dean and Clara Hill were also fighting for every point in their doubles.
“The final day saw us beat Isle of Man, losing just one match. I was so glad the girls managed to get a win on the final day as they played such brilliant tennis and absolutely deserved it. With such a young team doing so well, it gives me confidence for the coming years and we have a lot to be proud of.”
Shropshire’s boys travelled to Birmingham’s Edgbaston Priory to take their place in Group 5a and also finished third.
Having opened with an 8-1 defeat against an impressive Bukinghamshire side, the eventual group winners, Shropshire were unfortunate to lose 6-3 against Avon on day two. Just like the county girls, they managed to end on a winning note by holding their nerve to beat Wiltshire 5-4 in an exciting match.
Captain Luke Henley said: “The last day against Wiltshire was very tense as it was 4-4 before Tomas Cores Birch and Tom Loxley won the deciding doubles. They were 6-2, 5-2 up and then 6-4 down in a second set tie-break. They saved various set points and eventually won it 9-7.
“It was a very different feeling being the captain instead of playing, so it was pretty stressful, especially with it coming down to the last match of the day.
“The first two days were tough, but the boys did really well and I couldn’t have asked for any more.
“On the first day, we lost five matches in three sets. Two of those were 7-5 in the third, one was on a match tie-break, with the other two from a set up, so when you break it down and look at the details they battled really well against Buckinghamshire, the best team in the division by some way. On another day, if three of four of those close matches had gone the other way, you could have potentially been looking at a win.”
As for his first experience as team captain, he added: “I’ve been alongside some of the boys as a team mate and this time I was having to organise them. Tom Loxley travels with the county men’s team, as has Roan Jones and Tomas Cores Birch last time out at Southampton.
“It all worked out well and everyone battled really hard and gave as much as they could. The boys will be a year older and a year better next year, so there’s lots to look forward to.”