By Matt Roberts
One of the biggest upsets of the BUCS Varsity day came at Maiden Castle sports hall as Durham’s women’s badminton 1sts overcame a strong Loughborough outfit on Wednesday afternoon. The Palatinates, who hadn’t won a match all season, edged the encounter 5-3 as it all came down to the final set of the final match.
The foundations for the victory were laid in the first round of matches. Durham’s top two players, Joshwey Bong and Pippa English, won their singles matches in straight sets to put Durham 2-0 ahead. Pippa manoeuvred the shuttle with astonishing accuracy, finding acute angles to keep her opponent off balance. Joshwey, meanwhile, recovered from a few missed serves to hit a number of quick smashes and it was this effortless power that helped her win so convincingly.
However, as was expected Loughborough, who sit second in the Premier North division, responded well to going behind and they pegged Durham back in the doubles. The visiting side won both matches in two sets, including a nervy 27-25 23-21 win over Jessica Moore and Jessica Coldwell.
Durham knew that if they were going to have any chance of winning they had to perform well in the reverse singles matches. Pippa ruthlessly dispatched her opposite number, winning the first 17 points in her 21-3 21-11 victory that put Durham 3-2 ahead. On the adjacent court however, ex-International Joshwey was not having things all her own way. After winning the first set 21-14, she found herself on the receiving end of some fine stroke play from Loughborough’s number one. Joshwey dropped the second set 16-21 and was behind as they changed ends midway through the deciding set. Nevertheless, the Durham top speed found an extra gear, exercising her experience and holding her nerve to eventually come through 21-18.
Joshwey may not have been happy with her performance but her win was crucial and it put the Palatinates on the verge of overall victory at 4-2. Heading into the reverse doubles fixtures, the home side were guaranteed at least a draw and knew that just one upset would be enough to seal all three points.
After Moore and Coldwell were beaten 14-21 12-21, the whole contest came down to Caroline Brown and Olivia Trevor. The Durham second pair defied their underdog status, playing with confidence and consistency to surge ahead. After winning the first set, they survived Loughborough’s second set comeback and won the final stanza 21-8. With that, the Palatinates emerged as 5-3 winners.
Following the win, a crucial one for Durham in their bid to avoid relegation, captain Jessica Coldwell spoke to Palatinate. She was understandably delighted: “It was great to have Pippa and Jess Moore back from injury, they were on form. The win means we now only need to secure another two wins to be clear of the relegation zone. Spirits are high and sights are set on achieving that goal.”
Photograph: Matt Roberts