Having pulled off mission impossible 2 at the end of last season to remain in the Premier Division of the County Championships, the Warwickshire Senior 1st team started their 2018-19 season by travelling to Cippenham Table Tennis Club for the first weekend of matches. The team selected included Laurence Sweeney, Adrian Pilgrim, James Ward, Paul Lenormand, Kate Hughes and Rachel Pilgrim. Hughes was acting captain in the absence of the usual Senior Captain Ian Ferguson.
V Leicestershire: won 6-4
The first match for the Warwickshire Bears was against newly promoted Leicestershire. Fortunately for Warwickshire, the Leicestershire number 1 Chris Rogers was unable to play due to injury. Loz Sweeney started off for Warwickshire against Georgios Briskolas, but was unable to find his timing losing 1-3. James Ward equalised the match score with a 3-0 win against Reza Kiani. Rachel Pilgrim played next against Karen Smith (a top 5 England Veteran player); who has been a very consistent player for decades. Rachel fought back from 1-2 down, only to lose 7-11 in the 5th set. Adrian Pilgrim equalised once again for Warwickshire beating Dave Gannon 3-0, which was followed up by a 3-1 win for Warwickshire female number 1 Kate Hughes, against awkward pimpled player Daria Dziebicka (11-1, 11-5, 7-11, 12-10). Warwickshire increased their lead to 4-2 when James Ward beat Briskolas 3-0 (11-4, 11-6, 11-6), an excellent win for the ex-Warwick University student. Warwickshire were then on the losing end of two 5-set matches. Rachel lost out 13-15 in the 5th set to Dziebicka; whilst Sweeney lost 10-12 in the decider to Gannon. Hughes was up next against Smith. Hughes took the first set 14-12, playing a very steady game, without her usual rushed shots, and she never looked back. She won the next two sets 11-7, 11-3 to put Warwickshire back in the lead. Adrian Pilgrim, the recently crowned Veteran Midlands Master over 50s Champion, then demolished Kiani 3-0 to give Warwickshire their first two points of their campaign. This was a great 6-4 win for the bears.
V Yorkshire: lost 2-8
Sunday morning’s opponents were Yorkshire, the team who had finished in the runners up position last season. Warwickshire did slightly better than last season’s 1-9 loss, with a 2-8 defeat. Kate Hughes convincingly beat Zoe Cheeseman 3-0 (11-5, 11-2, 11-7), a win which Rachel Pilgrim matched 3-2; fighting back from 0-2 down (8-11, 6-11, 11-8, 14-12, 11-8). Paul Lenormand was exceptionally unlucky in his two matches, losing in the 5th set to veteran player Richard Lightowler. Paul played many attacking and counter-attacking shots to lead 2-0 against top 50 Senior Simon Noutch, but the Yorkshireman fought bad in a top quality match to also beat the Warwickshire player in the 5th set. Adrian Pilgrim lost 1-3 to Noutch, similarly Ward lost 1-3 to Lightowler. Hughes fought back from 0-2 down to level the match at 2-2 with Yorkshire number 1 Gauri Duhan, only to lose out 10-12 in the 5th set. The Warwickshire team could have done with a little luck going their way, however, their performances demonstrated the determination and commitment of the team.
V Nottinghamshire: lost 4-6
The final match for the Bears was against Nottinghamshire. Loz Sweeney played an excellent match to defeat Jason Ramage 3-1 (11-13, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9). Paul Lenormand doubled the lead for Warwickshire by defeating Trevor Kerry 3-1. Top 10 England female player Evie Collier defeated Rachel Pilgrim 3-0 to pull one back for Nottinghamshire. Adrian Pilgrim played a fantastic match against Naphat Boonyaprapa, and led 2-0, only for the England Junior to fight back to defeat Pilgrim 8-11 in the 5th set. Despite the match being a bit scrappy, Hughes defeated Amy Humphreys 3-0 to give Warwickshire a 3-2 lead. However, the next four matches went the way of Nottinghamshire; Ramage defeating Lenormand 3-0; Humphreys defeating Pilgrim 3-1, Boonyaprapa defeating Sweeney 3-0 and Collier defeating Hughes 3-1. Although Warwickshire were 3-6 down at this point, and had not managed to pick up any points in the match, Adrian Pilgrim beat Trevor Kerry 3-0, knowing that every set could count at the end of the second weekend. The final score was 4-6 to Nottinghamshire.
Well done to all the Warwickshire players for their hard work and effort, and supporting one another throughout every match. There was a very positive team spirit over the weekend. The team will play the remaining matches on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd February at Wood Green Academy. The team are hoping to pick up a few more wins and points in order to remain in the Premier Division once more!
Laurence Sweeney: 1/4
Adrian Pilgrim: 3/6
James Ward: 2/4
Paul Lenormand: 1/4
Kate Hughes: 4/6
Rachel Pilgrim: 1/6