For the fourth year running the Dane Court Grammar School’s Under 16 Girls’ table tennis team have qualified for the Regional Finals of the Butterfly School Team Championships. This time though they went one better than the last two years by winning the zonal tournament rather than getting to the next stage as runners up.
Competing in Zone 7 for schools in the South East outside of London the team had an early start for the journey to the Morpeth School, Tower Hamlets on Sunday, January 14. In a six-team contest where the schools were put into two groups of three, Dane Court began with a fixture against Monk’s Walk from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
Their number one player, Samadhi Udamulla, had the highest England ranking of all the girls playing in this event (number 23 for the Cadet Girls), and she duly won both of her matches.
However these were the only two victories for Monk’s Walk as Dane Court recorded a 6 -2 triumph. Willingdon Community School, Eastbourne were Dane Court’s second group opponents and in this match the Willingdon number one, Joelle Bennett, (England ranked number 35) also won both her games but not before Dane Court’s leading player, Catherine Banks, gave her a real scare in easily the best game of the tournament. Both girls played some brilliant attacking table tennis with Joelle saving two match points and winning the fifth leg 13-11. Again, though, the Dane Court team demonstrated its superior all-round strength by winning five of the other six games to win by a 5-3 score.
Next up was the Semi Final against the runners up of the other group, Parmiter’s School from Garston, Hertfordshire. Here the Dane Court girls really began to hit top form and ran out 8-0 winners to book a final against the champions of Essex, Chelmsford County High School. This final match saw Dane Court with too much skill and experience for their younger opponents, who battled courageously but were defeated in the end 7-1.
All four Dane Court girls produced excellent performances. The most experienced, Catherine Banks, led from the front, and lost just twice to highly ranked England players, both of whom she took sets from. Neither the number two player, Annabel Cole, or the number three, Tayla Bayley have played much table tennis this year and yet Annabel won six out of her eight matches, while Tayla was easily the best number three player of any team and remained undefeated throughout the whole day.
The team’s newest and youngest recruit, Beth Brenchley, from Year 9, was competing at this level of the sport for the first time. She won six of her eight matches, often against older opponents, and showed both the necessary commitment and technique to win several very close games.
Now the team look forward to the Southern Regional Tournament at Bristol on February 3.