In a straight shoot-out Essex Trinity went toe-to-toe with Norfolk Ladies to fight it out for second place in Women’s Div3 South and, more importantly, a place in the play-offs. The loser would get nothing.
The build-up to the match for Trinity had been fractious – injuries to Niederquelle, Andronescu and A.Miller and non-availability of M.Miller, Husk and Bartlett meant there were only five fit players. Coach Frith took the only option and emergency registered Boswells Junior Emily Bell to be able to complete the fixture.
Trinity’s preparation for the match was as tough and rigorous as ever. Plus middles – Mayes and Ambrosio – had to undergo the learning curve of playing back court as a Libby is not permitted when fielding an emergency registered player. Things were not ideal, confidence was shaky, but Trinity were not going to roll over.
Going into the match Norfolk Ladies were clear favourites as they had comprehensively beaten Trinity in the previous league match 3-0. That had been back in February and was Trinity’s low point of the season – a tired looking team losing their focus and lacking team spirit. As such, Trinity were the not favourites going into this key fixture. However, coach Frith felt Trinity were a different beast this time around. The team remembered that Trinity had not even existed 9 months previous and that win or lose Trinity would still be a team and the ladies would still have each other.
As the first set meandered its way to the first mandatory time-out, Trinity looked casually but utterly in control. With Williams hitting bombs from the right and Green and Bell serving tough Trinity gave the impression of a team completely comfortable with the challenges from across the net. And so the set went with a comfortable 25-17 win.
Set 2 and again Trinity looked very comfortable. However, their efficacy from the service line was replaced with inaccuracy and sloppiness. The hard work of service receive, defence and attack was excellent but utterly undone by an inability to serve in. The set went down to the wire but Trinity got edged out 25-23.
Set 3 saw Trinity not only go off the rails, but go beyond the sidings and slide into a muddy field far, far away. Nothing went well in this game. Tension gripped the team and quality disappeared. A 25-11 defeat was a justified hiding.
Going into set 4, Trinity’s backs were against the wall. After a brilliant start to the season going undefeated in their first six games, is this how it was to end? The ladies breathed it in. Coach Frith reminded the team that it had been his privilege to coach such a wonderful and motivated group – at this time the result didn’t matter, the play-offs didn’t matter. What mattered was the team was there, everyone understood their team-mates strengths and weaknesses, and that the team was still tight.
Knowing this, Trinity stepped back on court for Set 4. Rustiness from a poor set 3 still pervaded our play but the quality was beginning to stir again. Lambert was excellent and showed the speed and quality which are the hallmarks of her game. Ambrosio kept playing tough and started winning points. Mayes was utterly excellent – showing a skill level, dynamism and on-court maturity which took Trinity to the next level. With Green distributing cleanly and smartly, Trinity began to click again….and Norfolk began to tense up. Close points began to go Trinity’s way and from being 15-11 down they fought back for a valiant 25-22 set win.
Trinity and Norfolk’s respective seasons, thus, came down to one last set to 15. As play got underway, Trinity quickly established a lead. Their never-say-die attitude was making for some very long rallies. The girls knew this could be their last match for nearly six months and played like they wanted to remember it. A Trinity error and winner alike was always greeted with a hug from team-mates. Such was Trinity’s spirit and belief in each other that if Norfolk were going to win this match then they would have to knock down all six of the Trinity girls. As it is Norfolk did not have that ability and Trinity take the set 15-10 and thus completed the biggest win in their short history.