Team Derby, fielding three Rio Olympians on the night including Marcus Ellis, GB ‘s bronze medallist, are on paper the strongest side in the NBL. Yet in an evening of more drama and excitement, Suffolk Saxons almost pulled off a sensational victory at the death in the deciding set of a very tight, but high quality men’s doubles event.
The narrow defeat for Saxons still keeps hopes alive of a play-off final place on 8 February in Milton Keynes. Results elsewhere will need to go Saxons way, but it does set up a sensational twist to the final home match of the season against Nottingham, on 6th February.
In the opening event of the evening, Sean Vendy and Fee Teng Liew had the tough task of facing Olympians Marcus Elllis, and Lauren Smith, and while pulling a great game out of the bag, the young Saxons pair were pressured into a few too many errors by a quality Derby mixed pair. The 3-1 scoreline reflected that extra experience of the Team Derby pair.
Stepping up for the women’s singles was Saxon’s Julie Finne Ipsen against a high class opponent in Lyddia Cheeah from Malaysia. Suffolk Saxons’s young Dane, is unbeaten in the AJ Bell NBL this season, and is a great favourite with the fans. In an accomplished performance Finne Ipsen dismantled her opponent’s game, with powe , precision, and a great game plan. The Saxons’ fans, with a good contingent of University of Suffolk students in the arena, rose to acknowledge their hero at the end of the superb 3-0 victory. Their hero would return later in the womens’s doubles to cement a second victory, with Sarah Walker, and maintain her 100% win record, but in very different circumstances.
Before that classic women’s match came the men’s singles with young Saxons talent Johnnie Torjussen up against Olympian and Irish number one, Scott Evans. Torjussen pretty much threw his full game into this match and put in an outstanding effort, holding chances to take either of the two opening games, before narrowly losing 3-0 and giving Team Derby a 2-1 matchnight lead. A win in either of the first two sets, and perhaps a little more experience on key points, may well have changed the direction of the match. Nonetheless a great performance and learning to lock away for the young Saxon.
The women’s doubles was billed as the match of the evening, and it fully lived up to expectation, with two unbeaten pairs this season facing up. Julie Finne Ipsen and Sarah Walker managed to find themeselves 2-0 down in games, cruelly losing the second set on a power play. However as has been the game at other times the season the Saxons pair gradually work their opponents down and pressurise mistakes. Walker’s switches from defence to attack were outstanding, and a perfect foil for Julie Finne Ipsen’s game. Taking the match to a tie break had an inevitability once the pair had claimed the third set and changed the momentum of the match. The tie break was tense but the Saxons pair, as has been the case all season, seem have the answers along with a great all round game.
And so the match would rest on the mens doubles with Saxons captain Andy Ellis and Sean Vendy taking on Marcus Ellis and Nico Ruponen to decide the match. In an incredibly close and tense event we saw some of the best defensive episodes and long rallies of the evening. Andy Ellis was forcing his way forward, taking chances to take the shuttle early, while Vendy pulled off some remarkable saves and smashes. Each of the sets could easily have gone to either pair.
Roared on by the vocal Saxons fans, Ellis and Vendy forced a tie break decider, but a couple of net tumbles just went against the Saxons as the Derby pair clinched the tie break 5-2 and the match.
Anthony Clark was understandably proud of his players again, and will urge them to pull out all the stops in the final home league fixture of the season at the Corn Exchange on February 6th. Chis Adcock will be leading a strong Nottingham side that day, in what looks to be a treat for Saxons fans, and another full house.
Tickets are available from the Corn Exchange, Ipswich http://bit.ly/2jUIk7r
Matchnight 6 Result: Team Derby 3 Suffolk Saxons 2
Sean Vendy/Fee Teng Liew lost to Marcus Ellis/Lauren Smith,3-1 (9-4 / 8-9 / 9-7 / 9-0)
Julie Finne Ipsen beat Lyddia Cheah Yi Yu 3-0 (6-9 / 5-9 / 5-9)
Johnnie Torjussen lost to Scott Evans 3-0 (9-8 / 9-7 / 9-6)
Julie Finne Ipsen/Sarah Walker beat Kate Robertshaw/Lauren Smith 3-2 (9-4 / 9-7 / 7-9 / 6-9 / 0-3)
Andy Ellis/Sean Vendy lost to Marcus Ellis/Nico Ruponen 3-2 (9-8 / 8-9 / 9-7 / 8-9 / 5-2)