The Saxons, sponsored by the University of Suffolk, had gone into this final league fixture with an outside chance of qualifying for this week’s Ultimate Showdown final at Milton Keynes. Head Coach Anthony Clarke had gone for broke and adjusted the women’s line up to give the chance of an upset against a Nottingham line up full of international quality, and boasting the league’s star player Chris Adcock.
The gamble however, depended on a strong first match for Julie Finne Ipsen in the women’s singles to give the Saxons some momentum. The young Saxon however was unable to overcome an inform LiLian Yang, who played her power play superbly in a tense tussle, and limited the Dane’s power game with some excellent net play. It wasn’t Finne Ipsen’s night, as she missed out on the tight finishes, to go down 9-8, in the fourth game and lose her 100%-win record. Finne Ipsen has however played superbly for Saxons all season, and she remains a crowd favourite to return next season.
The men’s doubles saw Andy Ellis and Sean Vendy taking on the powerful Nottingham pair of Chris Adcock and Poland’s Adam Cwalina. This event included the 27 stroke rally of the evening with Ellis and Vendy demonstrating fantastic defence before claiming a great point. Tight games throughout, saw the Saxons pair hang in the game doggedly and claim a well- deserved third game. The class, and precision, however of the two Olympians across the net, gave Nottingham the edge and a 2-0 match night lead.
The women’s doubles saw Lilian Yang return with Nottingham talent Jess Pugh. They raced to a 2-0 game lead against Sarah Walker and Fee Teng Liew before the Saxons pair lifted the home crowd with a gutsy comeback, and used a classic power play in the fifth set 3-0 tie break. Walker has excelled in the women’s doubles this season and her young partner also grew in confidence as the match progressed.
Joel Douse always had the toughest game of the night on paper in the singles, and despite a valiant effort the youngster, coached by Nathan Robertson, couldn’t break the consistency of Kieran Merrilees. The Nottingham singles man is always a solid performer on the badminton circuit, and didn’t allow Douse too many opportunities to use his big overhead game. A straight sets win for the Nottingham man gave Nottingham the match night victory.
The season for Douse and fellow youngster Johnnie Torjussen has been about learning and development, and they will have benefitted immensely from this season with the Saxons.
Nottingham wrapped up the points with a 3-1event win for Adcock, and the experienced Russian Nina Vislova, against Saxons scratch pair of Sean Vendy and Sarah Walker. Adcock in particular is a majestic sight when in full flow and while Saxons fans were undoubtedly hoping for a better result, they certainly witnessed a class act in the GB star.
So the season ended, with Nottingham taking the honour and going on to face Derby in what will be an intriguing AJ Bell NBL Ultimate Showdown. For Suffolk Saxons a highly creditable season of 3 wins and 3 losses, a season of drama and excitement, and importantly a new sporting event for the people of Suffolk to get behind and enjoy. The Suffolk army of loyal supporters have certainly inspired the team and taken the NBL by storm.
The packed Corn Exchange crowd stood to give the Saxon team an ovation to be treasured at the match end. Suffolk has found a new set of sporting heroes, even in defeat. Roll on the 2017/18 season - the Saxons are coming!
Matchnight 7 Result: Suffolk Saxons 1 University of Nottingham 4
Julie Finne Ipsen lost 1-3 to Li Lian Yang 8-9 / 9-3 / 7-9 / 8-9
Sean Vendy/Andy Ellis(c) lost 1-3 to Chris Adcock (c)/Adam Cwalina 7-9 / 4-9 / 9-6 / 6-9
Sarah Walker/Fee Teng Liew won 3-2 to Jess Pugh/Li Lian Yang 5-9 / 5-9 / 9-5 / 9-4 / 3-0
Joel Douse lost 0-3 to Kieren Merrilees 6-9 / 2-9 / 4-9
Sean Vendy/Sarah Walker lost 1-3 to Chris Adcock (c)/Nina Vislova 8-9 / 9-8 / 1-9 / 6-9