Shropshire captains look to the future after competing in 125th LTA Summer County Cup
After heading to the coast to compete in the 125th LTA Summer County Cup, Shropshire’s team captains Holly Mowling and Alex Parry are both encouraged about the future of Shropshire tennis.
The county's ladies team, having played some fine tennis in all three of their matches, saw their promotion hopes ended by defeat against Dorset on the final day at Cromer.
There was also final-day frustration for Shropshire’s men’s team at Havant as, after also producing some excellent tennis in a strong group throughout the week, they experienced the disappointment of relegation.
The Summer County Cup, one of the oldest competitions in the annual British domestic sporting calendar, was making a welcome return, with hundreds of tennis players representing their counties across the country following the cancellation of last year’s event owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year's event saw 44 counties across Great Britain compete to earn promotion and avoid relegation at 13 grass court venues around the country.
Each tie featured three doubles pairs taking to the court to compete for points.
With two teams withdrawing from their group, Shropshire’s ladies team found themselves in a four-team division, Group 6, at Cromer Lawn Tennis & Squash Association on the Norfolk coast.
Shropshire enjoyed the perfect start on the opening day as they secured an excellent 9-0 victory over Staffordshire.
Day two saw Shropshire beaten 6-3 by a strong North Wales side, the eventual group winners.
That meant Shropshire’s promotion challenge went into the last day as they faced Dorset.
Shropshire knew victory would see them promoted, but they were just edged out in a number of very close matches as they were eventually beaten 7-2, with the south coast county promoted instead as Shropshire finished in third place.
Captain Holly Mowling was joined in the county side by Jo Bowen, Hanna Cadwallader, Immie Cowper, Cheryl Evans, Mia Loney and Sarah Willacy.
Holly said: “With two teams dropping out of our division before we started, it meant our week was cut short.
“It also meant we knew that we couldn't get relegated but that we had a good chance at going for promotion.
"We made the perfect start against Staffordshire. Going into day two, we knew we were up against it, facing a strong North Wales team. We were all able to beat their third pair, but their first and second pairs were too strong.
“We knew we needed to win our final match against Dorset to gain promotion.
"We had some very close matches and it looked like we would go into the final round level at 3-3, but unfortunately some tie breaks didn't go our way and we ended up 5-1 down. There was some great tennis played throughout.”
Holly added: "Hanna Cadwallader and Sarah Willacy made their county week debut and both played some excellent tennis as they showed great determination.
"It's great to have an injection of new players into the team and we have a good mix of youth and experience. We now look forward to the Winter County Cup in December.”
Shropshire's men’s team, meanwhile, made the long trip to the south coast to play in Group 6 at Havant’s Avenue Lawn Tennis & Squash Club.
Captain Alex Parry led a side featuring Luke Henley, Matthew Lee, Mohamed Morsi, Matthew Jones, Jordan Evans, Thomas Loxley and Roan Jones, who recently played in Wimbledon’s Junior Championships.
Just like the county’s ladies team, the men enjoyed a fine start with a 6-3 victory over Wiltshire.
After a 7-2 defeat against Hereford & Worcester on day two, Shropshire responded well to impressively beat Cumbria 5-4, the only defeat they suffered all week on their way to gaining promotion.
Day four saw Shropshire lose 6-3 to eventual group winners Avon.
That meant Shropshire and Staffordshire went into their final-day meeting knowing the winners would stay up, with Staffordshire emerging 7-2 victors, which meant Shropshire ended in fifth position.
Alex said: “We went to Havant with a strong side and when we turned up we realised that everybody was around the same level. There were some very strong sides in our division.
“We got off to a really good start against Wiltshire as we won 6-3.
“The County Cup format has changed this year, with the third set now a first to 10 points tie-break shoot-out. There’s some pros and cons to it as we found out.
"The good thing is your body feels a little bit better at the end of the week from the matches not being so long, but the other side of it is you don’t necessarily get the flow of a match because the third set is almost a throw of a coin and you can lose all momentum.
“We were 2-1 up against Hereford & Worcester on the second day after the first round of matches and were looking strong.
"Then we lost five of the last six matches 10-8 in a third set points tie-break. It was literally down to two points in each match, so it was really tough for the guys to take.
“We responded well to beat Cumbria, who were a useful side, 5-4.
“Avon were next, a really strong side and unbeaten at the time we played them. We lost 6-3 as we were beaten again in a couple of tie-breakers, so it could have gone either way.
“We played Staffordshire on the final day to decide who would get relegated. We sat on two wins, Staffordshire on one win, but due to them beating us and winning three more rubbers throughout the week, they stayed up.
“It was a tough one to take. The guys put in maximum effort, but it’s just the way it goes sometimes.
“We have been promoted on occasions in the past like this, but the rub of the green this time meant we have gone down.
“Needless to say, we’ll try and get back up next year, and I believe the strength of the squad has some real longevity to it.
“With the youth we have in the side and everybody else being under the age of 26, it will hopefully stand us in good stead for many more successful years to come.”
Pictured: The Shropshire ladies team at Cromer, from left: Holly Mowling (captain), Immie Cowper, Jo Bowen, Mia Loney, Sarah Willacy, Hanna Cadwallader and Cheryl Evans.