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Loughborough Sport narrowly miss out on National Badminton League glory

After an incredible 5-0 victory over Surrey Smashers in the semi-finals, Loughborough Sport came agonisingly close to taking the National Badminton League title, but in the end succumbed to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Team Derby.

Qualifying for Finals Day in fourth place meant Loughborough Sport were the underdogs, but after victories in their previous two league matches the team were on a roll. This momentum continued in the semi-final as they dispatched league toppers Surrey with consummate ease to book their final spot against their East Midlands rivals.

The first match of the afternoon session saw men’s doubles pair Greg Mairs and Peter Briggs taking on European Champion Chris Coles and world ranked number 10 Andy Ellis. Team Derby came out all guns blazing and in the end were just too strong for student Mairs and alumus Briggs, however the 3-0 score line was probably an unfair reflection of proceedings.

Next up was the women’s doubles where sports scholar Chloe Birch teamed up with the experienced Jenny Wallwork. They took on reigning u19 national champion Lydia Powell and her England teammate Tiara Samuel with the aim of levelling the score 1-1. Birch and Wallwork controlled the game from the outset, racing into a 1-0 lead, before going on to dispatch the Derby duo 3-0. Afterwards Birch commented:

“We’re really happy with how we played and we knew we could dominate that game and we did just that. We needed to get that point for the team as it was a crucial one and hopefully we can carry that momentum on through the rest of the match.

“Behind the scenes in Loughborough a lot of people have put a lot of effort and time into where we are today and I think its great credit to us and everyone who’s put the hard work and effort in the background and doesn’t always get the praise they deserve.”

The third match of the evening saw Swedish star Henri Hurskainen take on England number 1 Rajiv Ouseph. In a spectacular match that saw a number of very close calls, Hurskainen suffered his first defeat of the NBL season. Tied at 2-2, Ouseph stole the win in the final game to restore Derby’s advantage.

Next up were mixed doubles pair Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith and they took to the court against former world number 1 Gails Emms MBE and Martin Campbell, knowing anything less than a win wouldn’t be good enough. With this in mind, both Ellis and Smith played some wonderful badminton to take a well-earned 3-0 victory to tie the match at 2-2. Of the victory, Smith said:

“It was really good. I don’t get to play mixed doubles very often so it’s quite enjoyable to do something different and I’d do it again! We’ve been great as a team, as even though the season started really badly we’ve all pulled together and kept our foot on the gas; I’ve really enjoyed it.”

That meant it was down to the final game of the day, the women’s singles. On court for Loughborough Sport was Linda Zetchiri and she faced the task of stopping European Bronze medalist Karen Schnasse of Team Derby. It was a hard fought game, but in the end Schnasse ran out a 3-0 winner to ensure that her team lifted the inaugural NBL title.

If you want to see more world-class badminton at Loughborough University in 2015/16 as Loughborough Sport go for the NBL title, sign up now for ticket information by clicking here