Over the years table tennis generally has had mixed times with regard to female players, sometimes having goodly numbers to underpin team strengths while at other times numbers have been exceedingly thin on the ground. Leicestershire County teams, especially just underneath the top teams, are struggling at the moment.
The Veterans Second team highlighted this in their final four matches when a clash of events meant that for one of the two days they were without a female player which means giving three sets away. Something you simply cannot do at this level.
The three men representing the team for the first two matches fought hard but could not quite get on terms. After losing 8-2 to a strong Lancs the team had Reza Kiani and Richard Hayes both winning their two singles, but they needed just one more for a share and lost 6-4 against Yorkshire 2nds.
Shirley Pickering was available for the final two matches, but they were against two strong teams despite her being able to combine with Hayes to win a mixed doubles against Northants they went down 7-3.
They could not have fought harder against Staffs with the first eight sets being shared before the final two got away. Martin Brunning, the third man in the team, unluckily lost his final singles in five for another 6-4 defeat.
The one ray of sunshine is that the entries for girls in this season’s school events has seen a very marked rise and Catherine Lv winning the under 11 national title has already had an additional impact.
But there is a very big hole in the older age groups and, while some of these juniors will be able to play at senior level before long, even while still juniors – for instance Roma Morjaria has been performing very well in Division Three of the senior league – there is a long way to go before they reach the over 40 level enabling them to play in the veterans.
Jane Rogers has started a ladies only coaching session at Knighton Park which has made a slow but sure start, but it really does need a concerted effort to recruit new players, both men and women, but especially the latter as many have played socially at some level and it is surprising what sort of standard can be reached with the right sort of support.
Not everyone needs to, or is able to, start before their teens.
After a wait of 45 years a Leicestershire representative has won an individual National Schools title when Catherine Lv [correct spelling] representing Leicester Grammar School and coached at Knighton Park TTC by Shirley Pickering, took Wolverhampton by storm to win the Girls Under 11 event.
It was way back in 1977 that Chris Rogers, currently near the top individually in Division One of the Leicester League, won the Under 18 title with his sister, Karen Rogers (now Smith) also in the top division, winning the girls’ equivalent two years before when superceding Anita Stevenson another player from this county.
Having progressed through the County finals this event was played in groups initially and Catherine won hers by winning all four matches. A bye in the next round took her to the quarter finals where she defeated Bedfordshire’s Violet-Lily Marquis 3-0.
The semi final was an epic encounter with Hannah Saunders (Cambs) the number 2 seed and ranked eighth in the age above, U13’s. The Leicestershire player lost the first two games before recovering to win the next two.
Her opponent went into an early lead in the decider and they changed ends with Catherine 5-2 down which became 8-4. Then this tenacious competitor remained calm and determined, playing one point at a time in her mind, to win seven points on the trot, taking it 11-8.
Her opponent in the final was Alyssa Nguyen of Devon, the number one seed and 7th ranked Under 13. Catherine lost the first game but took the next three to become a most deserved champion of English schools.
Other players representing Leicestershire were, Boys: Reuben Mellor (U11), Faisal Mulla (U13), Corey Lancaster (U15) and Oscar Bentley (U19). Bentley progressed through his group before losing to Bertie Kelly of Somerset.
Girls, in addition to the champion, were Roma Morjaria (U16) and Milly Kotecha (U19).
Catherine had also tasted success in the East Midlands Regional Under 13 event which leads to her representing the East Midlands in the National Inter-Regionals later in the year.
With so much time in which to develop this talented player has much to look forward to and appears to have the ideal temperament.