University of Birmingham Sports (UBSport) badminton team went into their British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) semi-final clashes on the afternoon of Saturday, March 17.
They faced the task with hope rather than expectation, having been designated considerable outsiders in the competition, but still manage to come back to campus with bronze medals.
They were given the task of overcoming two of the strongest teams in the country in their contest at the BUCS Championships and approached the game with a relaxed, carefree attitude that reflected their wish to enjoy the occasion and play some good badminton.
The men and women faced Loughborough and Leeds Met respectively, with the men given a slightly better chance of grabbing some wins off their rivals from the East Midlands.
In preparation for their ties, the men decided to switch their singles and doubles line-ups in an effort to disrupt their opponents’ own build-ups and gain a foothold in the bout, especially in the singles.
James Lauder was up first and began the better player, showing more energy by going 5-1 up. After a brief comeback from his opponent, the scores levelled out, but Lauder did just enough to keep in front and took the first game 21-17. His second game began in a similar fashion, though his adversary soon picked up his game and Lauder was forced into playing some impressive defensive shots.
However, the winners employed by his opposite number soon began to tell and, despite a power surge in the hall at one point, his opponent was not spooked and took the second 21-9. In spite of some excellent variety play and being within touching distance at 13-10 in the decider, he ultimately succumbed to errors and went down 21-12.
His singles counterpart Andrew Wainwright used his immense height to great advantage in his opener, smashing point after point from a high position to win 21-18, 21-7 in compelling style, and although he lost his second game, Lauder triumphed in his in much the same way Wainwright had blown his opponent away.
The biggest hope for a singles scalp for the women was UBSport scholar Alyssa Lim. She lost her first game 21-12, but spurred on by her watching teammates she took the second in perhaps the most thrilling game of the day. Both players reached 21-21, and the match was in the balance for several moments as the lead changed hands in a frenetic and tense encounter. Lim’s determination prevailed and she took the second game 25-23 and set up a great chance to get the women their first win.
Unfortunately, she lost agonisingly 21-19 in the final game despite a phenomenal effort. Lim’s loss seemed to set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Her second game was much tougher, losing it in two, while Anna Showan also endured a difficult two matches against Lim’s opponents from Leeds Met.
In the doubles, Birmingham’s position as underdogs was well highlighted. Mark Cappleman and James Taylor played some excellent combinations but fell short in both their games, while Doug Furze and Avinash Chandarana were beaten in theirs, despite a close opening match that ended 21-19, 21-11.
The women’s pairings of Lauren Bromley and Ellie Crossley, and Hunter and Claire Mort could not do enough to trouble their national level opponents, but the nothing-to-lose mentality was apparent throughout the day, in spite of losing all their matches to very good opposition.
As the day drew to a close, James Lauder spoke to Redbrick newspaper saying, ‘I think 6-2 [for the men] reflects pretty well. Loughborough are a very strong team and we just haven’t got that depth, whereas they have in their second doubles and other doubles pairs.’
He added, ‘I think we are only going from strength to strength, and we’ve got a few international players coming in, so we’ll keep fighting.’