Thursday, 3 October 2013

Title Defence Led by Defence

Auckland's big title defence in the Women's Team Event at the NZ Senior Table Tennis Championships was led by the experienced defensive force of Jung Mi Kim who soared through the event undefeated. The team of Jung Mi Kim, Vicky Yang, Sara Hu and Sophie Shu contains 4 of the top 5 seeds for the women's individual events, a force to be reckoned with. 

Women's Team Event Medal Podium
With this strong combination it was two 7-0 wins over Canterbury 2 and Waikato in the group phase for Auckland and they advanced in first position from the pool. Waikato went through second with a 5-2 win over Canterbury 2 with the experience of Jessica Macaskill and Armindeep Singh proving to be the differentiating factor in their team matchup.

In the second pool Canterbury 1 started well with wins over Otago and Canterbury 3, 2012 NZ Champion Timea Tapai showing her international class in the matches, backed up by Mariam Seif and Angel Huang for the home side. Otago moved swiftly to dispatch Canterbury 3 with Yvonne Fogarty and Deb King showing they still have it and the young and rising Emma Paton proving her skill in the team match.

Canterbury 1's trip to the final unwound when their match order gave Manawatu an advantage. Catherine Zhou and Natalie Paterson, both strong contenders in the women's event led the team with Tayla Nesbitt from Nelson joining as a draft. While Tayla faced the tough and talented Timea and experienced some heavy backspin play, Cath and Natalie moved quickly to take advantage of their opportunity. The match extended to 7 matches but the Manawatu trio proved they had what it took to take the top spot in the pool and won the encounter 4-3.

The loss meant that Canterbury would play Auckland in their crossover match, a great challenge. While Mariam got the team off to a good start with a 3-2 win against Sophie Shu, the big result was yet to come. A match which slipped under the radar as spectators had their attention turned was the 5 set battle between the defensive giants, Jung Mi Kim and Timea Tapai. While the rallies extended and patience was tested, the 5th set was one thing which failed to extend. Jung Mi took a colossal lead in the final set and showed her true ability to stay calm and pick the right balls to attack on. The win was a crucial one for Auckland, with Vicky Yang following up with a win, the doubles being fought back from 2-0 down to add another point and while Sophie Shu fell to Timea, the Auckland team still pulled through early to win in 6 matches.

Manawatu meanwhile were dominant as ever against Waikato. Their 6-1 win a true display of determination as they overcame their opponents and continued their road to the finals. While Jess, Armindeep and Barbara fought hard, their finals battle came to an end.

Vicky Yang in the Auckland Team
Image courtesy of Murray Finch
Much like the men's final there were high hopes for Manawatu as they headed into their last matchup. Cath Zhou started out against Vicky Yang and while their were flashes of brilliance and well placed attacking balls from Cath it was Vicky, the 2010 National Champion who overcame her opponent to start Auckland off. Tayla again had to face a high level defensive player, she continued to put up a great fight and hit some incredible shots during the match, but Jung Mi gracefully chopped and attacked her way to a 3-0 win. Sara Hu came in next against Natalie. While Natalie showed the fighting form she always does, Sara took the lead and was slightly more dominant in the rallies and with point structure, using her serves to her advantage. Sara's win brought the lead to 3-0 and the pressure was all on the doubles pairing of Cath and Nat to stay in contention. 

Again a great fight by the Manawatu pair who led the match against Jung Mi and Vicky, but the Auckland pair were eager as ever to finish their opponents and take gold and they did just that. A 4-0 win for Auckland, joining the Auckland men's in taking the top spot on the podium and successfully defending their team title! Canterbury redeemed their earlier loss by taking the bronze medal position, though it took them all 7 matches with Waikato making a strong case for podium contention!

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