Priory Ruskin Academy under-13 girls have made it through to the English Schools Table Tennis Association national finals next month.
The team reached the last four in a battling performance at The Meres leisure centre, one of three venues for the ESTTA regional finals. The 120 teams across the country who qualified from the zone finals last month battled it out for a place in the nationals.
There were many age groups but Priory Ruskin had their first ever girls’ team playing in the under-13s with the stage was set for a duel between schools from Lancaster (Ripley St Thomas), Derbyshire (Pingle) and Cleveland (Northfield).
The girls – Stefi Popa, Lucy Bridle, Hannah Latter and Megan Rowley – had learnt and grown since the last round, as they started with force winning against Northfield, winning 8-0.
The other two schools had a very tight match which was decided on the last game, with Pingle 5-3 winners.
The Priory girls knew their next two school match-ups could hinge on every set for a place in the nationals.
The girls were advised to take each point at a time but the girls, however, had only one thing on their minds and took the first three matches comfortably, seeing Hannah put in a great performance.
But Ripley was not going to give up and won the fourth and fifth matches. They took an early lead in the sixth match but the Priory Ruskin girls’ team spirit turned that around to 4-2 up. This meant winning one of the next two matches would see them leading the event.
Lucy took the seventh match to seal a showdown with Pingle who won their second tie as well, 5-3.
The showdown went neck-and-neck till 2-2 before Stefi – the rock of the team, not dropping a match all day – put in another class performance to edge Priory Ruskin ahead at 3-2.
Megan went from 1-0 down to win 3-2 and suddenly Priory Ruskin were 4-2 up, needing one to qualify.
Lucy took the deciding match whilst Megan, fourth seed who only started playing last September, had the final game. Her team-mates rallied to her corner which produced a valiant and nail-biting five-setter that she won, making the final score 6-2 and Priory Ruskin regional final winners.
And so, the elated girls, coaches and teachers will be going to Hinckley on March 10 to contest the national finals.