GIRLS’ table tennis in Weymouth is rapidly improving and the town can now boast two Dorset school team champions, as well as an individual title holder in Lily Cherry.
While Cherry made a successful defence of her under-16 crown, Wey Valley School and Budmouth College won the under-13 and 16 team competitions respectively at the county finals.
The Weymouth girls have dominated recent county events and this has also led to Snigdha Maganti and April Heasman becoming Dorset county regulars.
After beating Talbot Heath in the Dorset team final at Budmouth, Wey Valley travelled to Bristol for the Southern Regional finals.
National Cadet League player Heasman led the team, which also included Mya Williams, Laura Hayward and Amelia Luff, who have all been introduced to the sport through the after-school club and playing in the Weymouth Schools Junior League.
Unfortunately, they lost to St Leonard’s Academy from Sussex (7-1) and Chelsea Academy (7-2).
The first of those was the closest despite the unflattering scoreline as several games went to deciding legs.
Heasman was outstanding in both of her matches and her one loss was against an excellent St Leonard’s player who was undefeated all day.
Williams took three legs off the Saints, losing 3-1 and 3-2, Weymouth number three Hayward came close against her Sussex counterpart, going down 11-9, while Luff went even closer before losing 13-11.
Heasman again dominated in the match against Chelsea, winning all of her matches in style, but the quality of players down the order won the rest of the tie for the London team, who then went on to beat St Leonard’s in the next match and qualify for the national finals in Doncaster.
Meanwhile, Budmouth, victors over All Saints at the county finals, ventured to Plymouth for the South West of England regional finals where they found themselves competing against Haygrove Academy (Somerset), King Edward VI Community College (Devon) and Falmouth School (Cornwall).
The Budmouth team consisted of two experienced players in Cherry and Maganti, and two girls relatively new to the sport in Harriet Pullen and Erin Stow.
In the first match against Falmouth, Cherry and Maganti had good wins, with the latter taking a cliff-hanger 13-11 in the fifth leg.
Budmouth came up against the eventual winners, King Edward, in their second game and, although they put up a brave fight, they were beaten 18-7 with Pullen and Stow winning one match each.
The final match showed how much the girls were improving as the day went on. Cherry beat Haygrove’s top two and Maganti won another close encounter in the fifth (11-8), but went down 11-5 against the Somerset outfit’s number one.
Stow also had a really close match but the Budmouth girls were eventually beaten 19-14.
Overall, this was a very encouraging performance from both Weymouth teams and showed the huge improvements being made, thanks partly to the improved practice facilities in the district and also the hard work of the many girls who turn up at after-school clubs and Weymouth league training each week.
All of the girls can be proud of their efforts and look forward to defending their Dorset titles next year.
n As well as established after-school clubs at Budmouth, Wey Valley, Thomas Hardye and All Saints, both Budmouth and Holy Trinity Primary School now run a girls’ only session.
The Weymouth League runs the Schools Junior League which operates two girls’ divisions meaning all abilities can play and gain experience.
For those wanting to progress further there are opportunities to train at top Dorset side, Bournemouth Sports.
Lily Cherry and April Heasman travel to Bournemouth twice a week for coaching with Rowden Fullen, coach to England number three Hannah Hicks and Welsh international Chloe Thomas.
For more details on how to get involved in table tennis from the age of eight upwards, contact Andy Millar on 772743 or email firstname.lastname@example.org