How quickly a season goes. Writing this we are in a very different place to our previous report in November. “The Floodlight League” concluded with all of UCD’s teams securing their status within their respective divisions for next season. Onwards the focus shifted to Inter-Varsities, the big event of the year.
With new varsity training sessions in full flow, we welcomed the University of Dundee over to Dublin for a warm-up fixture. We got off to a flying start winning the tightly contested tie 11-7, in particular, our girls dominated against the Dundee side who have done the domestic double this year and have won multiple titles. Followed by a meal in the well-frequented Captain Americas, both colleges have promised to repeat the fixture next year and make this a tradition.
The big weekend arrived. Inter-Varsities. Could the ladies do 4 in a row? Could the men end the title drought? A record entry from any single college saw UCD enter 5 Men’s teams and 2 Ladies teams with over 50 players representing UCD over the weekend. How proudly they represented the college too. All 7 teams won their 1st match leaving UCD with 3 Men’s teams in the quarterfinals and 2 ladies teams in the Semi-Finals. The big upset of the weekend came when our Men’s 3rd team took out 4th seeds Queens University Belfast 1st Team. This was a hotly contested match drawing a large crowd where UCD seized the upset in the doubles. A great start to the weekend.
Continuing the drama UCD Men’s 2nds took on UCC 2nds. After the singles, the match was tightly matched at 3-3 with 3 doubles rubbers to come. 1 went to UCD, 1 went to UCC. The deciding doubles were on the court, and into a deciding set, they went. Rory Hughes and Dave Meenaghan coolly delivered. Onwards the college marched.
After our UCD Men’s 1st team saw off the challenge of NUIG 1, up came the main event. A chance to play the 3 in a row defending champions, 1st seeds, and pre-tournament favourites Trinity. Trinity was given the shock of their lives with our number 1 player Shane O’Donnell racing out to a 5-2 lead against Team Ireland player Dan O’Neil. David Nolan was in the height of battle with Declan Gardiner and all courts looked promising. Unfortunately, Trinity struck back and saved multiple match points to go into the doubles 4-2 up and despite Joey Mullen and David Nolan bringing it back to 4-3, Trinity pipped us 5-3. A fantastic performance from our men saw them exceed expectations and for the first time in years, show they can mix it with the very best and looked like they could win it at times.
Could anybody upset the dominant UCD Ladies team? “It’s not happening” was a phrase uttered all weekend, and it turned out to be true. Trinity put up a mighty fight in the Semi-Finals against our Ladies 1sts, but unphased they kept their cool and won the doubles, marching onto the final, led by captain Aoife Tonna-Barthet. The final was one of the most exciting matches in years. Delayed by nearly 5 hours, the girls kept their composure and focused on the task at hand. A heroic showing from the DCU girls brought them into the doubles at 3-3, the closest our girls have been since this streak started 4 years ago. Heather Naughton and Isabel Browne lined out in doubles, into a 5-2 lead they raced. Kate Moore and Laura Griffin lined out, into a 5-2 lead they raced. Aoife Tonna-Barthet and Rachael Collins, the standout pair of the weekend, raced into a 5-2 lead. All nerves were dispelled from the UCD side and despite time nearing 10 pm, all 3 doubles pairs played superbly, securing the 4th title for UCD Ladies in a row. A truly memorable weekend.
Both the men and women continued this fine form into the regional “Winter League”, becoming champions and winning their divisions! With UCD Ladies 1 now in Class 1, the top division nationally. Both teams fought admirably throughout the campaign to earn their place in the finals. Captain Aoife Tonna-Barthet has led by example at 1st doubles, going undefeated, even winning 12 hours after dislocating her knee! The men have been led by the cool head of Neil Stokes who took his team into the league final after a fantastic squad effort. A final hoorah. One last match. League finals day was the send-off for the season our captains had been dreaming of. How smoothly it ran. Both UCD Men’s and Ladies’ went into the final as underdogs and in traditional ambitious student fashion belied their expectations. The men were up first with a morning start and Zac Thompson and Martin Henihan got us on the board taking a great win at 3rd doubles. This left 1st and 2nd double out on court needing one win from the 2 to take the title. Conor Gormley and Sebastian Maier at 1 playing an Irish Vets player and Team Captain combining with Men’s Captain had Neil Stokes and Sam Totterdell up against the form pairing of the league who had romped their way undefeated to the final. Conor and Seb did as they have done all year and delivered yet again, Conor hitting the winning serve before all club let out a mighty smile. Special mention to Neil Stokes who played some of the best doubles of his life to carry me through our doubles at 2 to be level at 1 set all, 6-7, 7-6 before we were called off as we had won the final.
Next up were the ladies. Against the strongest team on paper and form team of the league Glasnevin 1. Glasnevin had 3 sets of sisters playing at every 3 doubles. Kate Moore and Laura Griffin, Laura coming straight from rowing training, were up against a very strong pairing at 2nd doubles but apparently, nobody told them this as they ran away with a 6-1, 6-1 win in silly fashion. With Aoife Tonna-Barthet and Nicola Drummy in a 1st set tiebreak against an incredibly strong pair, the cheers of celebration rang through as Niamh McCormack and Isabel Browne produced a sublime performance to take the title for the team.
A great day for everyone involved, a great day for UCD Tennis, and a day that will live long in the memory of all involved. With 2 finals won to cap the season off, multiple trophies won throughout the year, and our AGM looming, it’s been a great year and hopefully is the beginning of an upward trajectory as UCD Tennis makes big coaching signing for the coming season.
By Sam Totterdell – UCD Tennis Captain