After a delay due to the Covid restrictions the Sunraysia Table Tennis Association were able to play round fifteen matches last week, the final round before a three week finals series is due to commence.
– Cookes Pools & Spas 6 (Joel Thomas 3, Leon Brown, Lee Leeson 1) d Tankard Dental 5 (Gavin Carmichael, Matt Ljubic 2)
After occupying top position on the ladder for the majority of the season Tankard Dental dropped to second place when defeated 5-6 by third placed Cookes Pools & Spas. Joel Thomas again won three singles and in doing so has won the singles aggregate for the ninth time in an outstanding career. Going in to this round Thomas and Matt Ljubic were level on matches won as Thomas missed a round earlier in the season. Ljubic had lost only three matches over 42 played which in itself is outstanding. In a coincidence these two players met in the final round and played some outstanding table tennis. One rally in particular was Olympic type table tennis as they both stood back from the table and traded some outstanding strong forehands in a rally that went on and on. Despite Ljubic putting up a great show it was Thomas who prevailed winning 11-5 7-11 11-9 11-2.
The doubles were shared while Ljubic and team mate Gavin Carmichael won two singles each. With the scores at five rubbers all Cookes Lee Leeson was able to defeat fill in Russell Walder in four sets. On several occasions this season she has played at five rubbers all and has handled the pressure to gain her team the four points.
– Mallee Bearings 7 (Wayne Carmichael 3, Jackson Tung 2) d Max Miller Carpets 4 (Nicholas Dorman 2, Jackson Murphy, Ed Hung 1)
Mallee Bearings moved to top position on the ladder when they defeated fourth placed Max Miller Carpets 7-4. Wayne Carmichael won three singles for the victors and his five set victory over opposing number one Nicholas Dorman was a highlight and close all the way. Carmichael’s team mate Jackson Tung played a key role in the victory winning two singles as well as partnering Carmichael to win the first doubles in straight sets over Dorman and Jackson Murphy. Carmichael and remaining team mate Russell Walder were successful in five sets in the second doubles and Mallee Bearings are in form at the pointy end of the season.
– Exposed Signage/Apparel 6 (Mark Dorman, Mark Ljubic 2, Kevin Johns 1) d Regional Taxation Services 5 (Kate Carmichael 3, Reece Kurrle 1)
Bottom team Exposed Signage/ Apparel have finished the season well winning three matches in the past six rounds after being winless for the first nine weeks of competition. Their 6-5 victory came at the expense of fifth team Regional Taxation Services who have lost eight matches by this narrow score line over the season. Although her team did lose Kate Carmichael played well to win three singles as well as partnering Reece Kurrle to victory in the first doubles. In an amazing singles match against veteran Mark Dorman
Carmichael recovered from 8-10 in the fourth to hold a match point before Dorman took the match to a fifth. Late in this game Dorman held three separate match points before Carmichael was able to grab the fifth 15-13 in which was a very entertaining and close encounter, this is not unusual for this pair.
With Dorman and partner Mark Ljubic winning two singles each the match was close all the way and it was team mate Kevin Johns proving too strong for Thahn Nguyen at five rubbers all that enabled the Exposed trio to finish their season with a hard fought victory.
There was a lot to play for in this round, by a lot of people. In this final round of the home-and-away competition, the aggregate was up for grabs, as was the composition of the ladder for the finals. Going into the round, the teams first and second on the ladder were equal on nine wins, and teams third and fourth were equal on eight wins.
– Max Miller Carpets 6 (Paul Kealley, Casper McCarthy 2, Andrew Kremor 1) d Weightmans Packaging 5 (Jason Gifkins 3, Andrew Jones 1)
Max Miller Carpets had the most attractive game in this round, as they were drawn to play bottom side Weightmans Packaging. In the event, they won, and with Cookes Pools & Spas losing, assumed top spot on the ladder. It could have so easily have been different however, as the lowly Weightmans Packaging came within one rubber of causing an upset.
Max Miller Carpets took the first two rubbers – Andrew Kremor downing the improving Steve Pongrac in four sets, whilst captain Paul Kealley really struggled against Andrew Jones, finally getting the better of him after five sets.
Weightmans Packaging responded with two wins of their own, Jason Gifkins in straight sets over Casper McCarthy, and Gifkins and Jones easily winning the first doubles in straight sets against Kealley and McCarthy.
The captains won the next two rubbers to keep the scores level, then McCarthy put Max Miller Carpets in front with a patient four set win against Andrew Jones. Then came the match which could have turned this match around. Gifkins and Steven Pongrac led Kealley and Kremor two sets to one, only for Gifkins to injure his foot and the edge went out of their game, the Max Miller pair taking control and winning in five.
Gifkins then defeated Kealley in straight sets, to keep his (faint) hopes alive of taking the aggregate. Jason came into the round equal second on the aggregate with Ash Morrison, both of whom were one game behind leader Dylan Wood.
Casper McCarthy put the result beyond doubt, defeating Steve Pongrac, then Jones did the same to Kremor to give the win to Max Miller Carpets 6-5.
Final scores: 6 rubbers to 5 and 18 games to 21.
– Pinnacle Packers 7 (Peter Midgley, Raymund Manzanares 2, David Sergi 1) d Cookes Pools & Spas 4 Ashley Morrison 3, John Fitzpatrick 1)
This match had the potential to reshape the final four drastically, and it delivered. A win by Cookes Pools & Spas would see them retain top spot, and Pinnacle Packers would remain in fourth spot. On the other hand a loss by Cookes Pools & Spas, which is what eventuated, saw them plunge from first to fourth, and Pinnacle Packers up a spot to third. Like Jason Gifkins, Cookes Pools & Spas captain Ash Morrison was determined to do all he could to give himself a shot at the aggregate award, so he was looking to win all his singles match-ups.
Pinnacle Packers had the wood on Cookes Pools & Spas almost from the start. Josh Arnold, subbing for Rohan Reimers, led Pinnacle Packers Raymond Manzanares two sets to love and seemed to have the match in control. Manzanares dug in however, and denied Arnold the win in a good five setter. Morrison took the rubber against the Pinnacle Packers number three David Sergi and Pinnacle Packers captain did the same to John Fitzpatrick.
Pinnacle Packers stretched their lead to 3-1 after the first doubles, Midgley and Manzanares regrouping after three sets to deny Morrison and Fitzpatrick what had looked like a certain win.
Morrison and Manzanares played the next rubber, Morrison won but not before Manzanares gave him a working over, the win coming after five hard fought sets.
Midgley won again, over Arnold, and John Fitzpatrick made up for the disappointment of the doubles loss with a win against Sergi in five sets.
Cookes Pools & Spas had the opportunity to square the ledger in the second doubles, but the Pinnacle Packers pair of Manzanares and Sergi proved too strong for Morrison and Arnold.
Now down 5-3, Morrison kept his side’s hopes up with a straight sets win against opposing captain Midgley (and did all he could to take that aggregate title). When he led Raymond Manzanares two sets to love 11-9, 11-9, John Fitzpatrick looked like he was going to square the match, but just as he did against Josh Arnold in the very first rubber, Manzanares turned things around in the third set taking that 11-9. Fitzpatrick had match points in the fourth set, but again Manzanares denied him, taking that set 13-11. Manzanares was only getting stronger now, and he took the fifth 11-4 to complete the turn-around and win the match.
Sergi completed a good 7-4 win for Pinnacle Packers with a three set win against Arnold in the last.
A disastrous result for Cookes Pools & Spas, and they now play in the sudden death match against their opponents here, Pinnacle Packers, in the first semi-final next week.
Final scores: 7 rubbers to 4 and 25 games to 18.
– MJM Automotive 9 (Dylan Wood 3, Jeremy Corrin, Marcus Cimino 2) d Mallee Meats 2 (Tony Malycha 2)
Fifth placed Mallee Meats played third placed MJM Automotive in this final round. Although only one win less than the third and fourth placed teams, Mallee Meats did not boast a win-loss ration anywhere near those sides, and even a win here would not get them a spot in the finals.
MJM Automotive were looking to finish second or higher to earn them the right of a second-chance in the finals, whilst their captain Dylan Wood, one game clear on the aggregate, was looking for a clean sweep of games to ensure a win in that competition.
In the event, the result was never in doubt. Tony Malycha, subbing for Mallee Meats captain Terry Martin won the first rubber, but MJM Automotive crushed their opponents after that, taking the next eight rubbers, including five in straight sets. Needless to say, Wood safely won his three rubbers and secured a well deserved 2021 Pennant 2 Aggregate Title.
Jeremy Corrin and Marcus Cimino contributed a further two rubbers each to MJM Automotives tally, and both doubles went to their end of the table too – Wood and Corrin in straight sets against Malycha and Quentin Clark, whilst Wood and Cimino fought back from two sets to love down to defeat Malycha and Peter Fitzpatrick.
The win here sees MJM Automotive move from third to second, and so earn the right to a double chance, should they lose their semi-final match against Max Miller Carpets next week.
Final scores: 9 rubbers to 2 and 28 games to 11.
Ladder leaders MJM Automotive had to win the last two rubbers to get the better of Mallee Meats; whilst Sammy’s Slammers pushed Weightmans Packaging all the way in their clash.
– MJM Automotive 6 (Isaiah Bettess, Nick Kiapekos 2, Sabrina Fitzpatrick 1) d Mallee Meats 5 (Therese Fitzpatrick 3, Ryan Hensgen 1)
Ladder leaders MJM Automotive scaped home against second placed Mallee Meats in this final round of the home-and-away competition.Trailing 4-5 with two rubbers to play, Nick Kiapekos, playing only his third match in three months, squared the score after a hard fought five setter with Ben Hosking, and Isaiah Bettess finished the job for MJM Autumotive defeating Ryan Hensgen in four sets.
Mallee Meats captain Therese Fitzpatrick needed to win just one rubber to ensure she won the aggregate, but the youngster put the issue beyond doubt with another 3 match haul.
Even though going into the match, MJM Automotive were three games clear of their second placed opponents, so a win or loss was not going to change their positions on the ladder, this was a keenly fought contest, with no rubber less than four sets.
Nick Kiapekos and Isaiah Bettess were the best-performed MJM Automotive players, winning two rubbers each, captain Sabrina Fitzpatrick having a quiet night with just one singles win, and her cool head no doubt helped her partner Isaiah Bettess overcome her daughter Therese and Ryan Hensgen in the second doubles encounter. Trailing 3-4 at the start of the match, the MJM Automotive pair were a set-apiece with their opponents. The third set was the one which won them the match, with them hanging on grimly to take that set 19-17. They then took the fourth 11-6, and with the momentum they took 2 of the 3 remaining rubbers to clinch the match.
Final scores: 6 rubbers to 5 and 23 games to 22.
– Weightmans Packaging 6 (James Jarvis 3, Karly Leach 2) d Sammy’s Slammers 5 (Huseyin Ismail 2, Dave Tanner, Brian White 1)
Sammy’s Slammers have won just one match in this season, but they belied their bottom of the ladder position with a stirring performance against Weightmans Packaging, a team which at times looks like it could well be the one the win the flag.
A great team performance saw them in the contest right to the end, when number three Brian White faced off against Weightmans Packaging captain James Jarvis. Although he won in straight sets, Jarvis did not have things all his own way, White pushing him and only losing 10-12, 8-11, 7-11.
In the event Weightmans Packaging had too many guns though, and with Jarvis winning three rubbers, Karly Leach two, and those two taking the second doubles, Sammy’s Slammers could not just bridge the gap. White’s performance against Jarvis in the final rubber was not a one-off either, he led Weightmans Packaging number two Karly Leach two sets to one, before losing in five earlier in the night.
In taking two singles rubbers, Sammy’s Slammers captain Huseyin Ismail had his best night since round 3, and kept his side in the contest.
Final scores: 6 rubbers to 5 and 20 games to 19.
During this round, we saw MJM Automotive cross the finish to record their second win of the season as they comfortably have defeated Dunkley Scales.
MJM Automotive 7 (Nhat Dat, Jamie Kealley 3) def Dunkley Scales 4 (Wendy Simpson, Tom Gilmour, Phuong Hung Nguyen 1)
MJM Captain Nhat Dat was in sparking form as he rattled off three singles victories to help his team to an emphatic win. Jamie Kealley, filling in, also won all of his three singles matches in a solid display. For Dunkley Scales all players contributed one singles victory; however, the result could have been a little different had they had won some of the close matches during the evening.
The trilogy of feature matches during the night happened late in the evening with first of these being between MJM’s Nhat against Dunkley’s opposition Captain Wendy Simpson. Both of these players have had some close tussles during the season with Nhat winning the most recent of these clashes. With this in mind, it would be imperative for Simpson to get off to a fast start. The first set was point for point with Simpson gaining the early advantage taking the set 12-10. The second set found Nhat find his grove and he consistently landed his forehand drives to take the set 11-8. The next two sets were a repeat of the second with Nhat winning these 11- 6 and 11-7 to take the match.
In the next feature match was the battle between Kealley and Gilmour that would go the full distance. The first set saw both players unable to take their chances, with Gilmour making fewer errors in taking this length set 18-16. Gilmour then breezed through the second set taking this 11-5 and with it all the momentum leading into the third. Kealley applied himself well in the third and reigned in his game to turn the tide and secure the set 11-2. Gilmour tried hard in the fourth and fifth sets but to no avail as Kealley claimed these 11-8 and 11-7 to seal the deal for MJM Automotive.
The last of the featured trilogy of matches pitted MJM’s Phuong Hung Nguyen against Dunkley’s Maria Starikov. The last time these two played it would be Nguyen who prevailed in a very close match. In this match, Nguyen got off to the better start by hitting his trademark topspin bombs past the ever-reliable defence of Starikov to take the first set 11-8. The second set was a dour struggle for control as Starikov blunted the offense of Nguyen to wear him down to claim the set 14-12. Starikov continued to frustrate Nguyen in the third have him tied in knots as she claimed this set 11-8. Nguyen had to change his game up in the third as he could no longer just rely on his forehand bombs to get the job done and he combined some solid attack with solid defence to take the fourth 11-5 to set up a five set showdown. The fifth set saw a point for point battle ensure as the tension mounted so did the unforced error count. At 11points all it would be Nguyen who would take his chances to claim the set 13-11 in an epic battle.
So rounding up the evening MJM Automotive have scored their second win of the season in defeating Dunkley Scales 7-4 (25-16). Well done to all players and special mentions to Jamie Kealley for filling in and to Tom Gilmour, who incidentally has played each match this season. I hope Gilmour knows what team he will be playing for come finals! With two round robin matches to complete the season there is still plenty to play for and we look forward to our next round.
The feature match of the evening was the first doubles match between MJM’s pairing of Nhat and Healy up against the Tankard duo of Ljubic and Vale. MJM were quick out of the blocks taking the first set 11-6 before Tankard’s rallied to secure the second set 11-9. The third set was a tight contest with all players settling in and some long rallies ensured. MJM were able to break the deadlock, win this set 11-8, and take the two sets to one lead. The fourth set was an absolute classic – and possibly one of the longest sets this year in any grade. Umpire Gilmour had his work cut out for him as he presided over long rally after long rally in what seemed to be a timeless test. It indeed was a case of the immovable object versus the unstoppable force. With the set at 10-10, (what a surprise) both teams were at their most desperate with Tankard holding on and MJM looking for that final push to victory. Both teams had their chances as the numbers just kept on piling up for umpire Gilmour. The set continued and at 19 all Gilmour was about to consider keeping the score on fingers and toes as he had just run out of numbers on the scoreboard. The whisper had gone around the stadium that this was a classic not to be missed and players in other matches took time out to watch this one draw to its long and painful end. Mercifully, the end did come with MJM securing this unbelievable set 21-19. Congratulations to all players and a big shout out to Tom Gilmour who will need a break from umpiring next week.
In conclusion Tankard Dental were too strong this evening in winning 7 – 4 (22-15) over MJM Automotive. I hope that in the remaining matches this season, MJM can find another win to go with their only win earlier in this season. Again well done to all players for another great and fun night of table tennis.