Last Wednesday night, the University of Nottingham’s elite badminton team emerged triumphant victors over East Midlands rivals Team Derby in the AJ Bell National Badminton League Final in Milton Keynes with a 3-1 score.

The final marks a brilliant climax to an incredibly strong second half of the season for the UoN team who, after struggles in the league at the start of the campaign with narrow defeats to Suffolk Saxons and Birmingham Lions, were able to turn their form around in spectacular fashion.

This too was only the third year of the tournament and the University of Nottingham’s success has set a new benchmark for future badminton players at UoN to strive for. They have demonstrated that the Green and Gold are more than capable of competing with other leading sports universities for national trophies.

uon nb 2
It’s been a resurgent season for the Green and Gold after a slow start to their third season in the AJ Bell NBL

It was a final defined by comebacks though, both in the overall scoreline for the finals and within each match. UoN endured a nervous start as Team Derby’s Kate Robertson and Lauren Smith were able to win the women’s doubles in straight sets against Nottingham’s Jess Pugh and Li Lang Yang.

Team Derby however failed to capitalise on their lead as Nottingham’s Keiran Merrilees was able to see out a victory against Scott Evans, despite a late charge from the three-time Olympian.

“Victory for the Green and Gold in the end came in the women’s singles final, as Li Lian Yang won in straight sets against Team Derby’s Lyddia Cheah Yi Yu”

With the scores finely balanced, it was the turn of Nottingham-born GB Mixed doubles number one Chris Adcock and his teammate, Olympic silver-medallist Nina Vislova, to face Lauren Smith and Marcus Ellis in the mixed doubles final.

Despite going a game down at the start, Adcock and Vislova fought back to win 3-1 and set the University of Nottingham up for a great comeback victory in the finals overall.

Victory for the Green and Gold in the end came in the women’s singles final, as Li Lian Yang won in straight sets against Team Derby’s Lyddia Cheah Yi Yu, triggering scenes of jubilation for the Nottingham squad whilst invoking despair for the team from Derby, having appeared in all three of the tournaments’ finals, only to go home in second place now for three years in a row.

Derby’s Lauren Smith, who has appeared in all three of those finals, was quick to praise the freshly crowned champions though, commenting, “Nottingham are such a strong team, they’ve got real depth, so we were up against it, we did all we could, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

“For badminton at the University of Nottingham, this is a huge win and a real statement of intent”

When reflecting on the season as a whole after the match, Chris Adcock remarked, “We didn’t start the season that well, it took us a little while to get into it, but the momentum that we carried towards the end has been spectacular.”

For badminton at the University of Nottingham, this is a huge win and a real statement of intent. The society is one of the largest at the university and boasts a tremendously impressive pool of talent for the university’s elite team and BUCS sides to draw upon, enabling them to successfully compete on multiple fronts.

“For now though, Nottingham can look back with pride at this year’s achievement and enjoy the celebrations as they prepare to defend the title next season”

Along with the tournament victory, the new facilities available for the society such as treatment rooms and the larger available court space that the David Ross Sports Village now provides has helped enhance the society’s prestige nationally and will help the university to further attract top level badminton players.

This then will all help enable badminton at the University of Nottingham to develop further from this foundation of the success in this year’s tournament. The new facilities will give future badminton teams from the university further likelihood to be competing at the very top of the National Badminton League on a consistent basis.

For now though, Nottingham can look back with pride at this year’s achievement and enjoy the celebrations as they prepare to defend the title next season.

Jeremy Dunn

Images courtesy of University of Nottingham Sport

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