Pugh ecstatic after Nottingham title win
Her own Championship Final performance may not have gone quite to plan but University of Nottingham Badminton's Jess Pugh admitted she was buzzing with elation after her side were crowned AJ Bell National Badminton League champions.
Pugh and women's doubles partner Li Lian Yang could do little to prevent Team Derby's Lauren Smith and Kate Robertshaw in the opening event of the Championship Final, falling in straight sets but that result was to give little hint to the drama about to unfold.
In fact it proved to be a mere blot on the night as a whole, as victories in the next three events, including a Championship-winning singles event for Yang, saw University of Nottingham captain Chris Adcock lift the trophy with a 3-1 scoreline.
And for Pugh, triumph in the final was the perfect reward for the team's hard work, both on and off the court.
“It feels amazing but I'm disappointed not to contribute to the win,” she said. “As a team, I think the team spirit was amazing. Our attitude towards the match was amazing and the crowd were amazing too. I'm absolutely buzzing, we all are!"
The spirit and togetherness that head coach Martyn Lewis has cultivated amongst his collection of Olympians, internationals and rising stars have grown match-night on match-night but a full to capacity centre:mk saw first hand the importance of that team spirit. Chants and support reigned in from the players bench and fans in the stand, ringmastered by Gordon Thomson and to the beat of Adam Hall's snare drum.
And that spirit is not lost on Pugh, who has also felt the benefits of playing in the AJ Bell NBL's quickfire format.
"I've really enjoyed playing this season, we've been winning a lot which has been great. The NBL really helps to develop you as a player, you enjoy playing and trying new things, and you've almost got nothing to lose.
“I'm really, really happy that we've finished the season with the win. At Championship point, all I could think was 'don't fall over the barrier when you run onto court', we knew when Li Lian won those first two games that we had it.
“There was a lot of adrenaline going through me, we're just so happy with the result.”
University of Nottingham Badminton had never reached the Championship Final in previous seasons, but rectified that fact in style following a blistering campaign on the court.
And while Pugh was thrilled to add the AJ Bell NBL title to her ever-growing medal collection, there was one person for whom the team wanted to lift the trophy.
“We all wanted to win it for ourselves, but also for our coach Martyn Lewis and the University of Nottingham of course,” she said.
“I think it has been an incredible season. The NBL improves from one season to the next and the quality has got a lot better.”