Team Derby's Smith proud to see NBL continue to grow

Three appears to be the unlucky number for Lauren Smith after she fell to her third consecutive AJ Bell National Badminton League Championship Final defeat on Wednesday night.

Smith's Team Derby side were beaten 3-1 by University of Nottingham Badminton at centre:mk in Milton Keynes, with the 25-year-old having already picked up silver medals in two previous Finals with former side Loughborough Lightning.

Team Derby had entered the final top of the AJ Bell NBL league table, having lost just a solitary fixture during the regular season.

But they couldn't finish the campaign on a high, and despite recording Team Derby's only victory of the night in the women's doubles alongside Kate Robertshaw, Smith admitted bitter disappointment as her side fell at the final hurdle.

“We started so well but then to lose that momentum means it's tough to take,” said Smith, who represented Team GB at the Rio Olympic Games.

“The team put in a really strong performance and I think we should be proud of how we have done all season.

“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.

“We were really happy with our performance in the doubles, we played a really solid match despite a little dip at the start of the second game.

“But we came back and really showed our fighting spirit, so we were really glad to get the win, and we hoped the momentum could carry on for the rest of the team.

“We waited until our very last doubles match of the season to record our first 3-0 win, so that's a nice way to finish.”

Smith and Robertshaw had breezed through their women's doubles tie with Jess Pugh and Li Lian Yang, prevailing in straight sets for the first time this term to give Team Derby the initial advantage.

But a battling performance from University of Nottingham's Keiran Merrilees quickly restored parity, as he triumphed over three-time Olympian Scott Evans despite a comeback effort from the Irish player.

Victory for Adcock and Olympic silver medallist Nina Vislova swung the tie in University of Nottingham's favour, as they came from a game down to defeat Marcus Ellis and Smith 3-1.

And in an all-Malaysian clash across the net, Yang clinched the title for her side, defeating Lyddia Cheah Yi Yu in straight sets as her teammates stormed the court in celebration.

But while the season didn't end the way Smith had hoped, she insisted she couldn't be more thrilled to see the AJ Bell NBL continuing to grow.

“It would have been fantastic to get our hands on the trophy tonight, that's why we play in the NBL,” she said.

“We are all really competitive people, we don't just do this for a little knock around.

“I think the league has been so even this year, every team has been so good and there have been loads of 3-2 results.

“The standard throughout has probably been the highest it has ever been and I think that is a really positive thing for badminton.”


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