Posted on 16th February 2023
By RJ Mitchell
CIARA TORRANCE believes that Scotland’s 4-1 success over Ukraine in our final Group A match of the European Mixed Team Championships has only served to make the Scots more determined to medal next time around.
The 24-year-old played a pivotal part in ensuring we ended on a high ‘en France’ by partnering Julie MacPherson to an epic one-hour 11-minute three-set victory in the Women’s Doubles before returning to the fray less than 30-minutes later to partner Adam Hall to victory in the Mixed Doubles in another three-set monster-match.
Now as she reflected on the week that was and projected forward the World No.32 ranked Women’s Doubles player has no doubt about our ability to bridge the gap to the elite of Europe after Scotland secured a fifth place finish in successive championships.
Ciara said: “We did come here to get a medal and make a semi so I think it was very important to finish on a high with the win and we are pleased to do that.
“We believe the team as a whole is not that far off the top four. As I said we came in with high hopes that we could take on these top teams and we just need to keep putting a shift in to achieve that.
“If anything this week has just made us even more determined to achieve that (a top four placing) but the morale and the closeness of the team was fantastic and it played a big part in getting us through against Ukraine today.
“In the doubles we really powered through to get the wins but everyone put in a really solid performance today and that was a big positive and has given us a real platform going forward.”
When it came to the action once again Kirsty Gilmour got Scotland off to the best possible start when she delivered a majestic performance to dispatch Maria Ulitina 21-10, 21-9 in just 26 minutes.
After a cagey opening the Scotland No.1 became increasingly dominant and just had too much game for her Ukrainian opponent who served out to cough up a first match – point, which she duly saved.
Yet the inevitable was only delayed temporarily and Kirsty eased home to maintain her hugely impressive 100% record in the singles with something to spare.
Next up James Robertson faced Danylo Bosniuk in the Men’s Singles and the man from Dumfries created plenty of opportunities in the opening session which he was not quite able to convert before losing out 21-11.
A defiant Robertson then dug deep to lift his tempo in the second set which the Ukrainian ultimately took 21-15 after a game effort from the Scot who can take plenty of encouragement from his efforts in Aire-sur-la-Lys this week.
With the match finely balanced we were treated to a Women’s Doubles match that was to span over an hour of see-sawing action and deliver what was surely the match of the day.
Behind for almost all of the first set Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance refused to go away and claimed a game point of their own at 20-19 before losing out 23-21 to Mariia Stoliarenko and Yelyzaveta Zharka after an enthralling opening encounter.
Yet there was even better to come and as the rallies stretched both in length and complexity it was the Scots who emerged triumphant 21-15 to level matters.
In the decider both partnerships displayed bags of grit and determination but the Scots gradually began to pull away before what was arguably the rally of the match saw MacPherson hit the deck where she managed to get off four shots before a Ukrainian error handed a 15-9 lead to the Scotland No.1 ladies pairing.
The match had then reached its pivotal moment and MacPherson and Torrance managed the game out to claim a 21-13 final set success that was no more than they deserved from a truly memorable performance which also did their opponents credit.
Reflecting on the match, Ciara said: “We knew what we had to do and knew the tactics we had to employ to stop them doing what they were doing so well in the first set. So, it was about having the right mentality to impose our game on them and turn it around.
“In the third, at maybe 15-9, there was a fantastic rally with Julie being on the floor but her defence is like a wall! Even when she is on the deck I have full belief in her defence and I think that was the crucial point.
“We were leading and you could see they were tiring and we were feeling it too and in terms of belief that point was maybe a very big nail in their coffin and it was great to get that win to put us up 2-1 in matches.
“Over the three Women’s Doubles matches the girls we lost to were maybe physically stronger, so I think we need to work on being stronger. Developing a more effective attack is also going to be really important for us to go to the next level.”
With the match won Matthew and Chris Grimley dominated Glib Beketov and Ivan Druzchenko from start to finish to claim a 21-8, 21-11 victory in just 22 minutes.
That left Adam Hall and Ciara to bring down the curtain on our European odyssey for another year with some flourish as they came from a game behind to secure the decisive third set 21-9 after a compelling 39 minute contest against Stoliarenko and Bosniuk.
It was a return to the court which, as Ciara revealed, barely saw her get time to catch her breath and the Paisley ace said: “I only had 20-minutes between matches which is crazy! Even in the bigger tournaments if you have two games in the one day they are usually a good five hours apart so trying to get over the fatigue of the marathon women’s doubles was tough.
“I really found it hard to summon the mental strength in the first set and was struggling but after we got that second set I was determined to do what I had to do and let Adam do the rest and we got the job done.
“It was just a great way to end the week.”