The Shetland Ladies A pool team came agonisingly close to causing a real upset in the EBA European Masters tournament, losing narrowly to Scotland in the semi-finals.
The players eventually made it to the competition, held in Bridlington, Yorkshire, but not without a few pitfalls along the way.
The recent volcanic eruption caused a few changes to the schedule involving travel problems and players being unable to go but eventually they found themselves in the beautiful SPA theatre after the opening ceremony with a few hundred players and 40 pool tables ready to start play.
The Shetland team consisted of Inga Tait, Sarah Jackson, Amanda Cutt, Caroline Duncan, Tracy Bussetil, Rachael Sutherland and Donna McComb, the latter replacing Kate Pumford-Green who was unable to travel.
All matches were played over three sessions with seven games per session in a round robin format with each team playing each other twice throughout the week.
Shetland knew they were in for a tough first match against Scotland, previous winners of the competition on a number of occasions, and were delighted to be 4-3 ahead after the first session with wins for Caroline, Sarah, Donna and Amanda.
The second session went 4-3 to Scotland with Inga, Rachael and Donna winning. The final session was a bit of a blow with Scotland picking up their game to win 6-1 with only Caroline scoring, the final score being 13-8 to Scotland.
The next match against Northern Ireland went well with Shetland taking the first session 5-2 with wins for Amanda, Sarah, Inga, Rachael and Tracy. The second session went even better with a 6-1 win for Shetland. In the third session there were wins for Sarah, Donna and Rachael with the final score being 14-7 to Shetland.
The next day they only had one match against England which started out well with wins for Caroline and Inga in the first set but with only Sarah winning in the second they found themselves 11-3 down.
In the third session Amanda, Sarah and Tracy picked up wins but spirits were low after a 15-6 defeat.
That evening saw the start of the singles events and after a long evening only Caroline and Tracy made it through the first two rounds.
On to Tuesday and Shetland faced last year’s winners Wales but a bad start with only a win for Tracy in the first session led to heads going down. Shetland picked up three wins in the second session but with only Amanda and Sarah winning in the last session this was another 15-6 defeat.
The next match was only 15 minutes later and the girls faced Scotland again. There was no time to re-group and discuss failings but the girls knew that at this stage every frame would count if they were to reach the semi-finals.
The first session saw wins for Amanda and Sarah while in the second Inga, Amanda and Rachael won. The third session saw Shetland get four victories resulting in a 12-9 win for Scotland. This was a good score, but also meant three out of three for Amanda which was quite brilliant against players of this standard.
Later that evening the team returned to watch Caroline and Tracy in the singles. Both matches were very exciting and went all the way with Caroline playing really well to win 5-4 and go through to the last 32. Tracy also played really well but unfortunately lost 5-4 to Nicky Correa of Gibraltar.
Caroline then played Toni Sherwood from England and did extremely well to win 5-4. In the last 16 she came up against Shona Lucas from Scotland, a former winner of this event and a former Scottish champion. Caroline played some wonderful pool and was in no way outclassed but Shona won 5-3.
Shetland played Northern Ireland again and this was a tense match as they knew it would determine a semi-final place. They got off to a good start, taking the first session with wins for Tracy, Caroline, Inga, Sarah and Amanda. The next session went 4-3 to Ireland which kept Shetland 6-4 ahead.
The third session saw Tracy lose the first frame, Rachael and Sarah won and then Shetland lost the next three frames making the score 10-10. Thankfully Amanda kept her cool and won the deciding frame to make the final score 11-10 to Shetland. Both Sarah and Amanda won three in this match.
The next game against England was a real turnaround from their first encounter. Rachael, Inga, Sarah and Donna pulled off wins to lead 4-3 but England pulled back the next session to level the score 7-7.
The final session saw both teams win three games and then Donna McComb played the game of her life to give Shetland an 11-10 victory. Both Donna and Rachael won three out of three in this match.
Everyone was in high spirits after this match but they had to go straight to their next match against Wales where once again they were defeated 15-6. However, they now knew they would be playing Scotland in the semi-finals later in the evening.
The semi-final got off to a great start with wins for Rachael, Amanda, Donna, Tracy and Caroline to lead 5-2. Scotland immediately won the first four games of the next session until Caroline and Tracy stopped the rot, Scotland taking the session 5-2 making the score 7-7 with all to play for.
The third session started with Amanda losing to Claire Dempster, but Rachael had a brilliant win over Scottish champion Linda Gillies. Sarah beat Denise Laing and Tracy lost to Yvonne Saunders, bringing the score to 9-9.
At this point Donna, Inga and Caroline were all playing and both teams required two out of the three to go through to the final. Donna lost to Yvonne Ewing making it 10-9 to Scotland. All other games in the hall had now finished and word had spread that the Shetland girls were on the brink of pulling off another big win and all eyes were on the last two games.
The Shetland clan were going crazy, Inga was playing Shona Lucas and had been in trouble most of the game but was still in there. Caroline got two shots after a foul but could not finish it off. Eventually Shona potted her last four balls and went for the black which rattled in the pocket and went up the side cushion. This was the only real chance Inga had all game and she made a fine clearance and also rattled the black – game over. Scotland had won 11-9 and went through to the final where they beat Wales 11-10.
A spokeswoman for Shetland said: “It was a memorable week of pool, played in great team spirit, good team tactics, friendly rivalry and Shetland earned a great deal of respect from the other teams. It was thoroughly enjoyed by all.”