WINDSOR tennis coach Przemek Stec is delighting in the fine performances of three of his players – Caitlin McCullough, Karola Bejenaru and Lydia Kelly – who have enjoyed success at home and abroad.
Methodist College student McCullough was the outstanding performer at the Ulster Matchplays as she landed the under-18 title at David Lloyd at the weekend.
In an exciting encounter with fellow Ulster College squad member Lucy Octave, McCullough had to come from behind to take victory. Donaghadee girl Octave – who won the under-18 title at the Ulster Open in the summer – edged the first 6-4 but then the momentum swung McCullough's way.
The Windsor teenager played even more aggression in the second set and took it 7-5 before racing into a 6-0 lead in the Champions tie-break.
But, then Octave staged a dramatic fightback and with the match on a knife-edge, McCullough, 16, held her nerve to take the title. Both girls, along with Caitlin's sister Annie, Emily Beatty and Laura Reid will now head to the Irish matchplays later this month.
Windsor coach Stec said: "Caitlin gave a great performance to win the under-18 title. I knew she had the capability of doing it but it's one thing being able to win and actually getting over the line and doing it.
"She has gained a lot of confidence from success in tournaments in Ulster and down south over the summer and also from training with the top girls in the Ulster College squad.
"Her forehand has improved, her serve is more consistent but the biggest factor is confidence just the way it is with all sports people."
Following on from McCullough, Windsor clubmate and fellow Ulster College squad member Kelly (right), 14, lifted the under-16 title. Having beaten the number two seed Sarah Cousins of Enniskillen in the semi-finals, MCB pupil Kelly then defeated number one seed Amy Rothwell, 7-5 6-4.
Stec said: "I am very pleased with Lydia's performance because it's been almost four months since she competed because she had a shoulder injury just before the Ulster Indoor championships in October.
"She always gives 100 per cent in training and now I want to see her take that standard into matches.
"This is a good start to the season but I know what Lydia is capable of and I want her to give me more over the next few months."
Stec also saluted another outstanding display from east Belfast, 16-year-old Karola Bejenaru, who was representing Ireland at the international Masters Collegiate team event in Marseille at the weekend.
Ireland lost to eventual winners USA 6-0 and 5-1 to China with Windsor girl Bejenaru the solitary winner – defeating the WTA's World number 341, Zi Yang 6-1 4-6 7-6.
"After beating the number 341 woman in the world, Karola should know now that she is capable of beating anyone in the ITF next year," added Stec. "Her confidence can only get higher after this, it's looking good for 2014."
Two years ago the club started their elite squad and on the back of that success they are now starting under-10, under-9 and under-8 performance squads in the New Year.
The boys' under-18 title went to Matthew McClurg when he defeated fellow Ulster squad member David Weir in an entertaining final at Belfast Boat Club, 6-3 6-3.
College coach Lynsey McCullough said: "We are very pleased with how all the college guys played at the weekend. We only started the squad in September but already we can see they have all grown in confidence, they're all serving better and there is a great camaraderie developing among them."
Ulster champion Matthew O'Boyle – coached in Bangor by Paul Watt – won the under-16 boys matchplay title when he defeated Jared Monaghan 7-6 3-6 10-6.