LOIS PEAKE admits she surprised herself with her performances as she helped England finish 22nd on her senior international debut at the European Championships in Russia.
The Chichester player was a late call-up to replace the injured Tin-Tin Ho and was not in the starting line-up for the group matches against Finland, Greece and Belgium as England finished second in the pool.
I thought I was going to get smashed but having no pressure was good because I could just play freely.
But she was drafted into win her first cap against Slovenia as England, featuring in the second-tier Challenge Division, began the positional play-offs for 17th to 24th places in the pecking order.
And it was a memorable debut for the 18-year-old as, with England 2-0 down in the best-of-five tie, she defeated Tamara Pavcnik – ranked 210 places above her at No 416 in the world.
Peake took the first two sets and held four match points in the third, only for her opponent to battle back and take the set. Pavcnik levelled but Peake kept her head and took the decider to complete a 3-2 victory by 11-8, 11-5, 11-13, 7-11, 11-8.
That was not enough to prevent a 3-1 defeat overall, but Peake enjoyed another impressive victory in the next match against Italy, overcoming world No 348 Georgia Piccolin in three straight sets (11-8, 11-7, 11-8).
England won that match 3-2 overall, putting them into the play-off for 21st and 22nd against Lithuania. And Peake made a good start against Egle Stuckyte but saw her opponent, ranked 294, come back to win 3-1 (9-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-6) as England lost 3-1 overall.
“I surprised myself,” said 18-year-old Peake. “I thought I was going to get smashed but having no pressure was good because I could just play freely.
“The highlight was probably keeping my head against the girl when I was 10-6 up in the third and it went to the fifth but I managed to hold my head and win. I think last year I probably would have lost my head a bit.”
Peake said she relished the whole experience in Ekaterinburg and enjoyed being part of the squad, which also included Commonwealth Games athletes Kelly Sibley and Karina Le Fevre, plus fellow teenager Maria Tsaptsinos.
But she also highlighted the brutal nature of international sport, adding: “I thought the team spirit was really good and we got on really well, but any weakness you have is really highlighted when you go away for England.”
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