Essex juniors bring home medals and memories from Inter-County Finals

LEE HORTON REPORTING FROM NOTTINGHAM

Essex juniors returned home from the English Inter-Counties Finals clutching medals, memories and plaudits after a thrilling weekend of squash at Nottingham University and Nottingham Squash Club.

Five Essex teams made it through to the finals, a massive feat in itself and reward for another season of hard work and dedication from our players, coaches and sponsors.

Our youngest group, the girls’ Under-13’s under the watchful tutelage of head county coach Lauren Selby, was given the privilege of playing their first match on the all-glass court at the University. The court is usually the domain of the country’s elite players so it was no shock that Lara Newton, Renitha Srindran and Leah Brooke looked well at home on the show court. They finished fourth but to reach the finals themselves was a hugely impressive achievement in itself.

Essex Under 15’s who took bronze at Nottingham

Essex bagged three bronze medal finishes with our Under-15 boys (Ollie Green, Zaid Mushtaq, Harry Martin, Stanley Sykes and Joel Braddock) first on the rostrum. Third was just reward for a tough day at the office, which included a stiff opening test against Irish county Leinster. We were second best on that occasion but re-grouped against Gloucester to put a smile back on coach Paul Selby’s face (unconfirmed) to clinch bronze with a 5-0 win.

Essex’s Under-17 girls’ squad of Eleanor White, Ellie Hewes, Aliza Sheikh, Piper-Rose Tatum, Amy Aspinall and Elli Barrott were edged out of a place in the final by their old foe Yorkshire who again inflicted a painful defeat. The 4-1 scoreline didn’t reflect the closeness of the matches but the players will hurt after again being downed by the White Rose County. Coaches Chris Chitty and Lauren Selby offered sound, tactical help on the day but maybe some intensive, close-season psychology coaching may be an aid to taking down our northern friends.. Our girls have the skills. Adding a little mental toughness and belief will make them even stronger. Again, though, they regrouped in the afternoon to seal the bronze medal.

Under-19’s coach Paul Allen reports that his team of Joe Blackmur, Clayton Hunt, Haydon Smith, Aaron Allpress and Tom Bird gave Yorkshire a scare despite losing a close semi-final 1-4. It could have easily ended up 3-2 either way, said Paul.

Essex then beat Warwickshire 3-2 after coming back from 1-2 down to finish a deserved third overall.
Our Under-15 Girls made the Trophy Finals which were held just across town at the impressive Nottingham Squash Club. We thought we had our work cut out when we were drawn against pre-tournament favourites Sussex, who boasted England ranked numbers one and six in their line-up.

Essex Under 15’s who took the Trophy Silver medal

But the form book was turned upside down (as were Sussex’s pre-match, confident smiles) as Olivia Broderick, Mikayla Mann, Brooke Smith, Daisy Newton and Libby Connor set about taking down the favourites to book their place in the final against none other than Norfolk, who, amazingly we had already played twice before in the earlier stages.

The two previous meetings had seen Norfolk win 3-2, so revenge was on Essex minds. We were given a great start by Libby who rattled off an impressive 3-0 win and it was a similar tale as Daisy maintained her unbeaten run this season with another win, three zip.
Next up was Brooke Smith who looked in really good nick. She took the first game, lost the second and was game ball up in the third when she was suddenly struck by an acute attack of asthma. In a distressed state, Brooke left the court and was clearly unable to continue. It was upsetting for everyone, with squash and the pursuit of success taking second billing to our concern for Brooke.
Fortunately, her dad took control of the situation and helped calm Brooke who left court side to begin her recovery. We are happy to report that she is in improved health having visited her doctor on Monday. She will be closely monitored and we send her all our love.
The matches that followed went in Norfolk’s favour, but what had been an exciting, full-on squash battle was dampened by Brooke’s medical episode. That said, we congratulate Norfolk on a well-deserved victory and thank them all for showing such concern for our young player.
So silver was ours and it was great to see all the smiling faces (including Brooke) when Essex were awarded their medals at the finale. Great job, girls. We are proud of you all.