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 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.
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.