In the absence of my dad, Paul, I happily stepped in to coach the boys U15 team on Sunday at Ipswich Sports Club. Before he jetted off to the US Open to do the three things he loves the most (drink coffee, talk and watch squash), I was given the full run down on team selection and what he expected from the players. Duly they obliged.
Suffolk and Bucks played in the morning, I went along to have a look at the opposition. Bucks looked strong and tall. They beat Suffolk fairly convincingly so we knew the match against Bucks would be the tougher of the two. Our team consisted of Charlie Martin, Harry Kitchens, Timmy Bacon, Josh Stinson, Travis Tatum and Sujan Srindran.
First on court against Bucks was Travis and Timmy playing at strings 5 and 3. Timmy is a very strong number 3 and looked very comfortable against the Bucks player. Timmy used some deft touches and continually outsmarted his opponent, 3-0 to Essex.
12143087_1657523447820036_8487751793270147361_nNext door Travis was playing a boy who was about double the size. Travis took it all in his stride and played some fantastic squash. The players were very evenly matched and the games scores were level at 2-2. A few tactical changes and Travis stuck to the game plan well. The rallies were intense and exciting for the crowd. Travis battled well and sneaked the match with a wonderful straight drop from the back (shot of the day!). 
Next up were Charlie and Josh (chalk and cheese!). Josh was jumping up and down looking all pumped up whilst Charlie was his usual casual, laid-back self. Josh played well and put together some good rallies. A few too many unforced errors gave his opponent some cheap points. Despite losing 3-0 the games were close and Josh displayed his smooth technique and some excellent touch at the front.
Charlie was up against a strong Bucks player who volleyed well and liked to dominate the middle. Charlie moved the ball around  the court well, trying to make his opponent give up the T. Some wonderful retrieving from Charlie (rubber legs) and after a nail biting ending he won 3-2.
This relieved the pressure from Harry but he was still determined to put in a good performance against the Bucks left hander. Harry played some good squash but got drawn into the pace of his opponent. We brought in a secret tactic and Harry applied it well. Soon the Bucks player got tired and in the fifth game Harry dominated proceedings. A fine 3-2 victory and a win on the board for Essex. Sujan played against the Bucks reserve and looked in complete control, volleying well and hitting some tidy length. A convincing win for Sujan. 
After a quick lunch we got straight back on court against Suffolk. This time Sujan stepped up as the number 5 string and won 3-0 fairly easily. Sujan dominated the middle and kept a cool head at all times, a good start for Essex. 
Timmy was also cruising next door, strolling around the court and scoring another 3-0 win. Josh was fired up after his loss earlier and played much better in this match. He used a good variation in pace and hit some quality STRAIGHT shots. Despite losing a game Josh sealed the win and the tie for Essex.
Charlie had a tough match up against Josh Perkins but he was keen to do well. Charlie powered out of the blocks and found himself 2-0 up. Josh started to get agitated and Charlie took full advantage. There were some nerve racking moments when Josh brought the score back to 9-10 in the 3rd but Charlie closed it out and took the match 3-0, an excellent win.
Harry was on last against Kian Howard and it ended up being another epic match. The games were going back and forth but Harry dug deep and held his nerve to win 3-2. Harry certainly got his money’s worth that day.
So Essex finished as group winners and have stormed into Stage 2. A delighted Paul was proud of his team’s performances as was I. Looking forward to the next stage in November, well done boys!