TIM BARROTT REPORTING
Essex’s U15 and U17 teams made their way to Brunel University Sports Centre, Uxbridge on 22 January for the second stage of the Inter County Tournament with Kent and Middlesex. The first stage for the teams, which comprise two boys and two girls, had been held in December at Connaught and the U17 team therefore started the second stage with a healthy points lead.
A number of personnel changes were made due to unavailability – including one made the evening before the tournament to replace Max Watts in the U15 team (he had injured himself at gymnastics the day before) with Charlie Broad. In the U17 team, both boys from the first led were unavailable so Abdullah Akbar came in and Max Chilver nobly stepped up from the U15 team.
Although they started in a strong position, the U15 team of Ronan Caruana, Charlie Broad, Libby Connor and Gabrielle Williams, found the opposition on the day a bit too strong for them, but they came second and Libby ended up as the second best girl in the tournament. There has to be a special mention for Charlie Broad because despite the fact that in all his matches, he came up against older, bigger and more experienced opponents, his enthusiasm never dropped – and he played some of the best winning shots of the day. He is certainly one for the future.
The U17 team (LEFT) of Abdullah Akbar, Max Chilver, India Webb and Elli Barrott started with a strong lead and built on that in every match. Max was stepping up to a new level and found his opponents a bit too experienced for him – although each of them came off court knowing that Max had pushed them all the way.
As for Abdullah, India and Elli, there was no stopping them. Each of them won all their 6 matches on the day 2 – 0, playing some outstanding squash and maintaining their standards throughout a long day. As a result the U17 team ended up with more points than the combined points of their opponents. It was a really impressive performance by them and they deservedly picked up the trophy at the end of the day.
As far as individual performances are concerned, Libby was second best girl in the U15 tournament and in the U17 tournament, it came down to a lengthy countback through the results with India beating Elli by 9 points over 12 matches to take the best girl position at U17.
The only downside was the fact that the whole playing area at Brunel University was freezing cold and whereas usually players come off after a match in a sweat, they were actually coming off after matches shivering!
Congratulations to the players who were involved in making sure that our neighbouring counties are aware of the strength of Essex squash – the commitment on the day was outstanding – and thank you to the parents / grandparents and supporters who were there to give encouragement throughout the day whenever there was an Essex player on court.