ESSEX were edged out of the silverware at the showpiece Premier Inter-County Finals at Wimbledon at the weekend but cemented their position as a major force in English squash.
The men’s team overcame pre-tournament favourites Surrey in a Titanic semi-final that reached almost fever pitch in its intensity and drama. Our line-up of Ben Coleman, Richie Fallows, Youssef Abdallam Rory Pennell and Jack Jago were immense as they took their place in Sunday’s final against near-neighbours Hertfordshire.
Disappointingly, that showdown proved a step too far for Essex as Herts, who boasted a line-up of World No 26 Adrian Waller, seasoned pro Chris Ryder, Angus Gillams, Nick Mulvey and Joe Greeen emerged worthy winners. Coleman took Waller to five, similarly Jago went the distance against Green, but the opposition were too strong on the day as Herts finished 5-0 victors.
Essex Ladies finished fourth overall, but pushed Gloucestershire all the way in their third-fourth play-off. Keeley Taylor and Sarah Neller put in gritty performances but were narrowly edged out in close matches. However, number one Lauren Briggs and Sophie Lemom gave Essex a shot of victory with wins and the match went down to the wire with 14-year-old Elise Lazarus carrying our hopes.
Elise has been out of competitive action for several months but despite being a little ring rusty, took on England Under-19 player Eleanor Lake with steely determination. Elise lost the first, nerves and over-eagerness costing her, but came roaring back in the second winning 11-6. The third looked to be going Elise’s way too as she opened up a four-point gap before going on to serve for the game. Unfortunately she served out allowing Eleanor a route back which the 18-year-old gratefully grabbed taking the game 13-11.
Elise remained competitive in the fourth but her lack of court time finally caught up with her, much to the relief of the Gloucestershire girl who was clearly rattled and grateful to creep over the line.
Sophie Lemom posted the team picture above on Twitter adding “Super Happy with team performance this weekend #TopFour”
You can follow Sophie’s Twitter feed on @SophieCitron. Elise also posts @EliseLazarus
Reports below courtesy of Englandsquashandracketball.com
Hertfordshire 5 Essex 0
The stakes were high for these neighbouring counties and the 70 minute first rubber between 5th strings Joe Green and Jack Jago bore this out. Green took the first game, and was up in the 2nd before Jago took it 14/12. It seemed that Essex would get the perfect start as Jago then took the 3rd 11/8, but with his team mates urging him on, Green took the closely contested 4th 11/8. This seemed to knock Jago and he never got a foothold in the 5th, losing it 11/5, to give Hertfordshire a dream start.
Youseff Abdalla started brightly against Angus Gillams and took the first game to the delight of Essex. Long rallies and excellent retrieving in the 2nd gave Gillams a toehold in the match and he took the 2nd11/7. He continued to exert his game on Abdulla in the next 2 games which he won 11/4 11/9 to put Hertfordshire firmly in control of the match.
Nick Mulvey was in full control throughout his 4th string match beating Rory Pennell 3-0 to give Hertfordshire the title. Meanwhile on the adjacent court the match of the day was unfolding between top strings Adrian Waller and Ben Coleman. Waller started slowly and Coleman took full advantage, with an 11/4 score line.
The next game swung the other way and Waller took it 11/4, back came Coleman in the 3rd 11/6, but that really was the last of his resistance as Waller played some really good stuff in the next two games to take them 11/4 and 11/6 in just over 70 minutes.
Chris Ryder completed the whitewash beating Richie Fallows 3-1 at 2nd string, and whilst there were flashes of brilliance form Fallows, Ryder played the more controlled game and ran out a 3-1 winner. So after several seasons in runner up spot, Hertfordshire finally got their hands on the trophy they won 6 seasons ago.
Adrian Waller bt Ben Coleman 3-2 ; 4/11 11/4 6/11 11/4 11/6
Chris Ryder bt Richie Fallows 3-1; 11/4 11/3 6/11 11/2
Angus Gillams bt Youssef Abdalla 3-1; 7/11 11/7 11/4 11/9
Nick Mulvey bt Rory Pennell 3-0;11/8 11/1 11/9
Joe Green bt Jack Jago 3-2;11/8 12/14 8/11 11/8 11/5
MEN’S SEMI FINAL
Essex 3 Surrey 2
On paper, this looked like being a very close match and it was, with Richie Fallows dashing the home fans’ hopes with a 3-2 win over Charles Sharpes in a feisty encounter in the decisive rubber.
It was nip and tuck from the start, with Surrey captain Neil Frankland winning his first game against Jack Jago 17/15 at fifth string on the way to a 3-0 success. Youssef Abdalla then levelled the tie when he beat James Simpson 3-1 at third string, only for Rory Pennell to push Essex ahead with a 3-0 victory over Wimbledon pro Phil Rushworth.
That left the reigning champions needing Joe Lee to win his first-string match versus Ben Coleman to keep them in the tie, which he did 3-2 in an entertaining 86-minute clash. Everything then rested on the second strings and they didn’t disappoint.
The tension was palpable, both on and off the court, with a gallery packed to the rafters with home supporters. The first game was extremely tight, with Sharpes edging it 12/10, only for Fallows, playing in an extremely aggressive style, to hit back and upset the flow of Sharpes in the second, which the Essex no.2 took 11/7.
However, Sharpes claimed the third 14/12, doing extremely well to hold his game and temper together. Fallows then took the fourth 11/9 to set up a nailbiting finale. Passions almost boiled over both on and off court as the game swung one way and then the other, before Fallows won it 11/9 to the delight of his team but to the frustration of the Surrey supporters and squad.
Ben Coleman lost to Joe Lee 2-3 6/11 11/7 8/11 11/9 6/11
Richie Fallows bt Charles Sharpes 3-2 10/12 11/7 12/14 11/9 11/9
Youssef Abdalla bt James Simpson 3-1 8/11 11/8 11/8 11/9
Rory Pennell bt Phil Rushworth 3-0 11/4 11/1 11/8
Jack Jago lost to Neil Frankland 0-3 15/17 4/11 5/11
MEN’S FIRST ROUND
Yorkshire 1 Essex 4
Fifth string Andrew Widdison got Yorkshire off to a great start by beating Jack Jago 3-2, but then Essex turned on the after-burners in the remaining rubbers, winning all four 3-0. Richie Fallows was particularly impressive in his 20-minute win over Dom Hamilton
James Earles lost to Ben Coleman 0-3 10/12 0/11 5/11
Dom Hamilton lost to Richie Fallows 0-3 5/11 8/11 6/11
Taminder Gata Aura lost to Youssef Abdalla 0-3 2/11 9/11 12/14
Alex Hodgetts lost to Rory Pennell 0-3 6/11 6/11 6/11
Andrew Widdison bt Jack Jago 3-2 11/7 10/12 15/13 8/11 11/7
WOMEN’S 3-4 PLAY-OFF
Essex 2 Gloucestershire 3
First blood went to Gloucestershire with Elin Jones winning 3-1 in the opening 5th string rubber. Ellie Lake pipped Elise Lazarus 3-1 at 3rd string to give Gloucester what would prove to be an unassailable lead despite the fine efforts of SoPHie Lemom winning 3- 0 at 4th string and Lauren Briggs overcoming Julianne Courtice by the same margin it was Gloucestershire’s Jenny Tamblyn who beat Keeley Taylor 3-1 to give the newcomers a fine 3rd placed finishing spot.
Lauren Briggs bt Julianne Courtice 3-0; 11/8 11/3 11/4
Keeley Taylor lost to Jenny Tamblyn 1-3; 8/11 4/11 9/11
Elise Lazarus lost to Ellie Lake 1-3; 9/11 11/5 10/12 8/11
Sophie Lemom bt Amber Peacey 3-0; 11/7 11/6 11/7
Sarah Nelle lost to Elin Jones 1-3; 7/11 5/11 14/12 10/12
WOMEN’S SEMI FINAL
Essex 2, Cheshire 3
Holders Cheshire knew that they had to be at their best to overcome a confident Essex team who started off well with Sarah Neller beating Annie Openshaw-Blower 3-0 in just 23 minutes. Sophie Lemom pushed the Essex girls closer to the final with an equally emphatic win over Kirsty West. Elise Lazarus did extremely well to take Olivia Howell all the way at 3rd string, but the Cheshire player prevailed 11/5 in the 5th to keep them in the tie. Emily Whitlock was too god for Lauren Briggs at first string and drew the tie level as she won 3-0. Despite a good fight from Essex 2nd string Keeley Taylor, Rachel Chadwick was just too strong winning 3-0 to take Cheshire through to another final
Lauren Briggs lost Emily Whitlock 0-3; 7/11 7/11 6/11
Keeley Taylor lost Rachel Chadwick 0-3; 6/11 10/12 0/11
Elise Lazarus lost to Olivia Howell 2-3; 7/11 5/11 11/7 11/5 5/11
Sophie Lemom bt Kirsty West 3-0; 11/7 11/5 11/7
Sarah Neller bt Annie Openshaw-Blower 3-0; 11/2 11/8 11/9
WOMEN’S FIRST ROUND
Essex 4 Kent 1
Essex, with a fine blend of youth and experience, eased past Kent, with Keeley Taylor their only loss, to Amelia Henley.
Lauren Briggs bt Gina Kennedy 3-0 11/6 11/3 11/3
Keeley Taylor lost to Amelia Henley 0-3 3/11 3/11 2/11
Elise Lazarus bt Stephanie Shaw 3-0 11/7 11/7 11/3
Sophie Lemom bt Louise Gregory 3-0 11/5 11/6 11/2
Sarah Neller bt Beth Seaman 3-0 11/2 11/2 11/2