REPORT BY TIM BARROTT
For the first time, Manningtree High School entered the National Schools Squash Championship with a Girls’ Under 15 team. The 5 girl team (which included four girls who had started to play squash whilst at St Mary’s Primary School, Ardleigh), led by Elli Barrott included Hattie Callen, Hannah Morley, Ruby-Mae Hudson and Georgia Smith. The team was missing Libby Connor due to injury and India Webb through illness.
They were drawn against three sides from Cambridge schools, Comberton Village College’s A and B teams and St IVO School and it was arranged that all the matches would be played one afternoon at Comberton. Last year, Comberton’s A team won the regional heat and were therefore confident of doing the same again this year as they had a strong team of five Cambridgeshire players.
Manning tree, however, were quietly confident as they had five players who have represented Essex in their team.
Following a very professional looking team warm up routine planned by Elli, the team first took on the IVO players. It quickly became evident that the Manningtree girls were much more experienced and they quickly went into a 4-0 lead with all the girls quickly winning 3-0, leaving Elli as no. 1 string to take on the IVO no.1. This proved to be the match of the day as the first 4 games were very close and each was decided by only a couple of points but Elli’s determination saw her win the final game 11-2, to complete a 3-2 victory in a gruelling 40 minutes. So first tie to Manningtree 20-2.
Then came the tie with Comberton A, which was always expected to be difficult, however with Georgia leading the way with a 3-0 victory, followed by similar results for Hannah and Hattie, the tie was won even though Ruby and Elli went down in close matches. Manningtree won this tie 15-6
In the final tie, with Comberton B, the girls showed that not only are they good players, but they are also sporting ones, because it was clear that the Comberton B players were inexperienced. Every girl from Manningtree won 3-0, dropping only a handful of points but it was pleasing to see them realise that their opponents were struggling, so they all lowered the pace of their game to allow the Comberton players to get into some long rallies, get a bit of confidence and pick up a few points. Ruby did everything she could to let her opponent win some points, but still ended up winning each of her games 11-0. Manningtree won this tie 20-0.
So Manningtree came away from their debut in the competition having dominated the regional matches by convincingly winning all three ties.
Well supported by parents, the girls were a credit to their school and to their coaches at Off The Wall Squash, where they all train, with their behaviour on and off court, with their outstanding play on court and their team-spirit.