DAVID HARRIS REPORTING
The third round of 6 Counties Squash Grand Prix series, organised by volunteers of Essex Junior Squash, took place last weekend (Sunday 28th Feb) with U11 and U13 teams from Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Essex battling for honours.
Played at the Bexley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, the series has been set up to feature Inter County Squad players on the fringe of selection for their main squads.
In the U11 category our Essex team featured a number of players playing for the first time with Caleb Belcher, Leah Brooke, Luke Scott-Stevens, Lara Newton and William Wand. Essex coach Lauren Selby, who was there overseeing the Essex team’s performances, was full of praise for such a great event, designed to promote new talent to the Inter County scene.
The team got off to a great start with a 4-1 win over Middlesex dropping only 2 team points in the process. Wins for William Wand, Luke Scott-Stevens & Leah Brooke on their debuts highlighted the strength in depth of our U11 squad. Lara Newton backed this up with another great win to continue her excellent progress.
Caleb Belcher found out how difficult playing at 1 can be when he came up against Antoine Pucelle, a regular in the series. After making a great start winning 13/11, the Middlesex player gradually started to work Caleb a lot harder with some great retrieving, eventually taking the match 10/12 4/11 9/11.
In the other corresponding fixture, Kent who are winners of the previous two rounds in the U11 category, started strongly again with a convincing 4-1 (19-3) victory over Surrey.
In round 2 the Essex team showed their promise again, this time downing Surrey 4-1 (17-5) with wins for Lara, Luke, Leah and Caleb, whilst Kent defeated Middlesex 4-1 (18-3).
This setup the traditional winner takes all-clash between Essex and Kent.
In what was arguably one of the two matches of the day, the tie opened up with a thrilling match between Harrison Seal and William Wand. William won the first 11/7. Harrison came back strongly to win the 2nd and 3rd 11/6 11/6. Undeterred William fought back to take the 4th 11/8 before Harrison took the 5th game 11/7 to rapturous applause from the watching crowd. Lara Newton then equalised the match at 1-1 with a clinical 3-0 win. Luke Scott-Stevens then had a great battle with the established Ryan Slater losing 9/11 8/11 11/9 10/12.
Kent then wrapped up victory with wins in boys and girls seed 1 matches. This was a great effort from the new look U11 side and a day which introduced a number of new players from Essex to the Inter County scene.
Final positions for the U11 category saw Kent finish on 54 points, Essex 40, Middlesex 27 and Surrey 13.
In the U13’s category Essex again used the series to introduce new players to the Inter County scene with debuts for Daniel Caton at 3 and Robert Wand at 2. The team was completed by Sophe Brame, India Shepperson and Aidan Cahill.
Another great start to the day saw Essex’s new look team make a winning start, this time a 5-0 win over Middlesex.
Stand out match of this round saw Daniel Caton’s debut match versus Leon Maudgil go to 5 sets. After a mammoth match which saw DC coming from behind twice to take the match 12/14 11/9 6/11 11/5 11/9. With convincing wins from the remainder of the team Essex took a commanding lead in the category 20/4.
In the other fixture in the group, Surrey pulled off the surprise of the day defeating Kent 3-2 (14/6).
In round 2, Essex came up against Surrey and what a series of matches this proved to be. Daniel Caton was over powered by Felix Exelby 0/3. Sophie Brame brought Essex back into the tie with a 3/0 win. Robert Wand had another battle but unfortunately went down 1/3. India Shepperson was clinical in winning 3/0 to leave the match at 2-2.
It was all down to Aidan Cahill playing at 1 against James Donaldson. Great start by Aidan, 11/9 and 13/11 before a tremendous fight back by James saw him take the next two games 7/11 7/11. With the match at 2-2 and the final game at 2/2 it came down to the last game of this tie to decide the winner. With both players trading points all the way to 9/9 Aidan took the game 11/9 to win the tie for Essex 3/2 (15/8).
During the course of this match a number of parents were heard to comment that watching their kids play was torment!
In the other round 2 tie, Kent re-grouped and got themselves back on track with a 4-1 win over Middlesex (17/4).
Going into Round 3, the category could be won by anyone of 3 teams, Kent, Surrey and Essex.
Surrey made a tremendous start winning their Boys 3 and Girls 2 matches against Middlesex 3/0.
Kent also made a great start against Essex. In the corresponding fixtures both matches went to Kent 3/0.
Surrey continued their great start with a 3/0 win in the Boys 2 fixture and a 2/3 loss in the Girls 1 fixture.
Meanwhile in what was thought to be the game of the tournament, Robert Wand playing arguably some of his best squash, took a 2/0 lead over George Potter of Kent, 8/11 9/11.
The main difference of round 3 is that due to the withdrawal of two counties, this round allowed matches to be played to best of 5 instead of best of 3 and this produced some great comebacks and the Kent player produced the same.
George took the 3rd and 4th games 11/5 to setup a tense 5th game which went the way of the Kent player 11/4. A brilliant effort by Robert on his debut tournament for Essex.
In the Girls 1 fixture India Shepperson picked up valuable points for Essex with a 3/0 whilst on the opposite court Surrey completed their fixture against Middlesex with another 3/0 win (19/3).
With the final match on court and Surrey on 41 points, Essex just needed 1 point from their final match to pip Kent by a single point and take the U13 category from Surrey thanks to their win over them in round 2.
Aidan Cahill started confidently against James Donaldson with the pair trading points to 8/8 before James snatched game 1, 9/11. A similar battle ensued in game 2 with the Kent player winning 10/12. There was still time for Aidan to gain that single point needed by Essex. Sadly for Aidan, James stepped up the pace of his game further to take the 3rd game 11/8 and the overall match 4/1.
Final positions for the U13 category saw Surrey finish on 41 points, Kent 40, Essex 40 and Middlesex 11. Kent took second place thanks to their win over Essex in round 3.
A fantastic finish to a wonderful day of squash.
A massive thank you to all at Bexley Lawn Tennis and Squash club for letting us take over their facilities for the day and to all the parents for bring their juniors to this event.
The final round will be held at Surrey Sports Park on Sunday 19th June 2016.
Apologies for the lack of photographs this time round, but I was somewhat engrossed in all the great squash being played!