Played over two venues at Oakleigh Park and Hazelwood Squash Clubs, the series has been set up to feature Inter County Squad players on the fringe of selection for their main squads. Both categories were well attended and received by parents and players alike with some quality and highly entertaining squash played by our up and coming juniors.
In the U11 category our Essex team, featuring Caleb Belcher, Lara Newton, Edward Mason, Renitha Srindran and Alex Banhidai came a close second to the very strong team from Kent. Wins over Surrey (4-1), Suffolk (4-1) and Middlesex (4-1) meant the battle for 1st and 2nd in the group was decided on the outcome of the Essex / Kent match.
Unfortunately the strength in depth of the Kent side proved to be the difference with Kent winning 4-1. Star player for the Essex team this weekend was Alex Banhidai playing at number 1 who won all of his four matches without dropping a game.
LAUREN SELBY REPORTS ON THE UNDER-13’S
I travelled with the U13 team to Hazelwood Squash Club, our team consisted of Brandon Higgins-Pearce, Max Hyde, Yusuf Sheikh, India Shepperson and Sophie Brame. The early Sunday morning start certainly didn’t put off the players, they were keen and ready to go at 9.30am. The other counties were Kent, Middlesex and Surrey, unfortunately Sussex and Suffolk had to withdraw their teams for this round.
Our first match was against Surrey, Sophie and Yusuf took to the court. Once the nerves were dusted off the two players took charge of the rallies. Sophie used her serve and front court game to great effect and scored a 3-0 victory.
Yusuf aged 9 was also playing well and showed why he is highly ranked in the U11’s. Another 3-0 win and Essex were two matches up and flying out of the blocks.
Max Hyde used good court craft and awareness to score a 3-0 win. India playing at 1 string took her opponent by surprise with her powerful serve and clinical short game, another convincing win. Lastly Brandon took to the court to wrap up proceedings, he played some excellent squash and gave Essex the 5-0 win.
After a short break the players were raring to play again, this time our opponents were Kent. Sophie was in a confident mood after the first match and scored another 3-0 win. Yusuf had a tougher match against the Kent left hander Caleb Boy. The rallies were long and intense but Yusuf pipped the first two games. In the third game the Kent player hit with more pace and Yusuf was dragged into the hard hitting.
Yusuf lost the game and then regrouped well in the fourth. He started to take the pace out of the rallies and hit with more accuracy. The fourth game was still close but Yusuf sneaked it in the end giving Essex a 2-0 lead. India cruised to victory using her strong serve and good spacial awareness. Max took control of his match and volleyed well to put his opponent under lots of pressure, 3-0 to Max. The last match of the round saw cool, calm and collected Brandon score a 3-0 win, finishing the match with his trademark fist pump! Essex had another 5-0 result in the bag.
Lastly we played Middlesex, could we make it three wins from three. Yusuf won 3-0 , floating the ball around the court and making his opponent do plenty of running. Sophie faced her hardest opponent of the day. At 1-1 Sophie started exposing her opponent’s weaknesses and pushed on to win the match 3-1. India also had a tricky opponent on the court next door.
The points were back and forth but India held her nerve well at the crucial times and won the match 3-2. Max and Brandon both finished off the day with comfortable 3-0 wins for Essex. Brandon’s mini fist pump again summed up a fantastic day for their team and Essex Junior Squash. It was a wonderful display of team spirit and also the depth of our county squads. Looking forward to round 2.