11 Mar 2019
Ladies Championships

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Yesterday we took five pairs over to Eton College to participate in the Ladies Championships 2019; two pairs participated in the Main competition while the remaining three played in the Festival tournament.

Sixteen pairs made up the Main draw while the Festival composed of twelve; the Main had made a change from the norm this year by being a straight knock-out competition where all the matches were best of 3, while the Festival remained the usual pool stages set-up with the top pairs progressing through the tournament.

Berkhamsted were the youngest team represented in the Festival with most of the opposition being Y11 or older school pupils or beginner University players. This presented a very tough day of Fives for the Berko girls, but there were lost of good close matches which will all translate into good match experience for them looking forward into the future.

In the Main tournament we were represented by our U18 pairing of Zoe Nicholls & Freya Butler and our three-time U15 National Champions Bethan Miles & Lola Hannah. Zoe & Freya had a very tough first draw against the second seeds; the girls went down 0 – 3 but it was really pleasing to see them at least give a good battle to one of the top female pairs in the country, making them work hard for every point. Bethan & Lola at first seemed to have a more favourable draw jumping on against a couple of older but still wily veterans of the game, but a sudden last-minute re-jig to the draw saw them pulled off court to then go and play against Shrewsbury U18 1st pair (tipped to win this years’ Nationals). It was a thrilling game to watch; the Shrewsbury girls were always up in the first two sets with Bethan & Lola nipping at their heals all the way resulting in a respective 8 – 12, 9 – 12 loss in the first two games. The third set saw a reversal with Shrewsbury constantly on the chase just behind the Berko girls; the score reached 9 – 10 and a crucial point ensured where Lola played the ball, hitting the Shrewsbury opposition and going up before then winning the rally off that shot, a pint to Berko putting them 11 – 9 up and on match point! It was not to be however; the Shrewsbury girls feigned ignorance of the rule and requested a let to be played instead. The Berko girls graciously gave the let and in the end it allowed the Shrewsbury girls to go up and push through the next few points to claim the third and final set, frustrating!

This put both Zoe & Freya and Bethan & Lola into the Plate competition into two separate pools of 4 with the top from each going straight through to a final. Zoe & Freya just missed out losing one of their games to Shrewsbury 2nd U18 pair 15 – 13, Bethan & Lola managed to win all three of their matches putting them into the final against the Shrewsbury pair. It was a good match up with lots of close rallies and high-quality Fives, one of the Shrewsbury girls cut-returned the ball extremely well knocking back a good 90%+ of them allowing them to keep racking up the points. Bethan & Lola found themselves 7 – 11 down but then in one hand from Bethan they found themselves 12 – 11 up thanks to a superb run from Bethan’s cut-returning and some demonic top-step play. From here the girls kept them lead and some solid play from Lola and both the back and front of the court allowed them to push through the last few points to take the final 15 – 11.

All in all it was a great day of Fives and some very valuable match experience for the girls to see both how good they really are even when thrown into the adult game but also where they can push themselves and what they could achieve in the future.

Mr A. Theodossi – Fives Professional

Link: http://www.etonfives.com/news/2676-ladies-championships-2019-top-four-through