04 Apr 2019
Eton Fives Nationals Round-Up

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U15 Nationals (Sun 24th)

With an original entry of 12 pupils, come the Sunday we were reduced to a team of just 4 due to injury, illness and GCSE drama commitments, nevertheless we made the three hour journey up for the boys to compete. The four boys were our 1st pairing of Joe Thompson & Tom Alexander with our 2nd pair being made up of Oliver Todd & Charlie Montero.

The rules of the competition meant that technically Thompson & Montero were not allowed to play in this and instead had to play up in the U16 competition as they had reached the quarter-final stages last year, however, they were unable to make the Monday date so it was agreed at the seeding committee meting that they would be allowed to participate in the competition but only up until the Quarter-final stages, a fair compromise. It was then therefore very frustrating on the day when the organiser changed his mind removing them from the competition after the pool stages slightly deflating the boys. Despite this the boys played extremely well in their group matches topping their group; with only the Plate offered for them to compete in however they decided to end their frustrating day there.

Our 2nd pairing of Montero & Todd managed to make it to the Last 16 before coming up against 1st seeds and eventual winners of the competition Harrow 1 who knocked them out in three straight sets. The boys battled hard though and made Harrow work for the win in any way they could.

U16 Nationals (Mon 25th)

Two pairs also entered this competition and in a similar vein to above they were both U15 pairs with our 1st pair having reached the U14 National Final last year before losing out to Eton 1 and our 2nd pair reaching the semi-finals before also being knocked out by Eton 1.

Both pairs managed to top their pools meaning they had a bye through to the next round; Berkhamsted 1st pair of Charlie Doe & Joe Hubbard dispatched Shrewsbury 10 with a convincing 12 – 2, 12 – 1 while Berkhamsted 2nd pairing of Matthew Foster & Jack Pemberton also made light work of Aldenham 1 with a 12 – 6, 12 – 6 win. This put both pairs into the Last 16 where the top 8 seeded pairs now entered the competition meaning the standard jumped dramatically.

Foster & Pemberton found themselves up against 3rd seeds St. Olaves 1, a tough draw, the boys were not phased however by both the opposition and the fact they were playing a year up; they went out all guns blazing in the first set and pushed the Olaves boys hard taking an early lead against the seeds. It was then a tight came as Olaves played catch up before managing to steal the first set 13 – 10 from the Berko boys. Frustrated with their loss they let their concentration and drive slide in the next two sets meaning they lost out in three straight sets.

Hubbard & Doe also had a tough draw against 5th seeds St. Olaves 2; in a similar vein to their 2nd pair team mates they boys seemed unphased by the situation. The younger Berko boys got off to a flying start and managed to keep the lead all the way through the first set in a similar showing to Foster & Pemberton, from this position though they managed to close out the game and take the first set 12 – 8. The second set was very tight with the Olaves boys really digging in after this early set-back; but the pressure kept on from Doe & Hubbard was too much thanks to some fine volleying and top-step play meaning they also clinched the second set 13 – 10. The third set was also reasonably tight but like the first set they Berko boys were always just ahead allowing them to close out the set and the match 12 – 8. With Hubbard & Doe through this then meant they were set to play the quarter-finals the following day against Highgate 2; a request was put in to play the match there and then but was rejected by Highgate meaning an impromptu hotel booking and overnight stay for myself and the boys and a rather nice hotel ready for the 9am start the next day.

(Tues 26th)

We were up at the courts warming up by 8.30am with the boys keen to add another scalp to their belts. The Highgate boys seemed much more in the zone and refreshed from the matches yesterday and got off to a flying start keeping everything very tight on top-step and the back of the court. Berkhamsted’s set-piece was also slightly lacking with too many cuts coming back into play and not enough returns of their own meaning points flowed slowly. This allowed Highgate to win the first set reasonably comfortably 4 – 12. The boys tried to adjust their tactics and despite hitting some better lines on their cuts as well as varying their cut-return technique, the Highgate pair seemed to find another gear playing a step up taking the second set also 4 – 12. With nothing to lose the Berko boys went for an all-out attack in the third set, trying to play every other shot as a winner; the tactic seemed to be paying off with the boys dominating most of the rallies meaning the flow of Highgate points stemmed somewhat. The high percentage shots though also led to a few more errors and in the end the boys succumbed in the final set 9 – 12, a valiant effort however and incredible achievement playing a year up to reach a quarter-final stage.

U18 Nationals (Tues 26th)

Just one pair competed in this category and it was a brother pairing of Miles Doe & Charlie Doe so an U18/U15 combination and what would be a long couple of days for young Charlie having just come off from the above quarter-final to then step up and play U18s level. The brothers got off to strong start flying through their pool stage to top their group comfortably, this meant they had a bye through to the next round having claimed the 1st place position. Their next match pitched them against Shrewsbury 5 and again the boys showed their stuff playing an almost perfect game winning in two straight sets 12 – 2, 12 – 2, this put them into the Last 16 against 5th seeds Eton 2.

The competitive spirit and attitude of the brothers was really something to behold as they went on an all-out attack stunning the Eton pair off court in the first set with an impressive 12 – 5 win. This early set-back to the Eton boys shocked them into action and they pushed themselves to play at their utmost ability in the second set winning 12 – 5. Not to be out-done however the Doe brothers fought back valiantly in the third but it was clear the two days of Fives was beginning to tire young Charlie which the Eton boys took advantage off with a high percentage of shots coming his way. Miles encouraged and supported his brother all the way though, but it just wasn’t enough meaning they lost the third set 7 – 12. The fourth set told a similar tale with lots of targeted shots coming Charlies way and again Miles doing al he could to support his brother; it was again a valiant effort but the lost out in the final set 7 – 12. Again, an incredible achievement for an U18/U15 pair to reach the Last 16 and push one of the top pairs in the country.

U14 Nationals (Wed 27th)

We had a strong entry of 8 pairs for this competition with our 1st pairing of Matthew James & James Boylan being made 2nd seeds of the competition while our 2nd pair made up of our top U13 pairing of young Sam Kaynama & Barney Baines were designated 8th seeds, an impressive start for a such a young pair to be given a seed in a competition a year older.

It was great to see such strength and depth from our players with all but one pair making it out of the pool stages and into the main competition. Our 3rd pairing of Jack Heginbottom & Ed Crane had an impressive run to the Last 16 where they met seeded pair Eton 1; the boys had a strong start going toe-to-toe with the Eton boys for the first half of the game, but a few unforced errors allowed the Eton boys to creep ahead a point at a time allowing them to claim the first set. It was frustrating then to see young Heginbottom slightly lose momentum and let his head dip after playing such a strong standard in the first game as well as throughout the tournament so far. This allowed the Eton boys to take control of the game and walk away with the win.

Boylan & James and Kaynama & Baines both managed to make it a round further to the quarter-finals; again, we pushed for the quarters to be played that day as Boylan was due back for Rosslyn Park the next day. This saw young Kaynama & Baines face off against 1st seeds Harrow 1; again, what certainly seems to be a common them with the Berkhamsted players, they never seemed phased by the older and much bigger opposition! The first set was an absolute cracker with both teams up and certain points throughout the match. In the end the Harrow boys managed to take the win in a tight 11 – 13 score-line. The second set was also a great clash but again the older and slightly stronger Harrow boys managed to strong arm their way past the young Berko pair winning 9 – 12. Kaynama & Baines dug in however and managed to dominate the set-piece play running away with an early 9 – 0 lead! Harrow then dug their heels in and played catch-up well, but the damage was done allowing Berko to take the third set 12 – 9. The final set saw two very tired U13 boys battling hard against the older Harrow boys and they just ran out of steam allowing Harrow to take the win 5 – 12. It was certainly one of the best games of the competition seeing a real clash of styles where it seemed the case the Berko boys were the more skilled Fives players, but the maturity and strength of Harrow won out on the day.

Boylan & James then also came up against a seeded pair in the form of St. Olaves 2. It was a very late start time of 7.30pm and so Mr Campbells blunt (but effective) advice was to ‘beat them quickly’, and this is exactly what they did; they played a very high percentage of winners on all their shots nearly all of which worked meaning they smashed their opposition off court in the first set 12 – 1. They continued this trend in the second game though Boylan made a few more errors on his high percentage shots, but Matthew James’ steady hands on top and back step allowed them to push through the set again relatively comfortably 12 – 6. The third set the boys kept up the pressure and their aggressive style of play tactic and some exceptional set-piece play from Matthew getting back some astonishing cuts allowed them to cruise through winning 12 – 4 putting them into the semi-finals.

The semis and final were set to be played on the Friday but unfortunately fate was against us, and young Boylan sustained a nasty injury breaking his fingers at Rosslyn Park 7s literally in the last few minutes of the final game of the day. It was then left with the opposition to decide if they would like to postpone the competition until the summer term to allow the boys to play, but St. Olaves opted to take the win putting the boys out of the competition; a real shame as they certainly looked to be the best pair there.

U18 Girls Nationals (Fri 29th)

Just two pairs competed in the Girls’ Open this year in the form of Zoe Nicholls & Freya Butler and our U15 National Champions Bethan Miles & Lola Hannah. Miles & Hannah did well to top their group especially in a tight game against Shrewsbury 2 winning 12 – 11. Nicholls & Butler had a slightly tougher ride but just made it out of their group despite a frustrating loss to Shrewsbury 9 who came on court with a poor attitude and sportsmanship throughout the match. Both pairs worked hard and were rewarded with reaching the quarter-finals.

Nicholls & Butler squared off against Shrewsbury 1 who they had played in the groups and given a good game against, but the Shrewsbury girls had gone through the gears in their previous matches and won reasonably comfortably in two straight sets, though the girls had made them work hard for every pint they had acquired. Miles & Hannah also had a tough draw against Shrewsbury 3; it was a frustrating game to watch and for lack of a better word the young U15 girls were ‘bullied’ off court by their older opposition. The atmosphere created by the Shrewsbury pair wasn’t good and there were some frustrating calls made from them which seemed slightly against the ‘Spirit of the game’. In the end they also went down in two sets though the first was tight and could have gone either way. Despite this it was certainly a good learning curve for the girls and that in fixtures they need to make sure they stand up for what is right in a match and not allow themselves to be walked over from older and stubborn opposition.

Mr A. Theodossi – Fives Professional