08 Feb 2018
U14 Girls' National Championships

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The first girls’ National championship competition took place yesterday on a rather cold but exciting day of Fives; there was a real buzz in the air after last years’ success with Bethan Miles & Lola Hannah being double National champions at U13 and U15 level, but with Miles being plagued by a nasty ankle injury since before Christmas she was out of action for this event.

This was the inaugural competition for girls’ U14 level and it was pleasing to see a healthy 70 players taking part with 11 of them made up of Berkhamsted pupils. We had a mix of U14 and U13 girls participating some of whom had played the game since Prep school while others were new to the game this year. Three of the five pairs made it out of the group stages into the second round of the main competition with both 1st pair (Hannah & Mathews) and 2nd pair (Hornshaw & Goode) topping their groups allowing them a bye in the second round.

Our U13 3rd pairing of Gabby Palmer & Kiera Treadwell did well to reach the last 16 of the main competition; they then came up against last years’ finalists, Cranleigh 1, and put up a great resistance against the older pairing but eventually losing in straight sets 6 – 12, 8 – 12. Our second pairing, U14 squad players Ella-Grace Goode & Ismay Hornshaw went one better making the quarter-final stages. They came up against one of the favourites, Highgate 1, but early in the game a nasty shoulder injury struck one of the Highgate players; fortunately she was ok and able to recover but ended up playing the game serving under-arm, a frustrating disadvantage to Goode & Hornshaw both of whom were unable to make use of their good cutting techniques. In the end they lost out in straight sets 2 – 12, 3 – 12.

Our top U14 pairing, Lola Hannah & Ellie Mathews, had a very long day of Fives; they breezed through the competition right up until the semi-final stages where they then met a very solid Highgate 2nd pair. Unfortunately the softer Fives they had been playing up to this point took its toll, in such a way that they weren’t prepared to play to a higher standard against stronger opposition. Hannah had been solid throughout the day and continued this good form with solid cut-returning and open rally play. Mathews struggled through the first set with numerous unforced errors and sloppy rally play allowing Highgate to take the first set 6 – 12. The mid-match team talk focused on tightening up their game in open rally play and improving their set piece play both cutting opposition down and getting cuts back into play. Mathews did move up a gear and they took an early lead in the second set 10 – 5; again though a few unforced errors allowed Highgate to catch up levelling the score at 11 – 11. The Berko girls opted for a step at 13 option. Some fine cutting from Mathews put them back into serving position and they powered through the next few points in a row taking the second set 14 – 11. The final set was a certainly a sight to behold; Hannah maintained her steady form, but for Mathews it was as if a light switch had been turned on in her head and she dominated the match both on back court and top-step with tight angled “Dossi Special” shots around into the buttress and clean kill volleying into the buttress. Her demon cutting and exquisite cut returns combined with Hannah’s solid play allowed them to take the third set 12 – 4, with the 4 points all being lost from quality shots from the Highgate opposition.

In the final they came up against Highgate 1 whom Goode & Hornshaw had meant earlier in the quarter-final stages. The Berko girls continued their fine form and dominated the first set 12 – 4. There was not much advice from the Berkhamsted coach to give after the first set as they played perfect Fives throughout and all that could be imparted was to continue their fine form. And so they did in the second set with a master-class of Fives being showcased; they dominated the opposition from the very start and never gave them an inch allowing them into the game thanks to cutting them down every time as well as picking out almost seemingly impossible cut-returns. They took the second set with a well-deserved 12 – 0 win.

It really does show the difference and momentum shift in the strength and depth of the Fives throughout the schools since the introduction of the Prep courts facility and long may it continue. Many thanks to Miss Baker for giving up her time to come along and not only support but encourage and enthuse the girls throughout the day. We look forward to the U12, U15 and U18 Girls’ Nationals taking place after the half term break.

Mr A. Theodossi