National School Girls’ Championships: Titles for several schools

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Marlborough College, 27th April 2014

The fifth annual school girls tournament was notable not only for the highest ever number of girls entering, but for the highest quality of play seen by the organisers since the tournament began.

Some familiar faces from Rugby School, Christ’s Hospital, Marlborough College, Aldenham and Rossall were joined by new arrivals Sedbergh and a strong contingent from Malvern College.

The senior (U18) category demonstrated the strength in depth of the schoolgirls’ game. There were fierce battles in each group but eventually the top 4 seeds won through to face runners-up in the quarters. Nor were many knock-out games any easier. Each girl had a difficult passage to the final except for Shinan Zhang, first seed and rapidly demonstrating her superiority in overcoming the two Rugby girls Milly Richards and then Milly Browne without conceding a point. Meanwhile Louise Mathias met Amy Flood in the other side of the draw, the semi-final being a re-run of last year’s U16 final, with the same result. In the final, Louise Mathias pushed Shinan in many of the rallies but had no answer for her opponent’s strength and speed, Shinan deservedly taking this year’s trophy. Third seed Amy Flood of Aldenham School came through a tough third-place play-off against Milly Browne of Rugby to win bronze.

In the U18 doubles, the Malvern pair of Shinan Zhang and Cassie Bedford impressed but the Rugby girls did get on the trophy list, having beaten a strong Christ’s Hospital pair in the group. Malvern re-emphasised their strength by beating a good Rugby pair (Millies Browne & Richards) in the final with some powerful hitting in the long rallies, whilst Christ’s Hospital (Louise Mathias & Coralie Strong) overcame a plucky Sedbergh pair (Anna Marland & Steph Gardner) for the bronze.

Rugby School may have missed out on the top spots at U18, but they eventually dominated the U16 medals, which again was a very strong category where few games were easily won. In fact, so many singles games were so close in the groups rounds that the organisers were seriously worried for the schedule. First, second and third positions in groups were incredibly tight, sometimes just one point, and we hope that those that lost out were not too disappointed; in particular, the girls from Sedbergh who put up a great fight. As it was, only 8 girls could make it through and so through to the quarter finals were an incredibly strong eight: Lottie Harbottle (Rugby), Phoebe Thornhill (Christ’s Hospital), Amelia Law (Malvern), Fern Nuttall (Sedbergh), Kirsty Martin (Rugby), Maggie Wong (Malvern), Cassie Bedford (Malvern) and Kirti Mehta (Rugby).

A testament of the quality of the U16 entry was that no player managed to win a quarter-final by more than six points, Kirsty Martin of Rugby taking that accolade with a powerful display of hitting. Kirsty won through impressively to the final, beating a strong challenge from Cassie Bedford of Malvern; meanwhile on the other side of the draw, Lottie Harbottle overcame Amelia Law in a very close and exciting semi-final 11-8; they had already met in their group where Lottie had just won 12-11, although Lottie in fact came second in her group having lost to Beatrix Crinnion of Christ’s Hospital! The final was thus two Rugby girls, hitting with power and precision to the back corners throughout, and deservedly won by Kirsty. The bronze medal match was thus between the two Malvern girls, Amelia managing to snatch that from Cassie, who did not herself miss out as she shortly became the senior doubles champion.

In the U16 doubles, games were equally tight, but with all teams in the groups showing impressive determination and awareness of doubles tactics. The two Rugby pairs showed their overall strength and skill by topping their groups, with the Christ’s Hospital and Malvern girls coming in second place. In the final Kirsty Martin got the gold once more, playing with Nush Mehta; together they displayed their dominance over their schoolmates Lottie Harbottle and Kirti Mehta. The bronze medal game was rather closer, stalwarts Beatrix Crinnion and Phoebe Thornhill just losing 12-10 to the Malvern girls Maggie Wong and Amelia Law.

At U14 level it was yet another school’s turn to dominate; this time, the hosts, Marlborough College. Before the competition the smart money had been backing the seasoned Christ’s Hospital contingent, but the sporty and talented Marlborough girls, expertly coached by Mr Kiggell, were soon drawing impressed comments from the gallery. These two schools dominated the groups, as girls from Aldenham fought hard but could not win through. Cosima Bugel of Marlborough, rapidly becoming a favourite to win, dispatched Ynys Barnard-Masterson of Christ’s Hospital before facing and beating her schoolmate Isabella Lee in another fantastic display of athletic movement and accurate hitting. Meanwhile Stella Saunt-Hills of Christ’s Hospital faced strong challenges from Molly Fisher followed by Stella Smith, both of Marlborough. So Cosi Bugel faced Stella Saunt-Hills in the final, and it was Cosi who won convincingly in the end, showing an impressive use of her experience from the day to come from behind and eventually make her accurate hitting on both sides count. Cosi was deservedly thrilled to win gold. The bronze medal match was between the two Marlborough girls Isabella and Stella, with Stella taking the bronze.

The doubles was a similar story; Aldenham was outclassed, and the top Marlborough pair re-asserted their ascendancy, taking the trophy. The Christ’s Hospital pair beat the second Marlborough pair to take the silver, leaving their opponents with the bronze. The U14 trophies had never seen such good play; clearly these girls will be the ones to watch in the future.

At U13 level Rossall, Aldenham and Christ’s Hospital provided a thrilling set of encounters, with girls from both Year 7 and Year 8 already showing a good sense of court awareness and shot selection. Through to the quarter-finals were Anelina Green, Helena Walsh and Zoe Brown of Christ’s Hospital, Grace Gordon, Isabelle Woodman and Tayla Walkden of Rossall, and Emma Conway and Sasha Macdonald of Aldenham. Angelina used strong shots to the back of the court to dominate her side of the draw, beating first Isabelle and then Grace of Rossall to reach the final. On the other side, Emma showed tactical nous, graceful movement and some determination to reach the final, overcoming Zoe and then Helena of Christ’s Hospital. In the final, Angelina’s more powerful hitting made the difference, as she took the gold and Emma the silver. In the bronze medal match, Grace Gordon beat Sasha Macdonald to bring some silverware back for Rossall.

The doubles games developed a similar pattern: Aldenham met Chris’s Hospital in the final, and again the powerful returning of Angelina made the difference, her and Helena winning gold. Sasha and Emma gained a deserved silver, and meanwhile the Rossall girls repeated Grace’s singles feat with a win in the plate to gain bronze.

A fantastic tournament showed the increasing prowess and popularity of the girls’ game, and we look forward to more of the same next year! Plans are afoot to involve more senior girls in the ladies’ Fives scene, with a Lady’s Cup of mixed pairs, to take place hopefully in October.

U18 Singles (Paula Smith Cup)

Group stages:
Group A: 
1. L. Mathias (Christ’s Hospital), 2. K. Shelina (Clifton), 3. S. Gardner (Sedbergh)
Group B: 1. S. Zhang (Malvern), 2. K. Broad (Rugby), 3. J. Urtasun (Marlborough)
Group C: 1. M. Browne (Rugby), 2. C. Strong (Christ’s Hospital), 3. M. Dodd (Aldenham)
Group D: 1. A. Flood (Aldenham), 2. M. Richards (Rugby), 3. A. Marland (Sedbergh), 4. A. Davies (Marlborough)

Knock-outs:
Quarter Final: Mathias bt Broad, Flood bt Strong, Browne bt Shelina, Zhang bt Richards
Semi Final: Mathias bt Flood, Zhang bt Browne
Final: Zhang bt Mathias 15-2
3rd Place: Flood bt Browne 11-7

U18 Doubles (Simon Eckert Memorial Trophy)

Group stages:
Group A: 
1. Rugby, 2. Christ’s Hospital, 3. Marlborough
Group B: 1. Malvern, 2. Sedbergh, 3. Aldenham

Knock-outs:
Final: 
Malvern (Zhang & Bedford) bt Rugby (Richards & Browne) 11-8
3rd Place: Christ’s Hospital (Mathias & Strong) bt Sedbergh (Marland & Gardner)

U16 Singles (Melanie Whitehead Cup)

Group stages:
Group A:
 1. Phoebe Thornhill (Christ’s Hospital), 2. Maggie Wong (Malvern), 3. Nush Mehta (Rugby), 4. Abi Quigley (Sedbergh)
Group B: 1. Amelia Law (Malvern), 2. Lottie Harbottle (Marlborough), 3. Rose Arnold (Sedbergh), 4. Beatrix Crinnion (Christ’s Hospital)
Group C: 1. Kirsty Martin (Rugby), 2. Kirti Mehta (Rugby), 3. Emily MacMillan (Sedbergh), 4. Millie Ngai Lenoir (Eastbourne), 5. Nevada Ross (Aldenham)
Group D: 1. Cassie Bedford (Malvern), 2. Fern Nuttall (Sedbergh), 3. Tilly Wood (Eastbourne), 4. Jade Scott (Aldenham)

Knock-outs:
Quarter Final: 
Harbottle bt Thornhill 11-8, Law bt Nuttall 11-6, Martin bt Wong 11-5, Bedford bt Mehta 11-6
Semi Final: Harbottle bt Law 11-8, Martin bt Bedford 11-0
Final: Kirsty Martin (Rugby) bt Lottie Harbottle (Rugby) 12-11

3rd place: Amelia Law (Malvern) bt Cassie Bedford (Malvern)

U16 Doubles (Denise Hall-Wilton Trophy)

Group Stages

Group A: 1. Rugby I, 2. Christ’s Hospital, 3. Sedbergh II, 4. Eastbourne

Group B: 1. Rugby II, 2. Malvern, 3. Sedbergh I, 4. Aldenham

Knock-out rounds

Final: Rugby I (K Martin & N Mehta) I bt Rugby II (L Harbottle & K Mehta) 11-0
Plate: Malvern (Law & Bedford) bt Christ’s Hospital (Thornhill & Crinnion) 12-10

U14 Singles (Gardner Cup)

Group rounds:

Group A: 1.S. Saunt-Hills (Christ’s Hospital), 2. C. Bugel (Marlborough), 3. S. Devendrarajah (Aldenham)
Group B: 1.S. Smith (Marlborough), 2. Y. Barnard-Masterson (CH), 3. S. Wheeler (Marlborough), 4.Phoebe Altman (Aldenham)
Group C: 1.Isabella Lee (Marlborough), 2. Molly Fisher (Marlborough) 3. Lauryn Edwell (Aldenham), 4. Charlotte Yeabsley (Aldenham)

Knock-out rounds:

Quarter Final: Bugel bt Barnard-Masterson, Saunt-Hills bt Fisher
Semi Final: Bugel bt Lee 11-1, Saunt-Hills bt Smith

Final: Cosi Bugel (Marlborough) bt Stella Saunt-Hills (Christ’s Hospital)
3rd place: Smith (Marlborough) bt Lee (Marlborough)

U14 Doubles (Beaman Cup)

Group rounds: 1. Marlborough I, 2. Christ’s Hospital, 3. Marlborough II, 4. Aldenham II, 5. Aldenham I

Winners: Marlborough I (Bugel & Smith)

U13 Singles (Cambridge Cup)

Group A: 1. A. Green (Christ’s Hospital), 2. E. Conway (Aldenham), 3. D. Newsham (Rossall)
Group B: 1. G. Gordon (Rossall), 2. T. Walkden (Rossall), 3. S. Odusote (CH)
Group C: 1. L. Walsh (Christ’s Hospital), 2. S. Macdonald (Aldenham), 3. S. Mason (Rossall)
Group D: 1. Z. Brown (Christ’s Hospital), 2. I. Woodman (Rossall), 3. S. Storm-Eckersley (Rossall)

Knock-out rounds:

Quarter Final: Green bt Woodman, Gordon bt Macdonald, Walsh bt Walkden, Conway bt Brown
Semi Final: Green bt Gordon, Conway bt Walsh

Final: Angelina Green (Christ’s Hospital) bt Emma Conway (Aldenham) 11-2
3rd place: Grace Gordon (Rossall) bt Sasha Macdonald (Aldenham) 11-3

U13 Doubles (Oxford Cup)

Knock-out rounds:
Semi Final: 
Aldenham bt Rossall I 11-8, Christ’s Hospital I bt Christ’s Hospital II 11-5
Final: Christ’s Hospital I (Green & Walsh) bt Aldenham 11-5

3rd place: Rossall I bt Christ’s Hospital II 12-10