Sunday 23rd April saw the culmination of the 2016/17 Shires League season and after a nail biting play-off earlier in the month against Lancashire, the U18 team came together one last time, now playing for one of the top 8 places alongside Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Devon, Cheshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Essex.
With the team being a man down – Jai being unable to make the event – they knew it was going to be a very tough day but nevertheless travelled to the Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Buckinghamshire determined to make a final effort to place as highly as possible. Representing Leicestershire on Finals Day were:-
Martin Beynon, Nikhil Chotai, Tom Cowperthwaite, Ryan King
Eve Dale, Ella Haines, Hritika Modi, Issy Paterson-Watts, Izzy Pike
There was to be no such thing as an easier draw today and the team went into their first round match knowing that every win would involve a huge effort and players being at the top of their game. Leicestershire vs Devon came out of the hat and proved to be a predictably difficult rubber with the green and yellows only able to carve 3 wins out of the 20 played; Martin & Ella with an excellent 21-18 win against the Devon 1st pair, Ryan winning his singles against a much better opponent on paper and Hritika with a brilliant win against the C graded 1st Devon girl for a final score:
Leicestershire: 3 Devon: 17
With the next round offering the chance to play for positions 5 to 8, the team now faced Oxfordshire, making a good start in the mixed with both Tom & Eve and Ryan & Izzy comfortably winning their mixed, Martin & Ella and Nikhil & Hritika losing their games only narrowly. The team didn’t fare so well in singles however with only Eve and once again Ryan able to overcome their opponents; there was still everything to play for with the team 4 – 8 down going into the level doubles. While the boys won 4 from 4, unfortunately the girls struggled against the strong Oxfordshire girls with only Eve & Issy able to win a close match 21-20. The final score:
Leicestershire: 9 – Oxfordshire: 11
The final match play-off saw Leicestershire pitched against Cheshire, a repeat of the ICT rubber which saw Cheshire win a close tie 6 – 4. Could the team reverse this? With Jai missing this time, they knew it wouldn’t be easy but would give it their all nonetheless.
Another good start in the mixed with Tom & Eve and Nikhil & Hritika winning their games to share the scoreline going into the singles. Once again this proved to be a barrier with the girls unable to claim any wins, despite Eve and Izzy pushing their opponents very close. With an on-form Martin beating a very strong C grade opponent to 14 and Ryan making it 3 singles wins from 3 for the day, the scores going into the level doubles saw Leicestershire trailing 4 – 8 once again. With Tom & Nikhil and Martin & Ryan splitting the honours with the Cheshire boys and an excellent final push from the girls which saw them win 3 of the 4 games, the final score reflected another narrow loss for Team Leicestershire:
Leicestershire: 9 Cheshire: 11
After a tough day’s competition against all the very best U18’s in the country, the team can be very proud of their achievement in having made it through to Finals Day and an overall 8th place position for the League for the 20167/17 season! Well done to all the players!
ICT – Inter-Counties Tournament: for those who haven’t heard of it, the pinnacle of junior badminton in the UK, when 35 counties converge on the University of Nottingham campus for 4 days of intense competition. Each county selects its top 10 junior players, 5 boys and 5 girls and this year, Leicestershire pride rested on the capable shoulders of Team Manager Chris Hall and the 2017 team:-
Martin Beynon, Jai Chandarana, Nikhil Chotai, Tom Cowperthwaite, Ryan King
Eve Dale, Ella Haines, Hritika Modi, Issy Paterson-Watts, Izzy Pike
After settling in to their rooms and having the official team photo taken, it was time to start the campaign. Round 1 saw Leicestershire seeded #2 in a group with Suffolk, Northants and top seeds Cheshire who the team knew would be the biggest hurdle. With each rubber consisting of 2 boys singles, 2 girls singles, 2 boys doubles, 2 girls doubles and 2 mixed doubles, team selections were communicated to the players during each pre-match ‘huddle’, each player knowing what their role was to be and a final chance for visiting supporters to pass on last words of wisdom, including Performance Director Anthony Clark and County Captain Mark King as well as assorted players from previous years!
With the first rubber due to start at 12.30 against Suffolk, the team wanted to make a positive start and the team performed as well as they had hoped for, with only 2 very strong Suffolk girls able to carve out lone wins for a final scoreline of:-
Leicestershire: 8 Suffolk: 2
With no time to rest before the next rubber, the team knew they had a difficult task against a strong Cheshire team slated for a 2.30pm start. The scoreline had the counties neck and neck through both singles and doubles with the pick of the games being a stunning victory for Issy P-W against Annabelle Bellis 9-15 15-5 17-15 that had the already vocal Team Leics supporters cheering themselves hoarse! Unfortunately, Cheshire managed to win the final 2 mixed doubles games of the rubber to just sneak the win:-
Leicestershire: 4 Cheshire: 6
After a break for the evening meal it was time for the final fixture of the day and with a start time of 8.30pm the team knew they had to win this to progress through to Day 2 in the top half of the draw. As expected, Leicestershire managed a straightforward win against a clearly weaker Northants team, finally rounding off a long day at 10.00pm with the players returning gratefully to their rooms for a shower and bed.
Leicestershire: 8 Northamptonshire: 2
After a long day and late night, there were some bleary eyes when the team met for breakfast at 7.15am to discuss the draw which had been made for the day’s play. The team prepared themselves for what they knew would be a very tough day with Leicestershire now in a group with Yorkshire, Hertfordshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire. On paper, it was local rivals Derbyshire in the opening rubber which looked the easiest fixture and so it was to be; winning all the games bar one boys’ doubles, one girls’ doubles and a mixed.
Leicestershire: 7 Derbyshire: 3
Next up it was time for a repeat of the playoff fixture against Lancashire which had seen a very close drawn match end on count back in a victory for Leicestershire by just 2 ends. This time it was even closer!! The teams halved the singles 2 all with Lancashire just edging into the lead after the level doubles 5-3 and Leicestershire pulling back level by taking both the mixed for a final score of 5-5 and another dead heat! However, this time on count back, Leicestershire were on the losing side with Lancashire nicking the win by just 7 points. Proof once again of the importance of every single point!
Leicestershire: 5 Lancashire: 5 (Lancashire win)
With the final 2 rubbers of the day against 2 very strong teams in Yorkshire and Hertfordshire, the team fought hard but were unable to manage a win, despite the scoreline not being reflective of some very close losses which would have brought the teams closer:-
Leicestershire: 3 Yorkshire: 7
Leicestershire: 2 Hertfordshire: 8
After a tough second day, the team were glad of a slightly later start time of 10.45am on Wednesday and with just 2 rubbers slated for the day’s play, the team were (mostly!) looking forward to an early finish in order to prepare for the last night disco, a highlight of the event for many of the players (and team managers perhaps!)
With Dorset up first, the team walked on court with determination, getting off to a flying start by winning both mixed and 3 of the 4 singles. With the counties sharing the level doubles to finish, it was another good win for the team.
Leicestershire: 7 Dorset: 3
The next match was against Avon and the team knew this would be a tougher challenge from a county possessing strength in depth across boys and girls. The team made the start they needed by winning 2 from 2 in the mixed but were unfortunately unable to win any of the 4 singles, putting the team on the back foot and needing to win at least 3 of the 4 level doubles….but it wasn’t to be. With the counties sharing 2 apiece, the final score was:
Leicestershire: 4 Avon: 6
After a late night for some throwing shapes on the dance floor, there were some tired faces around the breakfast table the following morning!! The team knew by this point they were playing off against Sussex in the final rubber for 15th/16th place and while they may not have been competing for the top 4 places, there was no less determination to put 100% effort into a final win for Leicestershire.
The boys made a great start in the singles with both Jai and Martin beating their opponents ; unfortunately the girls were unable to emulate this with both Hritika and Eve losing very close 3 set games to strong Sussex players, Hritika only just being pipped 17-15 in the final end. Again, both boys doubles went Leicestershire’s way with Martin & Ryan and Nikhil & Tom winning straightforward 2 set games. Once again, the girls struggled against the strong Sussex pairs, Ella & Hritika losing in 2 and the Iszy’s just losing out 12-15 in a close 3rd end. With the scores level at 4-4 going into the mixed, could the Leicestershire pairs of Jai & Izzy and Eve & Ryan do it!
With Jai & Izzy on court first, confidence was high, having comfortably won in 2 sets in all their previous games in the tournament so far. The first set was anything but comfortable, with the Sussex pair having much greater success at shutting Jai out of the game and Izzy having to suck up immense pressure at the net. Both pairs faced numerous match points, both for and against; eventually Jai & Izzy managed to finish off their advantage taking the first 21-19! Having worked their opponents out, the second was won more comfortably 15-9.
With the score now at 5-4 to Leicestershire it was left to Eve & Ryan to try to get the outright win for Leicestershire although the number crunchers seemed certain at this point that Leicestershire would win overall either way, once again demonstrating the importance of points on the board, with all the close losses playing a critical role in a countback situation. As it happened, Eve & Ryan were unable to overcome a strong Sussex pair but it didn’t matter; despite a draw in games, the win was awarded to Leicestershire.
Leicestershire: 5 Sussex: 5 (Leicestershire win)
So after an intense 4 days of fantastic team spirit, determination and pride in wearing the team shirt, Leicestershire finished ICT 2017 in a creditable 15th place, bar for a couple of very close losses they could have placed even higher.
Congratulations to all the team who played and fought so hard and supported each other as a team throughout the whole week. Huge thanks go to Chris Hall for his skills as Team Manager and his unfailingly positive attitude, even when the going was really tough, and to Hayley for her usual care for her charges during such a challenging experience. Also thanks go to Anthony and Mark for their input and encouragement from the sidelines through the week. Thanks must also go to the motley crew of Team Leicestershire supporters, parents, assorted family members and Leicestershire ICT team members from years gone by, all of whom showed their amazing (and exceptionally loud!) support for this year’s team and who provided the lift the players needed to win critical points where they were really needed. We may not have won ICT 2017 but the general consensus of all present was that Team Leicestershire definitely won first place for having the loudest group of supporters of all the counties present!
With the supporters’ calls of “Let’s Go Leicester, LET’S GO!” still ringing in their ears, every one of the 10 boys and girls who carried Team Leicestershire’s hopes into ICT 2017 can look back with great pride on their performance; an incredible experience none of them will ever forget!
After a fantastic season which has seen them win numerous medals ups and down the country in the womens’ doubles, Jess Allen & Tamsin Betts were on course for a good performance at the U15 English National Championships on 8/9th April 2017.
With a favourable early draw which saw them avoid the top 4 seeded pairs, the girls proceeded to win Group E, beating Emma Goddard & Learna Herkes 21-10 21-10 before coming up against fellow Leicestershire entrant Sophie Watson with new partner Khushi Naik. After a close first game, edged 22-20 by Jess & Tamsin, the girls proceeded into the next round with a 21-16 win in the second.
Sunday saw the girls drawn against Katherine Arksey & Smith Shirol, a pair they had beaten just a few weeks earlier at the Warwickshire U16 Silver; hopes were high that they could repeat their earlier victory and win a place in the semi finals….could they do it? As happened in Warwickshire, the girls lost the first game 11-21 but fought back, taking the second 21-14 and the 3rd and deciding game 21-17!
The semi-final then saw them pitted against the second seeds Milly Evans and Estelle van Leeuwen who on this occasion proved a barrier too far for the Leicestershire pair who went down fighting 9-21 17-21 but who earned themselves a National bronze medal nonetheless!
Saturday 8th April saw Carly Stevenson make the trip to Berkshire for her first U12 open tournament of the season where she came away with gold in singles and silver in the doubles with her regular Warwickshire partner, Delphie-Beau Foster.
After a good season which saw the U18’s win all their games bar one – a loss against an exceptionally strong Warwickshire 1 team – the team found themselves in 10th place in the league table and facing a tough draw against Lancashire for a place in the final 8 on Shires League Finals day This prospect was made even tougher by the absence of regulars Ryan and Nikhil so grateful thanks go to Harry Clare who gave up his holiday to enable the fixture to go ahead! And so it was the team found themselves making the long journey to Southport on a sunny Saturday in April with the higher placed Lancs team having the benefit of the home draw and obviously feeling confident of a home win…..
Martin Beynon, Jai Chandarana, Harry Clare, Tom Cowperthwaite
Eve Dale, Ella Haines, Hritika Modi, Issy Paterson-Watts, Izzy Pike
The team made a flying start in the mixed doubles with Jai & Eve, Martin & Ella and Tom & Hritika all recording straight sets wins with only U16’s Harry & Izzy losing out to their Lancashire opponents in 2 very close ends. The score after the mixed was 3-1 to the visitors.
Lancashire have strength in depth in the singles however and so it was to be today with only Jai and Issy able to convert their pressure into wins; however, Martin, Tom and Izzy all took their games to the 3rd end, which would be of critical importance later on…..
With the score after the singles now 7-5 in favour of Lancashire and the match so finely balanced, the team knew they had to work for every single point in the level doubles. Round 1 of the boys saw Jai & Harry win but Martin & Tom lose a very close game, again taking it to the all-important 3rd end. The girls’ teams of Eve & Issy and Ella & Izzy worked hard to win both their level doubles with both going to 3. The score going into the reversed levels round was still a dead heat at 8-8 and the end result would depend on these last 4 games!!
First up were the boys and first blood went to Team Leicestershire with Jai & Harry walking off court 21-19 21-11 winners. Martin and Tom unfortunately lost in 2, 21-18 21-17. The score now 9 all. Eve & Issy walked off court against the Lancs #2 pair 21-16 21-18 winners; could Ella & Izzy gain outright victory for Leicestershire? The Lancs first pair took the first 21-13 but Ella & Izzy fought back to take the second 21-19. In the 3rd and deciding end, it was point for point the whole way, the whole team were cheering the girls on. It wasn’t to be though with Lancs stealing the game away at the last 22-20.
The final score: Leicestershire 10 – Lancashire 10. When the numbers were crunched, Leicestershire were declared the overall winners by just a couple of ends with Leicestershire finishing on 25 and Lancashire 22, proof once again that every point really does matter. The team had just booked their place in the last 8 on Finals day on the 23rd April!!
On Sunday 2nd April the U14 Shires team converged on Babington College for the last group match of this year’s league against a young and relatively inexperienced Warwickshire 2 side; having already won all their previous games, hopes were high that victory today would see the team progress straight through to the Finals day at the end of May.
The team knew what they had to do and went about their business in a determined manner which saw a 20 – 0 final scorecard in favour of the home team, thereby securing their place in the Finals and overall 3rd place in the League table after Warwickshire 1 and Lancashire!
The Shires Finals are an exciting time for the team and this is a great achievement and a result of all their hard work throughout the season in tournaments.
Well done to the whole team, keep up all the hard work and enjoy the Shires Finals on 28th May!
The Team: Evie, Grace, Tilly, Sophie, Luke, Ayush, Owen & Lewis