After their fantastic recent achievements in the Shires League, the U14’s came together one last time to round off an amazing season at the York Railway Institute for the Cerryg Davies Memorial Mixed Doubles tournament on Saturday 10th June. Team Manager for the day was Carole Spencer.
With U14 team regulars Tilly Dale and Ayush Panchal missing, the team welcomed 2 younger players into the ranks for a day which saw the 4 Leicestershire pairs of Sophie Watson & Luke Hoult, Evie Pike & Tom Platzer, Grace Sherwin & Owen King and Carly Stevenson & Lewis Whyley compete against teams from Lothian, Yorkshire (with 3 teams!), Lancashire, Warwickshire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and various teams fielding players from different counties. All in all, 48 mixed pairs took part with a range of ages and abilities for a fun day of mixed doubles.
Each pair played for places as an individual pair which also then earned points for the whole team with each pair striving to finish as high up the order as possible in order to earn as many points as they could for their county. After a packed schedule which saw each pair play at least 12 games of mixed doubles, the points were tallied and the players gathered round the referees desk to hear the final results. This time around, Leicestershire finished in the bronze medal place behind runners-up Lancashire and winners Warwickshire, a great result for the team. Congratulations also go to Sophie & Luke who were silver medallists in the individual competition, just missing out on the top spot to Warwickshire’s Natasha Morris & Joseph Scott.
After a fantastic season for Team Leicestershire which has seen the county make the Shires League finals for all age groups for the first time, the U14’s made their way to the Aldersley Stadium in Wolverhampton determined to improve on the highest placing so far of 6th by the U16 team!
Luke Hoult, Owen King, Ayush Panchal, Lewis Whyley
Tilly Dale, Evie Pike, Grace Sherwin, Sophie Watson
Having finished 3rd overall in the league from the group stages, the team were hoping to reap the benefit of a draw against one of the lower placed teams and waited with fingers crossed as the matches were read out; Leicestershire were to play….Cheshire! The team broke into wild cheers and dancing – anyone would have thought we had won already!! It was time to settle the nerves and excitement and focus on the job in hand against one of the teams we knew we could beat and overcome the first hurdle to earn a guaranteed top 4 finish.
The team made a flying start with all 4 pairs of Luke & Sophie, Owen & Grace, Ayush & Tilly and Lewis & Evie recording straightforward wins to go into a 4-0 lead. The Cheshire boys fielded a stronger team than their girls and managed to pull back wins against Owen and Lewis but Luke and Ayush both took their games. With the Leicestershire girls proving too strong in all matches for the young Cheshire girls, the score after the singles was 10-2 leaving Team Leics with only a single win needed from the remaining 8 level doubles. While the boys again found the Cheshire lads tough opponents, the girls came through to easily win all 4 of their games for a final overall score:
Leicestershire 15 Cheshire 5
After a short rest and refuel, it was time for the draw for Round 2 and the team had all fingers crossed for another helpful draw…but it wasn’t to be this time. Hampshire it was and the team knew this would be a much bigger hurdle to overcome. However, team spirit was high and after some changes to the starting order by Team Manager Amie, it was time to get started.
In the mixed, Luke & Grace fought hard against Hampshire’s Hillman & Jones but were unable to overcome a very strong pair. Owen & Sophie levelled the score with a 21-16 win against the 2nd pair. Neither Tilly & Ayush nor Lewis & Evie could get past their opponents although Lewis & Evie came very close, only losing narrowly to 19. Going into the singles 1-3 was not the start we had hoped for but the team stayed positive. Singles were predictably tough against a team with strength in depth and only Luke, with a fabulous win against Sam Jones, and Grace were able to win their games.
The score going into the level doubles was now 3-9 to Hampshire who only needed to take 2 of the 8 remaining games for the outright win. Things looked bleak for the green and yellows; however, one thing the Leicestershire lads and lasses are not is quitters but they would need every ounce of their grit and determination to pull this one back!
So the team began to process of reeling Hampshire back in, one game at a time. Luke & Owen won against a very tough Hampshire first pair 21-16 and Ayush & Lewis gave it everything they had to just pip the 2nd pair 21-20. With Luke & Owen winning against the 2nd pair in the reverse levels but the Hampshire top pair being too strong for Ayush & Lewis, the score was now 6-10. The girls would have to win every one of the 4 remaining matches just to level the match! Could they do it?
Hampshire, for some reason, decided to concede their first match due to an injury to one of their 1st pair girls, (a decision they would later regret bitterly) which gave us a much needed 21-0 win. With Evie & Grace absolutely determined to give it their all, knowing that every point might be the difference between winning and losing this rubber, they walked off court 21-8 winners against the Hampshire 2nd pair. The score now 8-10! Sophie & Tilly also beat the 2nd Hampshire girls 21-10: the score 9-10. What had seemed like an almost impossible task at the start of the level doubles now seemed like it just might be possible. All Evie & Grace needed to do was beat Sophie Hillman, one of the top girls of this age group in the UK! By now, all the players and parents were crowded round the last match on court, cheering for their teams (those that could bear to watch anyhow!). The points racked up, Evie & Grace putting everything they had into keeping the shuttle away from Hillman and putting every bit of pressure they could on the weaker Hampshire girl. As Gravie began to hit their stride, they started to pull away from the Hampshire pair earning themselves a match point at 20-16 up. As the shuttle hit the ground on the Hampshire side of the net, the room erupted into wild cheering, the Leicestershire players all hugging each other and their parents. They’d done it! Coming back from 3-9 down they had managed to level the rubber at 10-10.
Now all that was left to do was wait on the dreaded count back. With so many close games during the rubber, it was impossible to call this one. It was obviously very close as the counting and verifying seemed to go on for hours! Eventually the players were called round and the victory was officially awarded to…. Leicestershire!! By just 2 points! The kids and parents went crazy all over again, Amie was now in tears – the team had just earned themselves a top 2 finish by dint of sheer hard work, effort and determination to never say die and never give up!
Leicestershire 10 – Hampshire 10 (Leicestershire win by 2 points)
With just one more rubber left to play to determine if it would be the gold or the silver medal, the Team knew it would be another tough match and indeed, soon the kids discovered it would be Yorkshire. We had beaten the white roses in the group stages already; however the Leicestershire team were missing Eve Durrance today and with Yorkshire fielding a stronger team than previously, we knew it would be difficult to match the 13-7 win from earlier in the season. But with nothing left to lose or prove, the kids huddled around for one last pep talk from Amie and one last chance to draw strength from the team spirit that had buoyed them all up throughout the day.
Onto the final and the kids were determined to leave everything out on the courts in their efforts to win gold for Leicestershire at a Shires Final for the very first time ever. The Yorkshire 1st pair proved too strong for Luke & Grace but Owen & Sophie levelled the score with a 21-17 win against the 2nd pair. Ayush & Tilly lost to a very strong 3rd pair but Lewis & Evie dug deep and played their best ever mixed game to beat their opponents 21-16 and halve the mixed 2-2. Typically Yorkshire are stronger in singles than Leicestershire so every win was now going to matter. Luke dug deep to win a very close encounter 21-19 and while neither Owen nor Ayush could match their opponents, Lewis played the best singles of his life to take his match convincingly 21-11. After a few close recent losses against Katherine Arksey, Sophie dominated today’s match, walking off a 21-17 winner. Having lost to her opponent Grace Sachdeva in every one of their previous 4 meetings, our Grakkers knew that nothing less than her very best would do; after falling behind early in the match, Grace never gave up, coming back strongly in the final stages against her very skilful opponent to snatch the win 21-20! What a time to finally beat your nemesis – the joy on her face showing how much this win meant to her personally as well as for the team! With Tilly also earning an excellent win against a strong Yorkshire girl, only Evie was unable to convert her pressure to defeat her opponent, losing to 17 but working hard to put every point on the board.
With the scoreline 7-5 in Leicestershire’s favour after the singles and with just the level doubles to play, the team knew victory was within reach now. Luke & Owen made the perfect start to win 21-16 with Ayush and an on-fire Lewis also snatching a 21-18 win against the Yorkshire 2nd pair to bring the score to 9-5 and just 2 more wins needed! Although Ayush & Lewis couldn’t hold off the 1st pair, meanwhile Sophie & Tilly just managed to hold on for a 21-20 win to ensure the rubber would at least be drawn! With Luke & Owen on court against the Yorkshire seconds, it was their 21-9 victory which took the score to the all-important figure of 11 wins and the team knew they had done it!! They had won the gold!!! Understandably it was difficult to focus on the remaining games knowing we had already won overall but the final score was recorded as:
Leicestershire 12 – Yorkshire 8
With just the winners’ presentation and photographs left to organise, parents, players and perhaps coach were left looking at each other in various states of shock, elation and disbelief. Although Team Leics had started the day as one of the top 4 teams in the league table, everyone knew what a massive task it was going to be to take on the might of all the very top counties like Surrey, Yorkshire and Hampshire fielding their strongest teams. But with an exemplary determination to work for every single point, positive thinking and a commitment to working tirelessly for the team, they had taken on the rest and proved themselves to be the best! Leicestershire topped the U14 Shires League table for the 2016/17 season, not only a first for this team but also the first time Leicestershire had ever achieved this accolade, in any of the age groups. With the gold medals safely round their necks, the team dispersed for the journey home, with all of them taking away memories of a day they will never forget, the day when they were crowned National champions!
Our very warmest congratulations to all the players and to Team Manager Amie Hoult who has worked so hard to build such a solid and tight-knit team throughout the season!
What a fantastic weekend of badminton for our U14’s in York. Some entered the individual tournament on the Saturday; Tilly Dale came away with a silver in doubles and Luke Hoult with a bronze in singles and doubles. Grace Sherwin reached the quarter-finals in singles and William Sewell also did well, playing 2 years above his age group.
We had a great night at the Buckles Inn celebrating Tilly’s 13th birthday. The kids definitely enjoyed the dares! Oh and we must not forget the party bus ride home!! I’m sure it will be talked about all year!
The Sunday team tournament was amazing. From start to finish the whole team, came together and everyone played their part. We knew we had to beat Surrey to go through to the top half and be in with a chance of a medal. With some very close games we managed to play it right and got a 4-3 win. Definitely a team effort! We then went into the top half and had to play Notts, which meant deliberating about the team over and over! The team all played fantastically again to beat a good Notts side.
So now we were playing for 1st position which was amazing. We took on Yorkshire’s 1st team; unfortunately for them they had 1 girl and 1 boy short so had to forfeit the mixed but we didn’t mind! Although we were then left wondering how after going 1-0 down they then started winning every match?! We were really up for it and took it right down to the last 3 matches, needing all 3 for the overall win! Ayush & Lewis were first off court with a win, Tilly & Sophie followed up with the second which just left Grace & Evie on court playing for the very last match. All the parents and players were going crazy, such a great atmosphere – and they only went and won! So we beat Yorkshire 4-3 to be crowned champions and awarded the gold medals.
This format gives some younger players the opportunity to compete and they did a brilliant job, with 2 of the players being only U12’s.
It was a fantastic result and a pleasure to manage them. Well done Team Leicestershire U14
Bank Holiday weekend saw Leicestershire girls Sophie Watson and Carly Stevenson decide to have some fun in the sun at the seaside at the Bournemouth U14 & U16 Open events held on consecutive days over the weekend.
With the U14 event first on the Saturday, both girls played well with Carly losing to Sophia McCullough in the group after winning her first game. Top seed Sophie also lost to McCullough in a tough semi-final 15-13 15-14 to win the bronze medal.
Back on the Sunday with a new partner, Warwickshire’s Khushi Naik and seeded 3/4, Sophie faced another tough semi-final against U13 England pair McCullough & Chloe Dennis, this time coming out the winner with a 17-15 3rd end going to the Leics/Warwks girls. The final was a much more comfortable win for Sophie & Khushi, beating the Hampshire pair of Darlington & Chapman 15-8 15-11 to win gold in only their second outing as a pair together.
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
Having made a fantastic start to this year’s Shires campaign with wins against Derbyshire, Yorkshire 1 and Lincolnshire, the U14 team have competed twice more since Christmas, recording wins against both Staffordshire and local rivals Notts…..
Owen King, Luke Hoult, Ayush Panchal, Lewis Whyley
Tilly Dale, Eve Durrance, Evie Pike, Grace Sherwin, Sophie Watson
Sunday 26th February 2017
The team travelled to Staffordshire in buoyant mood, hoping for a good win against a Staffs team which looked much weaker on paper than our boys and girls. And so it was to prove with the team winning 20 -0 without dropping a single game along the way! With the team on such dominant form, the only thing left to do was to tinker with the format of the team photo, marking out the letter ‘L’ to represent the mighty Leicestershire!!
Final Score: Leicestershire 20 : Staffordshire 0
Sunday 12th March 2017
A home fixture this time, playing a local derby against Nottinghamshire. The team knew this would be a much bigger task, especially since both U16 and U18 shires teams had recently beat Notts with all the players determined to make it 3/3.
The tone of the match was set from the start with both teams winning 2 of the mixed games. Things continued to be close in the singles with 3 of the 4 Leics boys winning and the girls split down the middle again, winning 2 apiece. The score was 7-5 with nothing between the 2 teams – the level doubles would be the deciding factor!
And it was a close run thing! The Leics boys dug deep and won 2 of the 4 games, despite the first pairs’ game running to a 3rd end with Luke & Owen just able to pull off a 21-19 win in the 3rd. It was a similar story for the girls with the Brierley sisters recording 2 wins for Notts; we had to win the remaining 2 games against the Notts 2nd pair who really upped their game and didn’t make it easy for our girls. However, all the competition the 4 girls have played this season paid off with both Sophie & Tilly and Evie & Grace able to hold off a determined challenge to take these 2 remaining crucial points, both winning in 2.
The team celebrated with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” sung to Evie who turned 13 on the same day! With 5 wins out of 5 and just Warwickshire 2 to face, the team are now hoping they will be able to do enough to progress straight through to the Shires Finals!
Final Score: Leicestershire 11 : Nottinghamshire 9