Team Leicestershire’s Sophie Watson had a very busy and successful February, travelling the length of the country competing in the north and south of the UK and experiencing equal success in both!
First up was the U17 Silver at Teeside on their way to visit friends where Sophie teamed up with Lincolnshire’s Megan Diggle to win a gold medal in the WD before heading off to the U19 National Championships on 9/10th Feb – a great experience for her.
She then headed off to Bournemouth for a few days with Sophie Hillman where they teamed up in WD to play the half term Hampshire U17 Silver on 13th Feb. After winning their group and seeing off a tough pair in the final, the girls brought home gold again for a great end to half term for Sophie!
Saturday 17th February saw several Team Leicestershire juniors attend the penultimate U17 Gold event of the season in order to pit their wits and rackets against the best players in the UK at this age group.
Making a great start in the mixed, Izzy Pike & Harry Clare reached the quarter-final stage for the first time where they found Warwickshire pair Milly Evans & Nathan Moore too strong on this occasion. This feat was equalled by Jess Rodgers in the GS where she won her box but was unable to quite overcome Nottinghamshire’s Megan Brierley, battling through a tough 3 setter but losing out in the 3rd.
Having also won her group in GS, Jess Allen then pulled out a stunning win in her quarter-final, beating Surrey’s Charlotte Atkins in straight sets to 12 & 17, thereby earning herself a place in Sunday’s finals day. Facing #1 seed Sophie Hillman in her semi-final, Jess steamrolled her way into the final with another superb win 21-13 21-11 to face Megan Brierley who was no match for Jess on dominant form, earning herself the gold medal with a 21-19 21-14 victory!
On Sunday 17th December Team Leics U17 players Harry Clare, Izzy Pike & Jess Rodgers made the long trip north to the Tees Valley for the final U17 Silver event of 2017.
With Izzy & Jess buoyed by medals at recent U17 silver events in Yorkshire and Lancashire it was 3 from 3 for the girls with another excellent silver medal, matched over in the boys doubles where Harry & partner Finlay took silver against a strong Yorkshire pair in the final.
With Izzy & Harry then teaming up as #1seeds in the mixed doubles and coming off the back of a run of strong performances in recent months, they were determined to end the year on a high. After a couple of very tense group games, the final was a one-sided affair with the Leicestershire pair demolishing the opposition 15-6 15-12 for the gold!
Sunday 3rd December saw the U17’s travel to the Concord Leisure Centre in Sheffield to tackle the first leg of the annual North Midway League – one of the players’ favourite fixtures of the season!
With several counties unfortunately missing due to Shires League clashes, the day was not as keenly contested as usual but hopes were high that Team Leicestershire could make a strong start to their campaign to win the League for the second consecutive year.
Sameer Chenia, Harry Clare, Rowan Clark, Joe Goodenough, Tom Paterson- Watts
With easy wins in every rubber, the team are in an excellent position to repeat this feat, finishing in first overall position having lost only 5 games all day and posting a total of 1026 points, well ahead of second place Yorkshire 1 with 928:-
Leicestershire 10 – 0 Lancashire
Leicestershire 8 – 2 Yorkshire 1
Leicestershire 10 – 0 Cheshire
Leicestershire 8 – 2 Staffordshire
Leicestershire 9 – 1 Yorkshire 2
The second leg will be played in March 2018 to determine the overall league winners.
Congratulations to Izzy Pike & Jess Rodgers on winning their second silver medal in the women’s doubles at back-to-back U17 Silver events. Following on from success last month in Yorkshire, the girls made the trip north again for the Lancashire event on Saturday 25th November where they converted their #2 seeding, despite the perishingly cold conditions!
Saturday 18th November saw several Team Leics juniors take advantage of the short trip over to compete in the U17 Nottingham Bronze.
As second seeds, Joe Goodenough – with honorary Leicestershire partner George Railton – made a solid start by winning their box with an easy 21-8 warm-up win before a much tougher fight from local Notts pair Gibson-Leitch & Thomas, with the seeds winning out 21-19.
Following an easy 21-10 win in the semi-final, Joe & George knew the final against the Yorkshire top seeded pair of John Lowe & Russell Yeng would be tough; nevertheless the boys fought for every point to come out on top 23-21 for the gold medal!
In the mixed doubles, both Leics pairs of Luke Hoult & Grace Sherwin and Tom Paterson-Watts & Tamsin Betts lived up to their respective #2 and #3 seedings by winning their boxes. While Tom & Tamsin were unable to overcome the Notts pair of Zack Scofield & Lucy Attewell for a bronze medal, Luke & Grace won their semi-final against Yorkshire’s Yeng & Walker for a place in the final.
In a very close match, Luke & Grace matched the Notts top seeds point for point but were not able to upset the local favourites who ran out 21-18 winners but a fantastic silver medal nonetheless!
The U17 Bronze event in Warwick on 4th November saw the usual high entry of Team Leics players for a local tournament.
With mixed doubles first, top seeds Harry Clare & Izzy Pike progressed without incident to the final where they faced Leicestershire teammates Tom Paterson- Watts & Tamsin Betts. A high quality match resulted in gold for Harry & Izzy with Tom & Tamsin taking silver and with Jess Rodgers winning bronze with partner Ben, Team Leics took home 3 of the 4 mixed medals.
In the men’s doubles, 3/4 seeds Joe Goodenough with partner Luca won their box convincingly, setting up a semi final against top seeds Ben Kemp & Samuel Weekes. They were unlucky to lose a very close match 21-19 having come back from 16-11 down to square the match at 18 all for a well-earned bronze medal.
With the season now in full swing, the Yorkshire U17 Silver event on Saturday 28th included a full complement of Team Leics players making the 2 hour journey to the York Railway Institute – a venue which must feel much like a second home for many of the players!
Although none of the players progressed to the latter stages of the mixed doubles, both Jess Rodgers and Tamsin Betts played well to win their singles boxes and a pair of bronze medals. Tom Paterson-Watts also progressed out of his singles box where he was unlucky to meet one of the eventual finalists in his quarter final while Sameer Chenia was equally unlucky to meet the eventual boys’ singles winner in his group. He pushed the very strong Scottish national player hard in a very close 3 set game of fantastic badminton which saw him lose what could well have been the final in a different draw.
With both Leicestershire pairs of Jess & Tamsin and Izzy & Jess taking the top 2 seedings in the WD event, this was indeed how the final proceeded with Jess & Tamsin justifying their top billing by taking the gold and Izzy & Jess having to settle for a silver medal this time round.
In the MD, Harry & Sameer also justified their top seed place in the draw with a place in the final but were unable to get past Greg Bennett with partner Ethan Dalley this time, losing in 2 close sets for a silver medal; Team Leics players taking 3 of the 4 top spots in the level doubles once again showing their strength in this discipline.
Saturday 17th October saw Harry Clare & Sameer Chenia compete in the Cheltenham U17 Gold. After a very long wait to start their level doubles, the boys made the trip worthwhile by winning their box without dropping a set, beating local pair Benjamin Kemp & Samuel Weekes 21-15 21-12 before moving on to defeat Finlay Meek & Danny Chen 21-18 21-12!
They then had a 3 hour wait, anticipating who they would face in their quarter-final game before finding out it was to be the well-known pair of Sid Palakkal & Cholan Kayan; the boys knew this would be a really tough game as their opponents had just beaten the #3 seeds. Harry & Sameer had the upper hand all through the first game, dominating the net and attacking superbly to win 21-12. Sid & Cholan quickly pounced back to win the second 21-18. After a good team talk, going into the 3rd it was clear that they needed to get back on the attack – which they did, attacking everything they could and defending like their lives depended on it to get to 20-14. Much to my near heart attack they eased off a little, letting the opposition get back to 20-18; luckily though the next point was theirs and they were through to the next day and the semi-finals!
After returning home very late – 11.30pm – we headed back to Cheltenham on Sunday morning for the semis; knowing it was going to be a really big game but not unwinnable, Harry & Sameer headed on court. It was point for point to begin with but the opposition proved just too strong. They tried everything they could but sadly lost 21-15 21-13.
The boys were a little disappointed to begin with but once they received their huge shiny medals, they realised that what they had achieved was something they had always dreamed of – it was an amazing weekend and they should be very proud of themselves!