Avon Juniors Inter County Championship Stage 1 - Round up

    The weekend of 11th/12th November saw our Junior teams take part in the first stage of the ICC 2023/24. Here Are round ups from each of our coaches on the day supporting the teams. Thanks again to Richard Coleman Mixed U11, John Welton BU15, Daryl Williams GU15 and Seamus Singh GU17 for your support!

    MIXED U11

    The Avon Under 11 squash squad made their way to Cheltenham for Stage 1 of the Inter County Championships. They were facing opposition from South East Wales, Dorset and Cornwall. For three of the squad, Abigail Zeng (Redland), Oliver Colman (Yate) and Lucas Clark (Redland), this was their first match for Avon and also their first experience of team squash. Joshua Colman (Yate)was making his second appearance after being selected for last season’s squad.
    The day started with all four players being presented with their new county shirt and training top, generously sponsored by Computer Geeks -

    The East Glos club were hosting many age groups across the weekend, and on arrival the Under 13 matches were in full swing. There was no opportunity for any time on court before the commencement of matches so we were straight into it. This didn’t seem to faze Abigail at all, she came straight out of the blocks with a 3-0 win against Wales at no.3 string. Next up was a nervous Joshua, who had quite a hostile experience last year, so a was a little apprehensive for this season. He lost the first 11-8 and then battled hard to win the second 11-9, eventually losing 3-1 to the South East Wales no.1. With the match all tied, it was a big ask for Lucas on his county debut, but he soon stepped up to the mark. It was one game each, and then 10-10 in the third game. Some incredible serves from Wales led them to a 12-10 win. Lucas now looked very determined and came back to win the fourth 11-4, but unfortunately couldn’t get the better of his opponent in the fifth game. The overall match score was 6-6 but the bonus points went to Wales for the 2-1 match win.

    Dorset were next, who had just beaten Cornwall 9-0 so we weren’t sure what to expect. A bit of squad rotation with Lucas taking a well-earned rest and Oliver making his county debut. Oliver’s brothers’ nerves seemed to have been passed onto him as Oliver stepped onto court. A tricky first couple of games led to him being two games down. During the chat after the second game Oliver announced that “he feels okay now” and proceeded to battle on and win the next 3 games 11-7! A great win from what was a very friendly and well-balanced match. Joshua then had his work cut out against a very confident Dorset no.1 who could strike the ball very
    well. This didn’t put Joshua off who now had a bit more confidence. Whilst the eventual 3-0 loss never seemed in doubt, Joshua worked hard to cause an upset with a 11-9 loss in two of the games. With the match evenly poised at 1-1 the pressure was now on Abigail for the win. No signs of nervesfrom Abigail as the smallest player in the club strode onto court. It didn’t look good in the first game with Abigail struggling against some amazingly well hit lengths from Dorset. Abigail was 10-6 down,
    and then before we knew it, it was 10-10. Serving was then the main weapon from each player as the points were swinging both ways until Abigail stole the win 15-13. Abigail went on to win 11-7 and 11-4 resulting in a win for Team Avon against Dorset. Lunch break was now on the cards and so were some hotly contested games of Uno between the four Avon players. I am reliably informed that there was a win for Joshua and two wins for Lucas!

    Cornwall was up next. Cornwall had managed to field two under 11 teams, we were playing their B team. Joshua, Lucas and Oliver all secured 3-0 wins against players that were a lot newer to squash than our team. It was great to see the Cornwall team gaining lots of experience and no doubt preparing themselves for next year. The Avon players all played with good manners and restraint, ensuring that Cornwall had a positive experience from the match which was great to see.

    Just when we thought it was all over, there was a frantic Avon parents meeting as we all tried doing some complex maths as a rumour began to spread that Avon might actually win the competition. It transpired that if Dorset beat Wales, we would (probably) win. After checking on the Dorset/Wales match it was tied at one match all and 2-2 in the final match. It felt like the longest game of squash ever. Unfortunately, Dorset couldn’t quite do us a favour and we finished as runners up. We are
    still waiting to find out if we have earned a place in the national plate finals as the best runners up. Lucas, Abigail, Oliver and Joshua bonded really nicely over the day of the competition. They all rose to the challenge and behaved impeccably. It was a very positive experience for all involved.



    The Avon U15 side have been together since U11s, each season improving together and finishing last season runner up in the National plate finals. With that confidence was high to try and build on that performance.  Below is this year’s team.

    1. Henry Dunnill (Redland)
    2. Emmanuel Cox (Lansdown)
    3. Oliver Duffet (Workout)
    4. Jack White (Lansdown)
    5. Oskar Calderwood (Redland)

    They were gifted a pretty tough draw against one of the strongest sides in the competition Hampshire as well as Cornwall and Gloucester B team. The winner of the group would be straight into the final 8 in April and the highest 2nd place team from the two South West groups would make their way to the plate final.

    First up for the boys were Cornwall, all of the boys making relatively light work of them and all winning 3-0. A solid start from team Avon.

    Next up came the big test, Hampshire boasting the one and two seeds both inside the top 10 in England. In fact, their whole line up ranked inside the top 50 in England so this was always going to be tough. The boys all put up a great fight and maximised their opportunity to test themselves against the higher ranked opposition. Sadly all of them went down in 3, meaning Hampshire won the tie 5-0.

    So to the final match where we would take on Gloucester’s B side, a solid win here would keep us in the mix for a plate final spot. The boys did not disappoint and came through 5-0 again. The toughest test coming for Henry dunnill but after loosing the first 14-12 he came back to win the next 3 relatively comfortably.

    Overall a great performance from our U15 side and we wait now for confirmation on a plate final place next year.



    The format of the GU15 Inter County stage 1 was a 5 group round robin playing best of 3 matches. The first match was against Wales, a team Avon has not beaten before and sadly weren’t able to change that record this time. Isabelle Rea and Rose Williams (Redland) got close in their matches but couldn’t quite convert the tie breaks to take a game.

    Gloucestershire were the next opposition and a much more achievable prospect. Izzy, growing in confidence after her first match won comfortably 2-0. Rose Williams also started off well with an 11-2 game against the no 1. She was pushed harder in the second but held on to take the match 2-0 to give Avon the win. Flo Cooney (Lansdown) at 2 came up against a surprisingly strong Glos no 2, a player that Rose had only beaten narrowly in a previous tournament. She kept pace with her opponent in the first game, taking the ball early to put on the pressure but the Glos player stepped up the level in the 2nd game taking the match 2-0.

    Hampshire A were the strongest team in the group fielding both the GU15 and GU13 British champions at 1 and 2 and a top 10 nationally ranked player at 3! An interesting experience for the girls to play against such impressive opposition and they did well to stay in the rallies.

    The last match was against Hampshire B. Isabelle again had a close match but lost 8-11 8-11. Rose produced a dominating display against the no 1 taking the match 11-6 11-7, her opponent not able to deal with the pressure. It was all down to Flo for the decider. The match reflected the similarity of the girl’s levels. Flo lost the first 8-11 but battled back hard to take the second 11-9. The number of matches already played during the day started to take their toll and unfortunately Flo wasn’t quite able to take the 3rd going down 7-11.

    So a 4th place finish for Avon which the girls should be very pleased with given the levels that they played against. In addition Isabelle Rea had only just turned 13 and this was her first county match.



    GU17 Report

    With the recent arrival of Wai Iynn Au Yeong from Singapore to Bristol Grammar School there was palpable excitement when we realised that we could put together a Girls Under 17 team to represent the county.  However, Freya Henry, having previously played for the County as a guest from Wilts, decided for very good reasons to play for Glos.  As a result, Anna-Jane Singh was selected from the GU15s to join the team.

    Thus, Wai Iynn, Anna-Jane Singh and Emily Pendrell made the short trip north to Cheltenham College where they met up with the colleagues from the GU15 team.  The girls in both teams are very friendly with each other and gave each other huge support throughout the long day.

    As it turned out the excitement was well warranted as Avon GU17s came out on top of their group to advance to the National Finals next Spring.  This is a fantastic achievement for the girls and the County.  The smiles on their faces, hugs and slapping when they realised what they had done was such a thrill to see.

    Our first match was against Hampshire, a traditionally very strong county.  Playing order for these matches is 3rd string, followed by 1st string then finally the 2nd string.

    Emily Pendrell, at 3, started our adventure off against Grace Dicker with an outstanding 3-0 win (11-8, 11-5, 11-5).  After a close first game Emily made a slight adjustment using height and aiming to get the ball into the back corners to continually turn her opponent.  This allowed her to take total control of the match.  Emily chased everything down and would not let her opponent settle at all.

    Wai Iynn was next up against Olivia Fry.  If you went by SquashLevels, a number of teams appeared to be playing the stronger player at 2 but then again head to heads and playing styles do impact who plays where.  Wai Iynn was in total control and, despite going down 0-3 in the third, was never in trouble and ran out an easy victor 3-0 (11-2, 11-2, 11-3).

    Anna-Jane went on court in the dead rubber.  She played extremely well to go 2 up before eventually losing in 5, much to her disappointment, after losing her length and accurate lines (11-8, 11, 9, 7-11, 6-11, 5-11.  This would be something that would feature large in her next match.

    After a short break cheering the GU15s on in their next match Emily returned to the court to play Freya Henry, now of Glos.  Freya’s power proved to be the difference in what was for long periods a competitive match between the two. The final score being 0-3 (8-11, 2-11, 7-11).  When Emily was able to lift the ball to the back of the court, she was able to cause Freya real problems.  However, Freya is very strong and is able to hit the loose balls with a lot of power low and hard across the court.

    Wai Iynn then stepped on court to tie the match with an easy 3-0 win against Isobel Johnson (11-1, 11-4, 11-4).  The great features of Wai Iynn’s play were her excellent movement, straight hitting and keeping the game simple.  She is a great example to all the girls on how to go about their matches.

    It was then left for Anna-Jane, to win the tie against Rosa Gray, someone she has played 2 or 3 times before without ever taking a game. 

    As in her first match, Anna-Jane took a 2-0 lead with very strong play, hitting straight and with pace to keep her opponent on the back foot and using drops and her array of cross court nicks.  The next two games then went to Rosa in two very close games where both players mixed excellent play with errors. Clearly the nerves were getting to both of the girls as the importance of the match bore down on them.  It was clear that in all our minds the result of the first match was looming large over Anna-Jane. Could she put the disappointment and memory of the first match behind her?

    The final game proved to be a titanic struggle with barely a point between the two of them as they both attempted to gain definitive control.  In the end Anna-Jane squeaked ahead in the final third of the match with some calm finishing.  Rosa and Anna-Jane put in a huge effort, never giving each other an inch and this was very much appreciated by all who watched.

    The release of tension when Anna-Jane won the final point was massive.  As we all know, going on last to win for your team is a situation that can result in massive pressure on a player.

    Our final match was against a strong Welsh team knowing we had done enough to secure second place.  There was a sense, however, that we could do something special.

    Emily led from the front again with a fabulous display against Anwen Davis.  As she had done all day, Emily used her ability to take the ball high and deep coupled with her determination to retrieve balls at the front of the court to take control of her match going 2-0.  Anwen, however, was not deterred and fought back strongly in the third causing Emily to lose control of her length.  A simple refocussing of her objective for the 4th saw Emily regain her strong length to completely dominate her opponent.  Surging with confidence Emily started to move her opponent into different parts of the court and in one particular rally finished it off with a beautiful low back hand drive.  The impressive thing about this point was how relaxed Emily was and how she controlled the pace of the drive without overhitting it.  Her opponent then fell away as Emily ran out the winner 3-1 (11-7, 11-6, 10-12, 11-4).

    Playing first also has its own pressure and by winning the match settles the nerves for the rest of the team. Emily did this job brilliantly winning 2 of her 3 matches.

    Wai Iynn then faced Millie Breach in a contest between the two strongest players in the group by far.  This was a match up we had all been waiting to see.  Both players possess a SquashLevel in and around 3500 so this promised to be a brutally intense contest.

    The contrast in styles was clearly evident in the warm-up.  Whereas Wai Iynn focussed on clean smooth striking of the ball in the looking to get establish her rhythm, Millie favoured hitting the ball has hard as possible, though no less cleanly.  She clearly wanted to send a signal to Wai Iynn as to what to expect particularly when she fired missiles from the front left corner to return the ball to Wai Iynn. 

    In the first Wai Iynn used this clean hitting coupled with her accurate lines to frustrate Millie. There were many long rallies as both players were patient looking for chinks in each other’s armour.  Wai Iynn was the one who remained the calmest and most patient in the first game. 

    This pattern continued in the second as Wai Iynn absorbed what Millie threw at her.  Despite some generous calls and conversations with the referee from Millie Wai Iynn kept her composure and went about her business.  Millie returned for the 3rd and threw everything she had at Wai Iynn, looking to combine hard hitting with very quick low boasts from the different parts of the court.  As a result, Wai Iynn lost her composure and tightened a bit as Millie took control of the 4th

    Realising there was probably not much more intensity Millie could throw at her, Wai Iynn returned to the court, looking relaxed and determined. This was evident in her play as she looked to control the pace of the game by slowing the ball down a bit.  This caused Millie to make far more mistakes than she had done previously.  Wai Iynn combined this with some cleverly disguised and timed boasts from mid court to pull away in the final third of the match to win 3-1 (11-5, 11-7, 6, 11, 11-7).

    The girls had done it! 

    It was left to Anna-Jane to round off the day facing another stronger opponent who had also beaten Rosa Gray earlier in the day. Despite a promising and commanding start, the fatigue from playing 2 hard 5 set matches earlier in the day began to take its toll and she lost the match 3-1 (11-3, 4-11, 6-11, 4-11).

    All three girls conducted themselves admirably, and when it mattered most, produced the goods for the team.  Each of them is in a different phase in their journey as a squash player and all three should feel very proud of the effort they put in.  They all have things they can take away from this day, both positive and negative, but having worked with them for the day and seen how they go about their business they will certainly progress well over the coming months and years.

    I would like to thank Daryl Williams (GU15 manager), Rose Williams, Flo Cooney and Isabelle Rea for the support they gave to the U17s, it certainly made a difference.  As always, a huge thank you to the parents who travelled and offered all the love and support they did.

    Now we just wait for our chance on the National Stage in the Spring. 

    As ever a massive thank you to our Avon county sponsor Nick Richards at Computer geeks!

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