National Club Championship Finals
The Army Ladies Team have been entered and playing in the National Club Championships (NCC) for 2 years, playing the most competitive squash available against tough world class competition, where the top clubs in the country send their pro and aspiring players to compete for the glory of being crowned National Club Champions. This year, the Ladies Team qualified for the NCC Finals Weekend over the weekend 22-23 April 2017 at Edgbaston Priory, rubbing shoulders with world famous squash players such as Daryl Selby and Alison Waters.
First up was the semi-final match against Kenilworth, who fielded two players inside the world’s top 20. Despite that, the team acquitted themselves well; playing at No 1, Captain Rosie Hamilton found herself up against World Number 8, Sarah-Jane Perry. Although a lack of recent matches was evident in her slightly nervous start, by the 3rd game Rosie was in the zone, running hard and managed to take the third game to the wire, eventually conceding 11-13.
At No 3 2Lt Michelle Higgins also seemed slightly rusty, but despite her shots not being quite as accurate as usual, she made up for it in sheer effort and pushed her opponent all the way. After a blinding third game everyone though Michelle was back in it, but ultimately she did not quite have the legs to keep it going, losing 1-3.
Team captain and No 2 Major Elaine Radcliffe, recently back from a training camp in Egypt, was also up against tough opposition – World Number 18 Tesni Evans. Elaine gave it her all, striding around with her customary grace despite Tesni showing her all the corners and even retaining a smile as Tesni carefully placed her drop shots just below the service the line to extend the rallies! Both players were clearly enjoying themselves on court. Despite losing the match 0-3 overall, the team’s performance against one of the best teams in the country (and eventual winners) proved just of high the standard of Ladies Squash in the Army currently is.
The 3/4 playoff on Day 2 saw the Army Ladies facing Edgbaston Priory, last years winners and reigning European Club Championships. First up was the Chairman of Army Squash, Lt Col Yvette Kennedy, playing a young whipper snapper half her age. Despite the disadvantage (or advantage depending on your view!) Yvette’s eye was clearly in as she moved well and played some superb squash, pushing her younger opponent all the way. There were some tense moments for Edgbaston as the match approached the 50 minute mark, but in the end it was Edgbaston who took the first string.
Second on was Rosie, playing former World No 63 and now full-time firefighter Leonie Holt. Back in the zone after her previous match, Rosie was playing well. The frist two games were close fough, but initially Leonie proved just a little too strong, and after half an hour Rosie was 0-2 down. Undeterred, Rosie went on in the third after a pep talk from travelling coach Major Phil Ashman determined to stage a comeback and did so in fine style. With all to play for in the final game, both players came out firing on all cylinders; this time though Leonie’s shots seemed to be working and she had regained her focus; her form proved too much for Rosie and the Edgbaston victory was assured after the second match.
On last, but not deterred, was Elaine against aspiring professional Alicia Mead, obviously inspired by the previous matches the hard hitting 21 year old seemed to be almost unstoppable in the first two games. But, Elaine’s determination and fitness paid off, and in the third she started to extend the rallies and made her opponent work for every point won. In the end, despite the best effort of the Army Team, Edgbaston demonstrated exactly why they were the reigning champions, with the final score 0-3.
With the 2016/17 competitive season complete, the Army Ladies team achieved a fourth place finish in the National Club Championships in addition to their recent victories over the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, demonstrating once again the strength of the team and their ability to compete at the highest levels of military and civilian squash.
National Club Championships 19th November 2016
Army Ladies played their first pool game in National Club Championships against Colets on 19 Nov 16. The ladies performed well but were slightly outclassed with and lost 3-0 overall to Colets. Rosie was up against the World Ranked no. 10 Alison Waters who gave Rosie a first class work out in the 3 games of the match. Michelle Higgins faced newcomer Alison Thomson who also had a World ranking of 73 and although there were some long lasting rallies with Michelle managing to push Alison around the court, the youngsters speed and endurance was never-ending, resulting in a 3-0 win. Elaine was up against the British Open Masters 2016 winner Kim Ricks and had a competitive bout, managing to take a game off Kim, but in the end experience won out and Kim took the 4th game at 11-8 winning the match.