UK ARMED FORCES INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
UKAF INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS REPORT
This year the UKAF Individual Championships were hosted by the RAF, due to infra issues, the RN stepped in with the offer of HMS Temeraire, with 5 glass back courts and accommodation on hand, this is a truly fantastic venue to hold this competition. Although looking to repeat previous success, the Army teams were denuded of some of their regular players due to deployments etc, so this left a tall order for those remaining.
The Men’s Team achieved their goal of four quarterfinal places, two semi-finals and the overall winner. Success was realised through some exceptional individual performances, challenging the seeding and showing how close the standard is throughout the Services. SSgt D Boys upset the applecart by beating the number three seed, Lt Cdr M Ellicott, in the first group match; at over an hour long, the 3-2 result was a real early confidence boost for Boys. This threw the draw out of kilter and set the precedent for what would follow. Post the group stage, the quarterfinal line-up saw Capt S Miller, WO2 L Westover, Dmr P Jones and Boys compete for the semi-finals. Miller and Boys took their places, with solid wins over Navy and RAF opponents respectively. Regrettably, Westover and Jones were unable to overcome stiff opposition from the Navy.
The semi-finals were a repeat of the opening group stage matches, and saw a comfortable win for Miller and a conversely demanding victory for Boys.
The final was therefore an all-Army affair. Boys had spent twice as long on court as Miller during the tournament, and it showed. Whilst Boys put up a spirited performance, especially in the first game, he was unable to prevent Miller being crowned UKAF Squash Champion for third year in succession. Regardless of Miller’s achievement, Boys was without question the player of the tournament. Seeded seventh (fourth in the Army line-up), he battled his way through, showing exceptional tenacity and strength of character. Many congratulations to Boys for his achievement, Miller for overall victory, and the entire Army contingent for achieving the overarching objective.
This year saw a smaller Ladies competition due to all 3 services struggling to field full teams, with the onus on all 3 Army players to perform to the highest to enable success. Gaining 3 of the semi-final places and the overall winner highlighted how close the 2nd ,3rd and 4th Army seeds are, which bodes well for the forthcoming season, with Lt Col Y Ashman, Maj E Radcliffe and Capt M Higgins easily sailing through the preliminary rounds.
This resulted in Ashman versus Higgins in the semi-final, with a hard-fought performance put out by Ashman. Ultimately Higgins managed to dominate the T and win through to the final. Radcliffe had a slight upset, conceding the first semi-final game to Flt Lt Bacon, a wake-up call that saw an improvement in quality and pace of shots to take the win.
The stage was set for a final between Higgins – a previous trophy winner – and Radcliffe. Good prediction of shots by Higgins with volley cut outs and poor use of the front court by Radcliffe kept the scores even throughout, with everything to play for in the 5th game, where a lucky shot just turned the tide at the end for Radcliffe to take the trophy.
The Army Masters squad is particularly strong at present, as shown by the results in the UKAF Individuals competition at Portsmouth. Even with a couple of the regulars unavailable the Army was represented by five strong players in the event. All five Army players made it through the league stage and the top three Army seeds made up three of the semi-finalists along with Flt Sgt Beresford from the RAF.
In an all Army affair Maj R Green was pushed hard by LtCol P Ashman. The first game was very tight and could have gone either way. Green also nicked a close second and ran out a 3-0 win.
WO2 G Hall played Flt Sgt Beresford in the second Semi-final and struggled to perform to his ability, making far too many mistakes. The steady RAF number one seed took the match 3-0
3dr-4th Play off
Ashman took control of the match early and took a commanding 2-0 lead. Hall found another gear when it was needed and fought back in an enthralling encounter to win the match 3-2
Green started strong and fast in the final, taking the first game easily and never let Beresford get into the match. Green won 3-0 to successfully defended his UKAF Masters title.
Unfortunately, the majority of the Army’s U25 players were deployed on operations for this year’s UKAF Individual Squash Championships leaving LCpl J Bayliss as the only Army representative. With the RAF and Navy fielding full squads and Bayliss not playing his best squash due to having recently returned from deployment it was a tall order for the sole Army representative.
As expected the leagues proved to be tough and despite Bayliss’s best efforts he could only make it to the 5-8 play offs, losing out to the RAF No1. He was much more successful in the play offs where he found some better length and consistency winning all his matches to take 5th place overall – all in all a good result considering the stiff competition and the lack of training due to his recent deployment.
Despite the loss of some regular faces, this event showed the strength in depth the Army teams have, with the Men, Women and Masters managing to take 1st position in their respective competitions. This bodes well for the forthcoming Inter-Services, although the lack of players in the U25 team highlights that still more work in improving that depth is required to ensure the next generation of squash players through the teams.