St. Paul’s School, Barnes
Sunday, 18th November 2018
Bob Dolby reports: Various factors made this third running of the event a gruelling day for the eleven competitors. Firstly, four of them were also competing in the British Universities championships being conducted on the adjacent courts; secondly, the traditional heat of the St. Paul’s courts was increasingly strength-sapping for players used to cooler courts at Alleyn’s, Edinburgh Academy and Bedford Modern, for example; thirdly, two of the competitors had been up since 3.30am, having flown down from Edinburgh.
Nevertheless, the quality of play was outstanding, with the defending champion Louise Mathias in imperious form, Shinan Zhang volleying everything in sight, Martha Nugent striking the ball ferociously and Zara Elliot taking the ball early at every opportunity. Add to that the mature play of Katie Sumner & Maddie Kent, the attacking instincts of Sophie Lundie and Lottie Simpson, and the welcome reunion of Phoebe Thornhill & Bee Crinnion — and the result was compulsive viewing for the several supporters and passing BUSF competitors, not to mention a clutch of RFA Presidents past and present.
The Singles produced some exciting matches: the contest between Oxford University’s Bee Crinnion and Edinburgh Academy’s Sophie Lundie was the pick of the early matches; in the quarter-finals Zara Elliot pushed defending champion Louise Mathias much harder than the score suggests, as did Maddie Kent in her match against Shinan Zhang. The first upset came at the same stage, when young Martha Nugent from Alleyn’s beat the Oxford University Ladies Captain Phoebe Thornhill. Martha nearly did the same in her semi-final against Shinan, who benefitted from two crucial errors by Martha at 13-13. No one was going to stop the ever stronger Louise from taking her second Claire Knowles Trophy, though.
The Plate took the form of a series of 11-point matches, American style, which Zara Elliot clearly relished, averaging 8 points per game over the course of six matches.
In a one-day event such as this fatigue does come into play in the afternoon when the Doubles are played. Errors, above all caused by tired footwork, began to creep into the play of all the ladies, and nowhere was this more obvious than in the final, where Louise & Shinan were seriously challenged by Martha & Lottie. The match went to the wire, with Louise holding things together best at 13-13 to close out a double for herself and ensure a gold medal for Shinan, to whom we now say goodbye.
It has been a pleasure to look after this event, but it should now, rightly, pass into the hands of the young players themselves, as is the case with the National U25s. It may be that the tournament will be decoupled from BUSF next season as more ladies’ Fives is played at universities and a clash of championships becomes more and more undesirable.
1st round: Z.Elliot bt K.Hatchley 15-0; B.Crinnion bt S.Lundie 15-10; M.Nugent bt L.Simpson 15-1; M.Kent w/o V.King-Forbes
Quarter-finals: L.Mathias bt Elliot 15-3; K.Sumner bt Crinnion 15-0; Nugent bt P.Thornhill 15-7; S.Zhang bt Kent 15-7
Semi-finals: Mathias bt Sumner 15-2; Zhang bt Nugent 15-13
Final: Mathias bt Zhang 11-2, 11-3
Plate for Fast Fives Singles; 1st Z.Elliot; 2nd P.Thornhill; 3rd M.Kent
Pool A: Mathias & Zhang bt Sumner & Kent 15-10; bt Elliot & Lundie 15-7; Sumner & Kent bt Elliot & Lundie 15-11
Pool B: Nugent & Simpson bt Thornhill & Crinnion 15-11
Final: Mathias & Zhang bt Nugent & Simpson 15-13
Plate: Sumner & Kent and Thornhill & Crinnion (shared)