Mixed Emotions as Cooleys Continue to Dominate
With the Easter holidays biting and several regular female players injured, abroad or otherwise unavailable, there was a smallish entry this year of 12 pairs, but the quality was high and the Fives exciting even though the result was eminently predictable, Charlotta and Seb Cooley winning for the fifth time in a row, their seventh in total and a tenth title for Charlotta.
Their closest challenger again this year was Charlotta's ladies championship winning partner Karen Hird, who had acquired an upgrade on her previous partner in the shape of Cambridge captain Riki Houlden. They cruised through in the morning as comfortable winners of Group B, while the three pairs below them battled it out for the second semi-final slot in a series of tight matches, all of which could have gone either way. Young Ipswichians Eloise Carter and Isaac Wagland played some fine Fives, with Eloise's movement around the court and reaction volleying impressing greatly, but they were unable to get past the more experienced pairings of Ashley Lumbard & Ralph Morgan and Francesca Turnbull & Gareth Hoskins, whose group match became effectively a quarter-final. A tight game seemed to be edging the way of Lumbard and Morgan as they got 9-7 ahead with Ashley looking to attack Francesca's cut and finish the game. Francesca, fresh off a flight from Canada and playing through some serious jet lag, suddenly found her best cutting just when it was needed, going through two or three hands without conceding another point as she and Gareth levelled at 9-9 and then moved ahead to win 12-10 and make it into the last four. The pairs with the two most inexperienced playes - Lizzi Tobin & Peter Boughton and Lottie Simpson & Anthony Kane performed creditably and qualified for Plate B.
Group A was a little more clear cut at the top with the Cooleys winning comfortably and Cholmeleians Emily Scoones and Jonny Ho well clear of the rest in second place. Some exciting games decided the minor placings with Nina Sorensen and Spencer Chapman getting third ahead of Dave Mew & Sasha Howgate from St.Bart's - the youngest player in the competition and showing great promise - and Mandie Barnes & Ian Mitchell, with Wendy Carling and John Cooley keeping their powder dry for Plate B.
The Cooleys were predictably too strong for Gareth and Francesca in the first semi-final, although once again Francesca showed some excellent touches and gained invaluable experience against two top players. The other semi-final had the makings of a classic with Karen & Riki up against Emily & Jonny. Karen's edge over Emily at the set piece and in and around the buttress was the key as they won the first game 12-6; the second was much closer as the Cholmeleians upped their game, but Karen & Riki hung on, winning to 10 and making it through to the final.
The final itself was a fabulous match, played at breakneck pace as Riki tried to out-Seb Seb by being in as many places on court as possible at the same time. Charlotta and Karen are both experienced high-quality players, well-used to playing in this sort of company, and played their part to the full, defending resolutely, retrieving impressively, holding their own at the set-piece and attacking when the chance arose. Karen and Riki threw everything at the defending champions, but ultimately the result was never really in doubt as Seb and Charlotta came through 12-7, 12-7 to keep the trophy for another year.
In Plate A, for the happily recovered and much coveted Dossi Dish, Lumbard & Morgan found themselves once again up against Carter & Wagland in a repeat of their group stage encounter, having seen off the challenges of Howgate & Mew and Sorensen & Chapman respectively. The morning game had gone 12-6 in favour of Lumbard & Morgan, but the Ipswich pair made a much better fist of things second time round before going down 12-9 in the first game. Winning the first game turned out to be the key blow for Lumbard & Morgan, who wrapped up the second game to 5 to claim the Dish and the accompanying chocolate.
The Plate B semi-finals produced the most exciting match of the day. With Mandie Barnes and Ian Mitchell waiting in the final, having seen off Cambridge pair Simpson & Kane, the Tobin/Boughton and Carling/Cooley sr pairings produced an epic nailbiter that shredded the nerves of players and spectators alike. To the soundtrack of Wendy vocalising the emotional rollercoaster she was riding throughout the three games, the pairs matched each other point for point. Carling & Cooley won the first 12-11, Tobin & Boughton the second 12-7. The third game inched towards a climax, Lizzie and Peter having a couple of chances at 11-10 before Wendy & John levelled it up and chose to go to 14. Inevitably the match went to 13-13 and it was fitting that Lizzie Tobin - probably the most improved player across the whole day - hit the winning shot deep to the back left to take her and Peter through to the final. The thrills and spills didn't end there, as they once again found themselves involved in a tense finale as their match with Mandie & Ian went to 14-14 and another sudden death decider. This time Lizzie couldn't repeat her magic and it was Mandie, with a beautifully judged let - winning cut - winning return combination, who landed the killer blow to take Plate B.
With the prizes handed out, the tournament moved on to the Henry and then the Golden Curry to cement its place as a showcase for all the things that are good about the sport of Eton Fives.
Thanks to Eton and Mike Hughes for hosting the tournament and to all those who played. If you didn't make it this year, then you should have done - please put it right next time!
C.Cooley & S.Cooley beat F.Turnbull & G.Hoskins 2-0 (12-3, 12-4)
K.Hird & R.Houlden beat E.Scoones & J.Ho 2-0 (12-6, 12-10)
C.Cooley & S.Cooley beat K.Hird & R.Houlden 2-0 (12-7, 12-7)
Plate A Semi-Finals
E.Carter & I.Wagland beat N.Sorensen & S.Chapman 2-0 (12-4, 12-10)
A.Lumbard & R.Morgan beat S.Howgate & D.Mew 2-0 (15-12, 12-5)
A.Lumbard & R.Morgan beat E.Carter & I.Wagland 2-0 (12-9, 12-5)
Plate B Semi-Finals
M.Barnes & I.Mitchell beat L.Simpson & A.Kane 2-0 (12-4, 12-4)
L.Tobin & P.Boughton beat W.Carling & J.Cooley 2-1 (11-12, 12-7, 14-13)
M.Barnes & I.Mitchell beat L.Tobin & P.Boughton 15-14
L.Simpson & A.Kane beat W.Carling & J.Cooley 12-7