2010/11 Under 21s: Mantle and Cutmore-Scott win all Oxford final
The Under 21s Ladies Championships at Eton produced an increased entry compared to last year's competition, but suffered slightly from clashes with half-term at Highgate and the unavailability of pairs from a couple of other key schools. What was a little lacking in quantity was more than made up for in quality, however, as six pairs battled it out to become the second ever winners of this competition, following on from Emily Scoones and Natalie Lilienthal's win in the inaugural 2010 event.
Natalie was ineligible to defend her title but Emily was back, partnered by fellow Old Cholmeleian Nina Sorensen. Four Oxford University pairs entered, proof of the thriving ladies Fives scene at Iffley Road this year, including University championships runners-up and tournament favourites Constance Mantle and Hannah Cutmore-Scott.
The six pairs played one game against each other in one large pool, with the competition finishing with the top two pairs playing each other in the final, the third and fourth placed pairs playing off for Plate A and the fifth and six pairs going for Plate B.
The best form in the group stages came from Oxford's impressive second pair of Alice Walker and Izzy Watts as Connie and Hannah struggled to defeat Emily and Nina 15-12 and also come though 15-11 against the scratch pairing of Cambridge's Elana Osen and Emanuel schoolgirl Lucy Pugh.
The two undefeated Oxford pairs then came face to face in the final. At this point, however, Connie and Hannah began to find their best form and their cutting, volleying and back court play were all just a bit sharper and more powerful than their opponents. A 12-2, 12-6 win gave the favourites the title and both Oxford pairs a real boost in confidence before the Ladies Championships next week and the Varsity Match in early March.
Nina and Emily, both lacking regular practice as students as Nottingham and Bath respectively, had been improving throughout the day and their 3rd/4th place play-off against Elana and Lucy, whose play had impressed during the group stages, turned into the best match of the day, a three game epic eventually won by Emily and Nina 9-12, 15-12, 15-14.
The two other Oxford pairs, the Harriets Allan and Asquith and Gina Ford and Jo Mason, are both improving all the time and will have gained a huge amount of experience during the course of the day. For the record, their play-off match was won 12-2, 12-7 by the Harriets.
C.Mantle & H.Cutmore-Scott beat A.Walker & I.Watts 2-0 (12-2, 12-6)
3rd/4th Place (Plate A):
E.Scoones & N.Sorensen beat E.Osen & L.Pugh 2-1 (9-12, 15-12, 15-14)
5th/6th Place (Plate B):
H.Allan & H.Asquith beat G.Ford & J.Mason 2-0 (12-2, 12-7)