Shuker & Wong Get It Right In The U21s
02/03/20: Shrewsbury School's Issy Wong & Harriet Shuker claimed the Women's U21s in association with Advanta Wealth at Eton yesterday with a narrow win in a high class final against Highgate's Emma Williets & Catherine Vos.
Postponed from its original pre-Christmas slot, this season Women's U21 competition attracted a healthy entry of 11 pairs, with a strong Shrewsbury contingent supplemented by pairs from Holyport, Highgate and Cambridge. The competition has been dominated for the last eight years by Highgate's "Golden Generation" so this year was a watershed moment in the competition with the baton being passed on to the next generation of school players from Highgate and Shrewsbury.
It quickly became apparent that the Highgate pair of Emma Williets & Catherine Vos and Shrewsbury's first pair of Issy Wong & Harriet Shuker were head and shoulders above the rest of the field and they dominated their respective groups for the loss of very few points. The battle behind them for the other two semi-final slots was much more hard-fought. Group A boiled down to a Shrewsbury shoot out between Lisette Barden & Phoebe Watkins and Scarlett Whittal & Rachel Ellis, which Lisette & Phoebe won 15-12. Annie Cox & Ashleigh Pegge from Shrewsbury came fourth, just pipping Holyport's Sophie Wisa & Molly Kemball to a place in Plate A.
Group B was proving even closer with three pairs all in contention for second place. In the end it was Shrewsbury's Morgan Sandford & Ellie Kynaston who came through, holding their nerve to beat fellow Salopians Kim Barnett & Hetta Harris 12-11 and Cambridge's Olavian pair Jessye Tu & Sophie Lumsdon 12-10; Jessye & Sophie then beat Kim & Hetta to 5, leaving them feeling like they'd perhaps missed an opportunity to make it into the last four.
The semi-finals went with form, although Lisette & Phoebe produced their best Fives of the day to push Issy & Harriet to 15-9. Lisette & Phoebe continued their strong finish into the 3rd/4th place match, which they won 15-12 against Ellie & Morgan.
Those who had missed out on the semi-finals got a second shot at glory in Plate A, with Scarlett & Rachel defeating Jessye & Sophie in the final 15-8, and Ashleigh & Annie winning the 3rd/4th battle 15-12 against Kim & Hetta. Plate B saw the two Holyport pairs of Sophie & Molly and Bella & Tilly up against Liberty Clarke & Scarlett Gibson, with Sophie & Molly emerging victorious, a well-deserved win at the end of a day in which they played some excellent Fives, often without the reward they deserved.
The final meanwhile saw the two best pairs in the competition both having to engage top gear for the first time. The first game was a mini-classic, with the Highgate girls making the slightly better start, getting to 6-4 ahead. A disagreement (an amicable one but an important one nevertheless) over the score at this point interrupted the flow of the match and perhaps put the Highgate pair off their stride for a couple of rallies. It was soon forgotten, though, as the pairs stayed neck and neck through to 10-10, the power and strong cutting of the Shrewsbury pair being counterbalanced by Emma's greater precision and Catherine's strength and accuracy from the back court. 10-10 almost inevitably became 14-14 with both pairs having chances to win; in the end it was Issy & Harriet who took the vital last point to gain a 1-0 lead.
The Shrewsbury pair then got off to a flying start in the second game, taking a 6-1 lead off the back of some fantastic cutting from Issy Wong in particular. The rallies were still being evenly contested but the Highgate girls were struggling to return enough cuts to get into the game and although they did eventually manage to find a way to start getting some back and then forcing some errors from the Shrewsbury pair - even getting the score back to 7-9 at one point - they were never quite able to close the gap and Issy & Harriet took the second game 12-7 to become the first Salopian winners of this tournament in its eleven year existence.
My thanks go to Eton for hosting the tournament, to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship, to Andy Barnard, David Mew and Faye Kerr for their support and to all of the pairs who came and played and made it such an enjoyable day.
I.Wong & H.Shuker beat L.Barden & P.Watkins 15-9
E.Williets & C.Vos beat E.Kynaston & M.Sandford 15-0
I.Wong & H.Shuker beat E.Williets & C.Vos 2-0 (15-14, 12-7)
L.Barden & P.Watkins beat E.Kynaston & M.Sandford 15-12
S.Whittal & R.Ellis beat K.Barnett & H.Harris 15-1
J.Tu & S.Lumsdon beat A.Cox & A.Pegge 15-0
S.Whittal & R.Ellis beat J.Tu & S.Lumsdon 15-8
A.Cox & A.Pegge beat K.Barnett & H.Harris 15-12
S.Wisa & M.Kemball
S.Gibson & L.Clarke
B.Kent & T.Martian