THE 2019 NATIONAL SCHOOLS SQUASH CHAMPIONSHIPS GRAND FINALS
This blue ribbon event of the season was held at Nottingham for key stage 3 boys on Wednesday 20th March with the National title up for grabs. 83 schools originally entered and only the top 8 managed to qualify for the finals day itself. Effectively Truro needed to win 3 consecutive matches to become the champions. Our squad comprised of Jack Mahon, Louis Murray, Joe Thomson, Ollie Beaumont, Callum Oliver and Ed Hayes. This was quite simply the strongest team ever assembled by Truro school. Training over the build-up period had been very positive, with every little detail covered and many tough sessions under the belt.
THE QUARTER FINAL: TRURO V JOHN HAMPDEN SCHOOL: Low and behold – we looked slightly nervous and edgy in this match. It was as if our first appearance in the finals had got to us a little! Callum and Ollie were just a fraction off the levels they can generate and were both pipped by their opponents, however Joe on the other court had notched up a solid win, so there was no need to panic and the tie was expertly cleaned up by Louis and Jack in very professional and quite comfortable fashion. Truro won 3/2
THE SEMI FINAL : TRURO V KING EDWARDS SCHOOL: This match was always going to be absolutely massive as KES are coached by the former England national team manager and hold some very fine players. Callum played first and although he went up a good notch in his performance level, found his opponent just that bit too clever and tricky to contain. On the other court Joe pushed as hard as he could but found his rival just too accurate and clinical. Joe also played better than in his opening match, but such is the standard at this level, was unable to grind out a result. Truro were therefore reliant on Ollie to turn things around, including some very vocal KES supporters who felt they had the tie in the bag… Wrong!!! Quite simply, Ollie played the best match I have ever seen him produce, full of grit and determination and took a very solid win. The crowd was strangely not so noisy as the silky skills of Jack and Louis entered the fray and smothered their opponents with simply sublime squash of the highest calibre. Suddenly the crowd got noisy again, but this time it was Truro! Truro won 3/2 and claimed our place in the National Final 2019.
THE GRAND FINAL : TRURO V WYCLIFFE: In a nutshell the new young guns v the 10 times winners. The final was held on the show court with 100 plus spectators urging their players on in a bear-pit type of atmosphere to determine the champions for 2019. So in the most intense, intimidating and pressurised environment up stepped Callum Oliver, who has only been playing for 18 months, to kick off proceedings….. and he smashed his opponent with ruthless shot play, relentless pace and zero mercy. The finest performance of his young career to date and a huge win for Truro. Ollie took to the court next and faced a seasoned competitor with fine racket skills. He lost the first but then dug in amazingly well and virtually turned the tie around in the second before coming up just short. At no 3 Joe faced a very tough Welsh National player who managed to dominate the T very effectively and edge our boy with, to be fair, an extremely good performance. This meant we were 2/1 down with Jack and Louis also facing international players themselves. Jack was on first and traded the opening games with his opposite number and all the way up to 9 all in the deciding third game. When it is this close and exciting the margins are incredibly fine and I actually believe some things are meant to be and some are not. On this day Wycliffe got the luck and won the match. It could not have been closer. Finally Louis played an absolutely fabulous game with true spirit and determination to beat his rival in fine style. He was patient, well structured and totally composed in the most difficult of circumstances. But the day was to go to Wycliffe as they had the vital 3 wins and retained their title by the scoreline of 3/2 over our boys. There is no doubt that our team is every little bit as good as Wycliffe, but it was just not destined to be on this occasion and we had to settle for silver. It was nothing short of a brilliant effort by them all and they shocked the living daylights out of our illustrious opponents.
Many congratulations to Wycliffe, but we will be back better than ever next year!
CHAMPIONSHIPS – DAY TWO – K S 4
In order to set the context for this report I have to emphasise that after 3 matches on the Wednesday, most of our team was weary, battle scarred and facing opponents 2-3 years older and a foot taller on the K S 4 Thursday. Only Ben Thorpe could enjoy the comfort of having fresh legs as he came in at no 3 string with Joe and Ollie playing at no 4 and no 5 and Callum now first reserve. Louis was literally held together by Roc tape and Jack was mentally shaky overnight after the events of K S 3. What followed was simply sensational and I deeply thank the expert medical, dietary and vocal skills of the parents attending who played a vital role as the day wore on. Plus my co-coach and ever so solid Rory.
THE QUARTER FINAL : TRURO V EPSOM SCHOOL: After an hour plus delay the team managed to dust themselves down and start much better than the day before. Everyone played really well and came through their matches having perhaps got used to the early nerves, or in Ben’s case dealt with them nicely. Ollie, Joe and Ben all won 2/1 while Louis and Jack again looked extremely composed in their games, clearly overcoming their personal physical and mental tests. Truro won 5/0 and that magic word, belief, was growing again.
THE SEMI FINAL : TRURO V LINCOLN MINSTER: This was now our 5th match in 24 hours and required an effort of gigantic proportions to compete for a place in the final. But, Cometh the hour, Cometh Team Truro…. Ollie played first, went 1 nil down and then turned the whole match around with controlled, aggressive, attacking and quick play to give us a win at no 5. Joe then played hard and fast, probably hitting the ball as well as I’ve ever seen and lunging so much better to the front. He was unlucky not to get a win, but again his opponent had to play very well to edge him out. On the other court Ben had a huge match against yet another highly accomplished player. The match was very very tight, but the Lincoln boy just seemed to have the final answer on a couple of key points at the end of each game and got the match result. We were 2/1 down with captain and vice captain “marvels” Jack and Louis to play. The outcome was assured with 2 awesome victories which seemed little more than routine wins for the boys. Professional, calculated, polished and played in wonderful spirit too, Truro had somehow made the final again in K S 4 with a 3/2 victory. AMAZING! THE GRAND FINAL : TRURO V WYCLIFFE again…
This was always a ridiculously big ask as most of the Wycliffe team are Nationally very highly ranked, extremely experienced and simply much physically bigger than our boys. Ollie played first and somehow repeated his heroics of the previous round with another gritty, gutsy and inspired performance. It was superb and gave us a glimmer of hope. Joe and then Ben showed equal qualities in their match-ups, but the quality of their rivals was very impressive and at this stage in their development they were simply beaten by stronger opponents, despite giving everything they could. Jack and Louis then fought against much older boys right to the end of their clashes and were not far away, but unfortunately for team Truro, their rivals just had too much strength and reeled them in. The final result was Wycliffe 4 Truro 1, but the real result was a mammoth achievement for Truro who exceeded all expectations by making the very final itself and pushing Wycliffe hard. Although initially slightly disappointed, the boys soon realised that making two National finals in 24 hours was IMMENSE and the atmosphere quite rightly picked up very quickly when they received their silver medals. This KS 4 team can win it outright next year.
POSTSCRIPT: Denied a National title by the smallest of margins perhaps, but full of optimism and desire going forward, the boys will now play and train with a deeper belief than ever before that they can go all the way soon. We are officially the no 2 ranked team in England, and it’s only the end of year 4 of my 5 year master plan. We know what that means for our target in 2020 : the no 1 spot in England and revenge over a very strong but very aware Wyclffe. Congratulations again to Team Truro! Tim Smith, Head of Squash Truro School