Stage I - 10th October 2010
On Sunday 10th October 2010 the very young, but highly rated, Oxon U19 team journeyed to Malvern in Worcestershire to play our hosts, Hampshire and Gloucestershire.
The boys selected to represent Oxfordshire were in team order Joe Brooke (age 15), Will John (age 18), Tom Wellstead (age 17), Alex Noakes (age 14) and Chris Backhouse (age 15). This was the youngest team in the competition by far but this did not stop the boys achieving a very creditable 2nd place.
The 1st match versus Gloucestershire was the match of the day full of some outstanding squash. Gloucestershire are possibly favourites to win the whole event and have a team full of top ranked juniors. Although they lost their number 2 Tom Ford at the last minute and had to pull in a reserve they still had a formidable line-up. Not at all overawed the Oxon boys gave them a real scare.
Chris Backhouse started proceedings taking full advantage of the situation beating Dominic Hedges 3-1. Chris has improved enormously of late and showed this with a confident win against a very athletic opponent.
Joe Brooke, at number 1, was not surprisingly unable to make any inroads into Nathan Lake’s game. Nathan is a full-time professional and ranked number 2 in England Under 19 and one of the top juniors in the world. Match level 1-1.
Then Gloucestershire started to worry. They must have been confident that numbers 3 and 4 would win easily but both Tom Wellstead and Alex Noakes shocked the spectators and almost produced major upsets.
Tom eventually just went down 12-10 in the 4th to Scott Young ( despite tom having 4 game balls in the 4th!) a great effort by Tom.
Alex Noakes was playing with great confidence and pushed Rory Birtwhistle (4 years his senior and current Irish Under 19 international) right to the brink again just losing out 11-9 in the 4th much to the relief of the Gloucester contingent.
Will John proved just how close Oxon came to winning by producing his best squash for sometime and winning 3-0 against Mark Broekman. Will rarely these days comes up against an opponent taller than him but at 6’5" Mark looks down on most people. Will however was " In the Zone" and just too good on the day.
Match 3-2 to Gloucestershire.
The other 2 matches were much more straightforward for the Oxfordshire boys beating Worcestershire 5-0 and Hampshire 4-1.
Notable performances here came from Joe Brooke who beat Oliver Rawlings ( Worcs) 3-0 and managed to get a game from Hampshire superstar Rob Downer losing 1-3. Rob, like Nathan, is a full-time player currently competing on the PSA tour.
Having "overachieved" in Stage I, realistically our young team will be up against it in the 2nd stage as the very top Under 19 players will all be playing. However they can take great credit from their efforts so far and enjoy the experience.