Ladies Championships 2016: A Record-Breaking Entry
Ian Mitchell & Mandie Barnes report:
On a bracing February morning, 37 pairs – continuing the record-breaking trend – assembled for the 2016 Ladies Eton Fives Championships. 15 of these pairs took part in the main championships, divided initially into three pools of five, before a knockout stage to determine which two pairs qualify for the final, which will be held later in the season.
Top two seeds respectively were defending (and three times) champions Charlotta Cooley & Karen Hird, and Highgate first pair, Amira Reimer and Phoebe Bracken. They both progressed from Pools A & B with some comfort. A more interesting tussle occurred in Group C, in which Harriet Asquith & Sarah Frost overcame Izzy Watts and Emily Scoones, principally to determine in which half of the knockout draw they would appear, and ultimately giving the winning pair a chance at playing the Highgate girls in the semi-finals rather than the top seeds.
Ashley Lumbard & Viva Ruggi, and the Highgate second pair, Marjolaine Briscoe & Carolina Valensise, were runners up in groups B & A respectively, and the line-up for the quarter-finals was completed by two ‘lucky’ third-placed pairs (decided on points difference), Rosie Scott & Francesca Turnbull and Fiona Barnes & Mandie Barnes.
The latter two pairs were drawn to meet the top two seeds respectively in the quarter-finals, and despite some good rallies, they scarcely troubled the scorers. Elsewhere the matches were much closer: Izzy & Emily looked untroubled in the first set, not conceding any points to Marjolaine & Carolina, but the schoolgirls rallied to take the second set 12-7, and stormed to an 11-6 lead in the third. Izzy & Emily somehow fought back, and took the decider 14-13. In the fourth quarter-final, Harriet & Sarah scraped through against Ashley & Viva, 14-13 13-10. The Semi-Finals brought no surprises, Charlotta & Karen conceding just two points, whilst Izzy and Emily put up a bit more of a fight against Amira and Pheobe, but ultimately the Highgate pair were too strong.
Emma Graham & Katie Oswald, of Shrewsbury School, had done well in group A to finish third, ahead of the Durham University past and present pair of Lucy Pugh & Emily Mann, and were truly unlucky not to have secured a quarter-final spot. But instead they joined five other pairs to take part in the Championship Plate, run as a simple round-robin. In the Plate, Lucy & Emily overturned the result of their original pool match with Emma & Katie, with a 12-6 win, but lost to another Shrewsbury pair, Sophia Breeze & Lizzy Hare 12-7. Sophia & Lizzy in turn lost 12-11 to Emma & Katie, meaning that there was a three-way tie at the top of the table (all three pairs otherwise unbeaten). By virtue of their only defeat being by a single point, the title went to Sophia & Lizzy, with Lucy & Emily edging ahead of Emma & Katie for the runners-up award.
22 Pairs contested the Ladies’ Festival. Most of these were schoolgirls, representing six different schools. Although the tournament was dominated by Shrewsbury and Highgate, special mention must be made to the Stowe pair of Savannah Courtney & Frankie Knight, who made the semi-finals, and Sasha Howgate of St Bartholomew’s, Newbury, partnering Charlotte Gregory of Northgate High School, Ipswich, who reached the final of the Festival Plate. It is good to see that Eton Fives is alive and kicking at these schools.
Savannah & Frankie lost their Semi-Final to Gemma Smith-Bingham & Daisy Goldman of Highgate. Izzy Wong & Phoebe Wasdell of Shrewsbury won the other Semi-Final against Bethan Miles & Ellie Mathews, who had had a very close match in the group stages with Savannah & Frankie. Sadly, one of the Highgate girls had suffered a badly bruised hand, and had to concede after the first game of the final, the trophy being awarded to the Shrewsbury pair.
The festival plate final was contested by Sasha & Charlotte and Amelie Davies & Gwennan Davies of Shrewsbury. They had met in the original Group Stages, where they were perhaps unlucky to have been drawn in the same group as Savannah & Frankie and Bethan & Ellie, semi-finalists in the main festival knockout. Indeed, Sasha & Charlotte had beaten Bethan & Ellie, but a loss against Amelie & Gwennan deprived them of the possibility of qualifying. The Plate final followed the same pattern as the group match, Amelie & Gwennan recording a comfortable win.
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat R.Scott & F.Turnbull 2-0 (12-1, 12-1)
H.Asquith & S.Frost beat A.Lumbard & V.Ruggi 2-0 (14-13, 13-10)
I.Watts & E.Scoones beat M.Briscoe & C.Valensise 2-1 (12-0, 7-12, 14-13)
P.Bracken & A.Reimer beat M.Barnes & F.Barnes 2-0 (12-2, 12-3)
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat H.Asquith & S.Frost 2-0 (12-0, 12-2)
P.Bracken & A.Reimer beat I.Watts & E.Scoones 2-0 (12-9, 12-5)
Main Competition Plate (3 way tie decided on points difference)
1. S.Breese & L.Ware
2. E.Mann & L.Pugh
3. E.Graham & K.Oswald
I.Wong & P.Wasdell beat G.Smith-Bingham & D.Goldman
A.Davies & G.Davies beat C.Gregory & S.Howgate