Fives Stars: Five in a Row for Highgate at the Black Cup

14/11/16: Highgate completed a nap hand of successive wins in the Richard Black Cup at Eton yesterady, defeating perennial rivals North Oxford in the final of a competition which featured a record-breaking 10 teams and over 60 players, providing a terrific showcase for the ever-improving standard and numbers of players in the ladies game.

This year's tournament featured teams from Highgate (x2), Shrewsbury, Berkhamsted, Ipswich, North Oxford, Oxford University, Cambridge University, The EFA and a composite Westminster/Olavian team, with school, old girl and club players all mixing together in various combinations. The teams were divided up into two pools of five for the morning's games; Group A was dominated by defending champions Highgate 1 and Ipswich, who both remained unbeaten until meeting each other in the final round games. The Ipswich first pair of staff member Charlotta Cooley and OI Sarah Frost claimed a significant scalp winning their first pair game 15-12, but the Highgate second and third pairs were much too strong for the Ipswich schoolgirls putting Highgate through as group winners with Ipswich as runners-up. The Oxford University side were a little unlucky not to be in closer contention, their challenge rather undermined by some forced early departures and mention should also go to the EFA's first pair of Fiona Barnes and Wendy Carling who put in a series of excellent performances against tough opposition. The youngsters of Berkhamsted - helped along by coach Anthony Theodossi - put in some spirited performances and showed plenty of potential, with a 15-14 win for their third pair against the EFA a particular highlight.

Group B was won comfortably by North Oxford but featured a real battle for second place. Elana Osen's Westminster/Olavian team - featuring 2011 champion Sharon Greaves in her first game since that final - looked to be in pole position to claim the semi-final slot going in to the last round of games. However, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Shrewsbury, with an especially impressive win at first pair from school cricket coach Gwen Davies and fast bowler Izzy Wong meant that the Salopian team went through on the head to head, having finished level on points with the W/O team with Cambridge just one point behind. The young Highgate second string also put in some good performances, winning just the one point but coming close to several more.

Shrewsbury School have some very promising players and are potential future winners of this competition, but with many unavailable this time round, the inexperienced team who came along did extremely well to make the semi-finals; coming up against the powerful Highgate line-up, further reinforced this year by Old Cholmeleian Emily Scoones and her partner Ashley Lumbard, was understandably a bridge too far for them and they struggled to trouble the scorers too much in their last four match. On the other side of the draw, North Oxford were hit by the unfortunate withdrawal of key player Rosie Scott, leaving them to have to win the other two pairs to go through. Mandie Barnes and Francesca Turnbull did their bit with a comfortable win over Ipswich youngsters Lily Rendell and Ellen Longhurst, leaving the first pair to decide matters. This match saw multiple national championship winning partners Karen Hird and Charlotta Cooley on opposite sides, and it was Karen who gained the upper hand, as she and Harriet Asquith produced a fine performance to defeat Charlotta and Sarah Frost 12-7, 12-6 to take North Oxford through to their fourth consecutive final.

With third pair already conceded and the formidable pairing of Scoones and Lumbard at second pair, the destination of the trophy was not in doubt for long, despite a good effort from NOEFC's Izzy Watts and Francesca Turnbull, as the Highgate second string wrapped up their match pretty emphatically. Although this left the first pair match as a dead rubber, it certainly didn't feel like that as Karen Hird and Harriet Asquith looked to avenge their narrow three game defeat to Phoebe Bracken and Amira Reimer in last year's final. As happened last year it was the North Oxford pair who drew first blood by winning the first game but the Highgate girls bounced back in fine style with a brave sudden death call at 11-11 and some nerveless foot-down cutting before clinching the game 12-11. The third game was close but at 6-7 down, Karen suddenly took control of the match with a series of excellent cut returns that put the Highgate pair under a lot of pressure and took her and Harriet through to a consolation win.

It was Highgate who were the deserved winners, however: a remarkable fifth successive victory for this group of girls who continue to set the standard in ladies team Fives. As several memebrs of this team move on to university next year, who knows how next year's competition will pan out. If we can maintain or even increase the overall numbers taking part next year then that in itself would be a tremendous achievement.

My thanks go to Mike Hughes and Eton for hosting the tournament, to Richard Black and Krystyna Vargas for presenting the prizes and to Dave Mew, Anthony Theodossi, Peter Boughton, Charlotta Cooley, Andy Barnard, Hannah Pritchard, Annie Cave and Elana Osen for their help in putting teams together.

Results:

Group A

Highgate 1 - 11 points
Ipswich - 10 points
EFA - 4 points
Oxford University - 4 points
Berkhamsted - 1 point

Group B

North Oxford - 12 points
Shrewsbury - 6 points
Westminster/Olavians - 6 points
Cambridge University - 5 points
Highgate 2 - 1 point

Semi-Finals:

Highgate 1 beat Shrewsbury 3-0

A.Lumbard & E.Scoones beat G.Davies & I.Wong 2-0 (12-0, 12-1)
P.Bracken & A.Reimer beat L.Ockleston & A.Naylor 2-0 (12-0, 12-0)
M.Briscoe & C.Valensise beat L.Hedges & E.Windle 2-0 (12-2, 12-0)

North Oxford beat Ipswich 2-1

K.Hird & H.Asquith beat C.Cooley & S.Frost 2-0 (12-7, 12-6)
R.Scott & I.Watts lost to E.Carter & N.Mason w/o
F.Turnbull & M.Barnes beat L.Rendell & E.Longhurst 2-0 (12-2, 12-0)

Final:

Highgate 1 beat North Oxford 2-1

P.Bracken & A.Reimer lost to K.Hird & H.Asquith 1-2 (9-12, 12-11, 7-12)
A.Lumbard & E.Scoones beat I.Watts & F.Turnbull 2-0 (12-3, 12-1)
North Oxford conceded third pair

Plate:

Westminster/Olavians 10 points
Cambridge University 8 points
EFA 7 points
Highgate 2 5 points
Berkhamsted 0 points

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