Derek Whitehead Trophy 2017

Anthony Theodossi reports:

22/09/17: The third annual Derek Whitehead Trophy Competition took place last Sunday 10th September at Berkhamsted. The tournament was commissioned by the Old Berkhamstedians in honour of Derek Whitehead, an Old Boy of the school, who has been involved in Berkhamsted Fives for almost 60 years, firstly as a pupil at the school and then as Founder of the Old Berkhamstedian Fives Club.

Old Berkhamstedians are paired up with a current pupil for a social and enjoyable tournament and, more importantly, to help try to create strong ties between the school and the OBs, which is so key to the future and success of the game.

The weather just about held out for the day, but what was most pleasing to see was that again our entry had increased to 16 pairs, up from 12 pairs. It was also nice to see that many of the old boys and girls taking part were different from last year, showing we have a huge base of players keen to continue playing the game, as well as a wide range of pupils playing from Y6 to Y13.

The 16 pairs were split into four pools of four with the top two from each going through to the quarter-final stages. Games were kept to quick-fire matches up to 8, step at 7, mainly due the request from last year’s old boys asking for fewer matches (or younger fitter partners to compensate them!). It was very difficult to have any idea of seedings with all the pairs being very balanced across the board, and so it proved, with only one of the four groups going the way expected. In Pool A top spot was taken by Oliver Holdroyd & Matthew James, Pool B Fives Captain Tom Ross & Sam Kaynama, Pool C Richard Dennis  & Ben Howell and Pool D Matt Dight & Bethan Miles. The 2nd place slots were claimed by James Doe & Ashwin Khare, Jeremy Steed & Sam Matthews, Ben van Vlymen & Charles Crocker and Charles Holroyd & Oscar Kibble respectively.

After the pool stages we had to say goodbye to a couple of players and so the Plate was reduced to 7 pairs who were split into a mini pool of 3, games up to 12, and a pool of 4 with games again up to 8, step at 7. Only the top pair from each would go through to the Plate Final. Again, there were many close matches in both groups, but after the dust had settled it was last year’s Captain and Head Boy Charlie Nicholls & Kieran Maheswaran making it out of plate pool B while last year’s Plate winner Lucie Bultitude & Miles Doe claimed the top spot in plate pool A. The final was to be a single game up to 15, and it was nip-and-tuck all the way with neither side commanding the game for long. In the end, Nicholls & Maheswaran just crossed the finish line first.

Derek Whitehead Plate Winners

Nicholls & Maheswaran BEAT Bultitude & Doe 15 – 14

Quarter-Finals

After a lovely BBQ lunch break we pushed on with the competition and the quarter-final matches. These were to be a single game to 12 with no setting, and again all the matched up pairs produced some terrific Fives. There was a slight mix around to pairings after young Matt Dight had to depart leaving his double Nationals Champion a little worried, but this was then quickly rectified (followed by a rather big grin on her face!) when her substitute partner coach Ryan Perrie stepped in to fill the gap after his young Prep partner also had to depart. Perrie & Miles then took on van Vlymen & Crocker, and although the game ended 12 – 4 in Perrie and Miles’ favour it didn’t really reflect the quality of the game. Captain Ross & Kaynama ran circles around Doe & Khare, though the experience of Mr Doe kept them in the game with not only his skill on court, but coaching and advice to his young partner. Dennis & Howell had a good battle with Holroyd & Kibble, and although they were up for the whole game it was never by more than a point until they hit 8 – 8 and then ran away with the match 12 – 8. The final quarter-final was the closest with Holdroyd & James battling it out against Steed and last year’s winner Matthews. The game was tight all the way, and there was certainly something to prove between the two former team mates Holdroyd and Steed (all in good spirit of course!), but clearly Steed’s extra time on court at Oxford gave him the edge and allowed them to sneak the game.

Steed & Matthews BEAT Holdroyd & James 12 – 9
Ross & kaynama BEAT Doe & Khare 12 – 6
Dennis & Howell BEAT Holroyd & Kibble 12 – 8
Perrie & Miles BEAT van Vlymen & Crocker 12 – 4

Semi-Finals

The high quality of Fives continued into the semi-final stages pairs playing one game up to 15; the first of these was Steed & Matthews battling it out against Perrie & Miles. With two winners from last year (Matthews-main competition and Miles-the Plate) both were on court wanting to walk away with some silverware again. The game very much came down to these two players with Steed and Perrie playing merely supporting roles. In the end it was Bethan’s experience that allowed them to push through and claim the win.

The other semi-final pitted Dennis & Howell against Ross & Kaynama. It was always going to be difficult to call this game and so it proved as the players battled an extremely tight game all the way through. Howell had really impressed all day and played some of his best Fives we had seen and again he had stepped up a gear for the semi-final match. His top-step play was exceptional with some fantastic blocking and retrieval of some very difficult shots, ably supported on the back court by Dennis. They were ahead all the way and managed to reach match point first and despite three or four opportunities failed to claim the elusive point. Ross & Kayanma battled hard despite being down and managed to claw the game back to set up a nail-biting 14-14 score line. They then managed to steal the final point thanks to a deep smashing shot back court from Ross pushing them through to the final.

Perrie & Miles BEAT Steed & Matthews 15 – 10
Ross & Kaynama BEAT Dennis & Howell 15 – 14

Final

This set up an exciting best of 3 final, with a coach, two Nationals Champions and a Captain of Fives. All the players looked very sharp going into the final, though coach Perrie looked a little tired having battled all day with his young Prep star in the group stages as well as a tough quarter and semi. The young pairing of Ross and Kaynama were zipping across the court picking out balls left right and centre, but it was Miles’ clinical finishing on top step that allowed her and Perrie to take the first game 12 – 8. The second set was a similar story, with Perrie & Miles always ahead though not by much. It was very much Miles who dominated this game with coach Perrie playing only a supporting role at the back of the court allowing Miles to pick off point after point. Ross & Kaynama kept in the game though where volleys that seemed to be clear winners came back into play, sometimes with a vengeance allowing them to take control now and again. In the end it was again Miles’ clinical finishes on top-step that allowed them to take the second set and the game.

Perrie & Miles BEAT Ross & Kaynama 12 – 8, 12 – 8

With play finishing just after 3pm and plenty of Fives being had by all, the cohort of Old Boys & Girls, staff, pupils and spectators retired to Old Hall for drinks and the presentation ceremony. After a fine speech by Derek Whitehead and trophies presented, there was plenty of time for Old Berkhamstedians to catch up and discuss the finer points of Fives.

There are a number of individuals to thank, firstly to the Aramark catering staff for again putting on the splendid BBQ and drinks and nibbles afterward in Old Hall. To the Old Boys and Girls themselves for taking the time to come and support the event, to Nigel Lane and Richard Dennis for their enthusiasm and energy in creating such a fine event, to the kind parents for coming along to support and enjoy the day with us, and finally to Derek Whitehead himself for his continued support to Berkhamsted Fives and allowing us to have the game in the fine state it is in today.

Again come 2018, we hope to push the event again with even more Old Boys and Girls joining us whether on or off the court to celebrate Berkhamstedian Fives.

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