Strong competition at squash tournament

2016 National Squash Championships winners, from left, Cameron Stafford, Mens A Winner; Neil Stone-Wigg, Mens 50+ winner; Barlo Maclean, EFG Bank Representive; Claire Roscoe, Ladies A Winner; Gabe Rabess, Mens 40+ Winner; Emma Turnbull, Ladies B Winner; and Janet Sairsingh, Ladies 40+ Winner. - Photo: Kali Maclean

The EFG Bank National Squash Championships 2016 provided a platform for some healthy competition over the past week.

With more than 50 entries, the championships allowed some young guns to shine through, national squash coach Mark Chaloner said.

In the Mens C event, Jace Jervis, 11, reached the quarterfinals. Pierce Terry, 11, made the semifinal, only to go down fighting to fellow Cayman team member David Pitcairn, 14.

Top seed Keith Higgins met Pitcairn in the final and it was quite a duel, ending with youth and speed overcoming experience, 3 games to 0.

The Mens event saw Isaiah Robinson, 16, take out No. 3 seed Matthew Wight in a tough five sets, but he could not keep his form going in the semifinals against second seed Jeff Danter. Danter progressed to the final for a match-up against Richard Reading, who is renowned for his willingness to retrieve the ball.

Losing the first game 6/11, Danter ruthlessly moved Reading around the court and took both of the next two games 11/9. This proved a little too much for Reading as he started slowing up enough to give Danter a handsome lead. Danter took the game and match 11/2.

Cameron Stafford was in fine form for the Mens A competition, initially destroying Gyles Luke in the semifinals before taking on Gabe Rabess in the final.

Both players showed some of the luckier shots in their armories, but the momentum was only going in one direction as Stafford claimed the title 3/0, 11/5, 11/3, 11/5.

The Mens 40+ saw Rabess in the final against the wily Neil Stone-Wigg. This time, Rabess was able to retrieve some exceptional shots from Stone-Wigg and return them with interest, ultimately leading to a Rabess victory of 3/0, 11/7, 11/6, 11/8.

The Mens 50+ final match up between Ashley Gunning and Neil Stone-Wigg was quite a tense affair. The first game started off a little scrappy, with both players making some unforced errors and hitting the ball through the middle of the court. When the game reached 7 all, Stone-Wigg put together three great rallies to give him game ball, which he converted on the second try, taking the first game 11/8.

The second game started similar to the first, up to 6 all, and once again Stone-Wigg seemed to hit a zone and put a string of quality rallies together, taking him all the way through to claim the game 11/6.

In the third game, both players fought for each point and literally went point for point all the way to 10-all. Then Stone-Wigg had his first match ball at 11/10, but Gunning was having none of it and finished the ball off into the left hand nick with style, evening things out. Then Gunning took the lead and had game ball. Stone-Wigg responded, refusing to lose the point with some tremendous retrieving, leaving Gunning shaking his head in dismay and stating to the crowd’s amusement, “I thought you were over 50!”

Then Stone-Wigg took the next point for match ball. It was not to be. Eventually, Stone-Wigg led 15/14 and hit a perfect length which was unreturnable, to claim the match 16/14.

The Ladies 40+ provided some much needed competition for Janet Sairsingh to give her a boost toward her goal of competing in this year’s World Masters Championships in Johannesburg.

Her opponent in the final was Marian Goodall. Both players have represented Cayman at squash in the Caribbean Championships and both have claimed medals in their categories.

The final showed that Sairsingh’s training is going well as she managed to stay in control of Goodall and take the match 3-0.

The Ladies C/D event provided a chance for two friends and rivals from the Maples Junior Program to battle it out. It was a turnaround from their encounter in the Junior Championships just a month ago. On this occasion, Skylar Smith managed to get the better of Vanessa Fullerton 3-1.

In the Ladies B division, Emma Turnbull stood out as one of the most improved players, winning all of her matches 3 games to 0, except for her encounter with Ally Artuch, who took her to a full five games and ultimately sealed their final positions as first and second in the overall competition.

The Ladies A was won by Claire Roscoe, who beat a very resilient Jade Pitcairn 3 games to 0. However, Pitcairn, 14, never gave in and battled hard throughout the games.

Although this was the EFG Bank Senior National Championships, it gave each of the junior players an opportunity to take part, challenge themselves and gain valuable live competitive experience.

Coach Chaloner said, “My hope is that they will build on this strength and continue their training in order to prepare themselves for the upcoming Junior Caribbean Championships which we [Cayman] are hosting from July 16-23.”