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Inter Counties Tournament 2009
May 2009

Philip Aspinall Steph Hall
Tom Wolfenden Lizzie Balmforth
Michael Johnston Jenny Salisbury
James Abdous Danya Lewis
John Gareth Phillips Rebecca Ashton

Think Noise – as in Drums and Trumpets. Think Four Days of Entertainment featuring the Nation’s Top Talent. Think a Heaving Mass of Far-From-Fragrant Youthful Bodies. No, it’s not Glastonbury, it’s the ICT!

Six of the ICT squad from 2008, plus four new recruits represented Lancashire at the prestigious and challenging ICT (Inter Counties Tournament) from 16-19 April. This tournament - the major team event in the U17 calendar - takes place each year around Easter time at Nottingham University, with approximately 40 teams and around 400 players competing in ten rounds of matches spread over four often long and gruelling days. After achieving ten straight wins over the last ten years, Yorkshire were always going to be the major force to be reckoned with, but behind the scenes hushed conversations were doubting if they would be able to add an 11th title to the trophy cabinet, especially as Surrey and Hampshire were known to be fielding strong teams.

Lancashire’s performance at last year’s tournament meant that we weren’t granted a seeding, but the level of confidence in the team was such that we fully expected to be able to improve on last year’s 13th position, even if we had to face a strong team from Avon during the all-important opening group stage.
Last year’s accommodation had not been without its problems, so the players were happy to find themselves in a different hall of residence, although the minor ant-infestation and mystery late-night concrete mixing (or at least that’s what it sounded like!) eventually brought everyone down to earth.

After checking into their hall, shuffling mattresses about and getting their bearings, the team congregated (or perhaps “straggled” might be a more accurate description!) in the main university sports hall for the obligatory team photo.

First of the day’s three matches was against Norfolk. On paper this was an easy encounter, so it gave us the opportunity of ensuring that every player in the squad got the opportunity to loosen up on court. Johnny, James, Danya and Rebecca all put in a strong performance, and helped the old hands of Philip, Tom, Michael, Steph, Lizzie and Jenny to a comfortable 10-0 win, with only one rubber needing more than two ends to seal the victory. It was a good sign to see Johnny and Rebecca (not a regularly pairing) coming through with a very straightforward 15-9, 15-8 win against the Norfolk second mixed pairing. Only a quick break was allowed before the next match against Worcestershire, and although this needed the team to step up a gear, we still came through strongly, losing only 1 match to emerge as 9-1 winners.

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By Jubilee Campus John Abdous & boys Johnny & Rebecca Debbie Balmforth & girls By Jubilee Campus

Time for tea, and then a short drive across Nottingham to the Jubilee Campus. Last year the area looked like (actually it was!) a building site, but this year it felt like driving into a giant’s Lego set. The match against Avon was always going to be the toughest one of the day, and in some respects there were benefits to not winning this particular rubber as winning seemed to offer us a more difficult set of challenges on the following day than if we came second in the group. But no-one in the team was thinking of anything other than playing to win. Chris Coles and Emily White got Avon off to a winning start against Steph and Michael, but the spirits of the Lancashire team were well and truly lifted by a gritty and hard-fought win at second mixed from Johnny and Rebecca, both playing in their first ICT. Of the four singles, only Tom was able to pick up a win; Phil going down in two against an in-form Josh Green, and both Lizzie and Jenny losing in two very close sets, which on another day may just as easily gone the other way. The level doubles were halved, with Chris Coles (U17 No. 1) and Josh Green (U17 No. 6) coming out on top of Phil and Tom, though Michael and James started to turn the tables back in our favour with a 14-16, 15-9, 16-14 win over Will Hollis and Igor Kominec. In the girls, Lizzie and Steph notched up a win in three against Emily Hollis and Jess Hopton (surely a name to remember as she’s still only U13, and recently won both the mixed and level doubles in the U13 National Championships) although Jenny and Danya just lost out to Harriet Mortimer and Emily White 16-14, 13-15, 9-15. The tie ended with us losing our first rubber of the day 4-6, but still left us in 2nd position in the group, playing off for positions 1-20 on the following day. Mission accomplished so far!

Day Two in 2008 had been a real grind for the team with all the games slipping away to narrow defeats, so the players were all very much in the mood for making amends, even with four difficult matches on the cards. First up were Leicestershire who had fortunately lost many of their strongest players since finishing 3rd in 2008. Both of the opening mixed doubles went to three sets, but resulted in Steph and Michael losing out 15-5, 11-15, 12-15 against Peter Briggs (U17 No. 5) and Rena Liu, and Johnny and Rebecca having mixed fortunes against Kunal Radia and Sara Bradbury, and going down 10-15, 16-14, 8-15. Phil and Tom got the show back on the road with relatively easy wins over Peter Briggs and Mark Cooper. Lizzie took us into a lead with a win in two against Aditi Shah, though Sarita Patel once again levelled the score with a close three-set win over Jenny (10-15, 15-10, 14-15). The pairing of Phil and Tom (constantly and consistently playing together at first boys’ doubles) was far too powerful for Mark Cooper and Kunal Radia (15-9, 15-8) and Michael and James notched up a fifth game with a 15-12, 12-15, 15-12 win over Chris Hall and Ashay Patel. Needing only one win out of the two remaining girls’ doubles for an outright victory took off the pressure, and Steph and Lizzie did the business with a 14-16, 15-6, 15-6 win over Sarah Bradbury and Amy Paramore. By this stage, Steph and Lizzie were emerging as a very dependable and difficult to beat pairing and continued to be so for much of the tournament. Jenny and Danya against an in-form Rena Liu and Sarita Patel lost out to the Leicestershire pairing, but still we emerged 6-4 victors.

Cheshire were always going to be a difficult customer, so the strategy was to load the mixed, and potentially sacrifice the girls singles. Michael and Steph emerged on top against Richard Bergh and Rachel Vickers (15-11, 15-13) as did James and Lizzie against Tom Moss and Nikki Rowarth (15-10, 15-10). The Cheshire girls of Claire Weaver and Jenny Moore were too strong for Jenny and Danya, so any chance of an upset was limited. Unfortunately, the Cheshire boys were similarly a handful for Phil and Tom, and took Cheshire into a lead with wins for Matt Nottingham and George Li. Three-set matches were the order of the day, as Phil and Tom went down to Matt Nottingham and Richard Bergh, and Michael and James narrowly lost15-17 in the third set against George Li and Tom Moss. Only being able to split the girls’ doubles (although both matches went to three sets) meant that Cheshire emerged 7-3 winners. Had we been able to reverse all of the three-set matches we would have emerged on top with a 6-4 win, which demonstrates how close many matches are at this level.

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Middle photo: (Back) Tom Wolfenden, Philip Aspinall, John Gareth Phillips, James Abdous, Michael Johnston
(Front) Jenny Salisbury, Lizzie Balmforth, Danya Lewis, Steph Hall, Rebecca Ashton

Surrey had already demonstrated that they were the major force to be reckoned with, having only lost one game during the whole of the first day, so it was a case of “who fancies a go at this lot”. With the likes of Toby Penty (ranked No. 3 at U17 and winner of the recent U17 Nationals) and Sam Dobson (ranked No. 11 at U17) in the team, all we were looking for was a spirited performance from our players. Although we were 8-0 down by the girls’ doubles stage, Lizzie and Steph pulled us back to 8-1 with a win against Claire Gwilliam and Clare Freeman, and Jenny and Rebecca (successfully paired together for the first time) earned us a well-deserved and hard-fought win over Jennifer Shelley and Emily Giles. These two wins raised the tempo, and meant that the avoidance of a whitewash actually felt like a minor victory. After all, we’d taken twice as many games off Surrey than all their opponents on Day One put together!

Reading the account of our ICT progress in 2008 reveals the match against Middlesex as being “a real nail-biter, with every game going to the wire” but one which slipped away 4-6, so it was time for strategic decisions once again, with our hopes on picking up the mixed doubles at the probable expense of the girls’ singles. We needed this win to put ourselves in the play off for 9-12 position, so a great deal was at stake. At the end of both mixed games, groans of “It’s all gone Pete Tong!” were starting to circulate around the Lancs team. Neither Steph and Michael nor Lizzie and James were able to pick up the hoped-for matches against surprisingly strong Middlesex pairings. The big guns of Phil and Tom were as reliable as ever though; Phil coming out on top 51-11, 15-7 against Keval Morjaria, and Tom not only winning in two against Mitchell Maynard, but nailing the second set 15-0 to bring the rubber back to an even keel, and also to fire up the enthusiasm of the team for getting a victory under the belt. In the girls’ singles Jenny and Rebecca put up a determined fight against the strong duo of Cynthia Law and Melissa Diong (Gold and Silver players respectively) but couldn’t quite convert the enthusiasm into wins. But our enthusiasm, commitment and sheer hard work paid off in the level doubles with all four pairings (Phil and Tom, James and Michael, Steph and Lizzie, and Jenny and Danya) notching up wins to bring us out on top 6-4. Knowing that we had already improved on the 2008 performance and were guaranteed a place in the 9 to 12 section brought Day Two to a very satisfactory conclusion.

Inevitably, as tournaments such as the ICT progress, the opponents faced are often familiar foes, and this was no exception for the next three matches on Saturday and Sunday, with Staffordshire, Buckinghamshire and Ulster being the final three names in the frames.

First up on Saturday were Staffordshire, fielding a team of familiar faces, especially as they were the most recent county that Lancashire had faced in the Shires League, and also one that had inflicted a heavy 17-3 defeat on us in the last match of the season. By the end of the mixed, honours were shared between the two counties. Michael and Steph won in three against Tim Hull and Amber Gregory, but Johnny and Rebecca narrowly went down 15-9, 13-15, 13-15 against the regular tournament pairing of Josh Tipper and Rebecca Lunt. It’s always easy to get dispirited when success just eludes you, but sometimes that one set in the match can be a vital component in an overall victory, either in contributing to the final score, or simply showing the rest of the team what can be done when you put your mind to it! Ever dependable, Phil and Tom brought us wins in the boys’ singles (even if Phil’s was an at-times nervous 15-17, 15-7, 15-11 victory over Josh Hull!), Lizzie went down to a strong and highly ranked Lauren Bromley, but Jenny’s knowledge of Rebecca Lunt’s game (gained in tournaments over the last year) helped her to a 15-12, 13-15, 15-13 victory and got our nose in front with just four more matches to play. Phil and Tom (it’s starting to sound pretty routine this, isn’t it!) came through in three against Tim Hull and Josh Hull, and Michael and James fought hard for a 15-9, 13-15, 15-9 win over Josh Tipper and Oliver Blakemore. With the rubber already won, although Steph and Lizzie lost in two against the well-tested pairing of Lauren Bromley and Amber Gregory, Jenny and Danya brought the final score to a 7-3 Lancashire victory with a relatively easy win (15-7, 15-6) against Ellen Stringer and Evie Carroll.

Last match of the day was against Buckinghamshire, again fielding some of The Usual Suspects, and therefore presenting a formidable challenge. For once we put most of our eggs into the basket of the girls’ singles, so victories for Bucks in both mixed doubles were cancelled out by good wins for Lizzie and Jenny in their crucial matches. Lizzie defeated Claire Morgan 16-18, 15-8, 17-15 and Jenny came back from a set down to beat Jess Wilkin 7-15, 15-9, 15-12. Fortunately this was the last match of the day, as it had certainly taken its toll on the team, and the aches and pains were starting to be felt by the players. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that not having the luxury of a female equivalent of Phil and Tom means that, particularly in the singles, our girls regularly face opponents that are ranked and graded much higher than them, so all credit to the likes of Jenny who played at either first or second singles in every rubber.

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Lizzie, Rebecca, Steph, Danya Rebecca, Danya, Jenny Johnny, Danya, James Tom, Danya, Johnny Steph, Danya, Rebecca

So, it’s Saturday night in Nottingham, and that can only mean one thing: it’s the ICT disco! Following various moans and groans from the dance-floor divas last year, Danny Wolfenden had admirably taken matters into his own hands and negotiated himself a (rumoured) extremely lucrative contract with the financial barons of Badminton England to spin the discs (is that what one does in these post vinyl and stylus days?). Emerging only occasionally from the relative safety of the Hall Bar, the evening looked to be going well, even if some of the attire worn by the female contingent would have failed a risk assessment had it been worn on court!
The successes of Saturday meant that Lancashire had already taken themselves up to 10th position, so the final match of the tournament was 9th place play off against Ulster. Without going into detail, victory in this match just eluded us, as Ulster came out on top with a 6-4 win. Perhaps if we’d played a slightly more tactical game we could have added another scalp to the belt, but all the team gave their all and played their hearts out in the match (particularly Johnny and Rebecca in the mixed – a performance that again fired the team on) and finally brought down the curtain on a superb performance from the Lancashire team.

Admittedly all counties were fielding teams of different strength to last year, but it was good to see our regular, relatively local opponents of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Derbyshire ending up below us in 12th, 13th and 18th positions respectively!

In the final on Sunday, the rumours of this being the year when Yorkshire would be toppled from the top spot proved to be accurate – just! Surrey edged out Yorkshire in the final game of the entire tournament with a 5-5 winning draw. Amazingly, the end result couldn’t have been narrower, as Surrey won by 13 games to 12, and by 316 points to 315. Incidentally, the view of this team manager is that one of the reasons underlying Surrey’s success is their evident team spirit, displayed either in their deliberate choice of somewhat whacky clothing, their choice of transport around the campus (micro-scooters!) or their evening toastie-making sessions in their hall of residence! Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Avon took their places behind Yorkshire and Surrey in positions 3 to 6.

Of this year’s squad, only Tom, Danya and Rebecca will be eligible for inclusion in the 2010 team, and the inevitable influx of new blood will mean that it’s a challenge to maintain Lancashire’s position in the top 10. The likelihood of success will at least partly depend on how our girls develop over the next 12 months; gaining experience in the Badminton England U17 circuit is a must for all those who aspire to get into the squad.

As ever, a big thank you must go to all the parents who regularly ferry their offspring around the country, and spend many a day in sports halls of dubious comfort (and warmth) while urging them on from the sidelines. It’s rewarding when it pays off though, isn’t it!?

And of course a massive well-done has to go to all of the players in this year’s ICT squad, some of whom were making their final appearance for the junior county squad, but who will hopefully be moving up to one of the senior squads in the near future.

Graham Salisbury
U17 Team Manager

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Restricted Tournaments 2008
September 2008

The junior age group Lancashire Restricted Tournaments were played on the weekend of 20-21 September at Kirkby and saw some high quality badminton.

A healthy entry of 18 boys and 10 girls played in the U15 event on the Sunday, with 3 boys and 2 girls taking all the titles.

Peter Athans (Boys Singles & Mixed Doubles), Terri-Lee Holmes (Girls Singles & Girls Doubles) and Hannah Buckingham (Girls Doubles & Mixed Doubles) each won 2 events, with Daniel Myers & Matthew Tolman pairing up to win the Boys Doubles.

All finals were extremely close, with the Boys Singles, Girls Singles and Boys Doubles finals all won by the narrowest 2 points margin. The Girls Doubles comprised 1 group of 5 pairs and this was won by a single point as there was no extended play in boxes.

Sincere thanks to Dave Dunlop (Umpire & Referee), Angela Walker (Shuttle & Match Control) and Jean Dean (Refreshments) for all their help to make the tournament a success.

Click here to see a full set of U15 results.

The U17 winners and runners up were as follows:

Boys Singles
Winner: Michael Johnston
Runner-Up: John-Gareth Phillips

Girls Singles 
Winner: Lizzie Balmforth
Runner-Up: Steph Hall

Boys Doubles
Winners: Peter Athans / Jack James
Runners Up: Matt Norris / Richard Walker

Girls Doubles
Winners: Lizzie Balmforth / Steph Hall
Runners Up: Danya Lewis / Jenny Salisbury

Mixed Doubles
Winners: Michael Johnston / Steph Hall
Runners Up: John-Gareth Phillips / Jenny Salisbury

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ICT - Lancashire Make it Lucky 13
April 2008

Philip Aspinall Nicola Poole
Danny Wolfenden Lizzie Balmforth
Tom Wolfenden Steph Hall
Michael Johnston Jenny Salisbury
Craig Eccleston Emily Miller

Let’s not beat about the bush – the ICT is the crème de la crème of junior badminton. It has more volume, more nerves, more fun, more thrills and spills … put simply, it just has more! If you are not yet being considered for your county age group team, or you need any incentive to keep going and improve your game, think ICT.

The ICT (Inter Counties Tournament) takes place each year around Easter time at Nottingham University. 39 teams and around 400 players stay for 4 days, each team playing 10 matches. Success this year for Yorkshire would make it 10 straight wins … but Hampshire were tipped to run them close.

Lancashire came into the event ranked to finish in positions 9-12, though I believed that anything between 8th and 16th was realistic given the similarity of many teams. The event starts with a group of 4 … top 2 then go into groups playing for 1-20. Each placing in your second round group puts you into final groups going for 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16 or 17-20.

Our players arrived on time, checked into their hall and went to the main university sports hall for the team photo. Then on to their first match against Guernsey. Philip, Tom, Michael, Craig and Jenny, in their first ICT, all recorded good wins and helped old hands Danny, Emily, Steph, Nicola and Lizzie to a comfortable 10-0 win. We moved swiftly on to play Berkshire, running out 8-2 winners. A break for dinner and then to our final first round match, against Essex, also unbeaten, to decide places 1 & 2 in our group.

The teams on paper were evenly matched and, little did we know, but we were about to embark on 6 of our remaining 8 matches that would go for or against us by the narrowest 6-4 margin.

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ICT team 2008 Philip Aspinall Emily & Lizzie Supporters Steph & Nicola

In the opening mixed Tom & Steph lost a close 1st pair 13-15, 15-17, before Michael & Emily went down 13-15, 16-14, 11-15. It is unfair to linger on the unsporting behaviour of one of the Essex players in this rubber as the rest of the match (and the whole ICT) was played in an extremely sporting manner. If the player involved learnt something about the boundaries of fair play - and the Lancashire team manager (me!) controls his frustration a little better in future - then well and good. Philip followed the mixed with a close game against Adam Southgate, but was edged out in the third, leaving the team chasing a 0-3 match deficit. Danny, Nicola and Lizzie then recorded great singles wins against Boris Hackett, Georgia Colgate and Mina Clark to level the match and, with the boys splitting the levels, the pressure passed to the girls. They directed their aggression perfectly as both pairs recorded outstanding wins, Nicola & Steph (15-9, 15-10) at 1st and Emily & Lizzie (15-8, 16-14) at 2nd. A 6-4 win gave us top place in our first round group.

Friday amongst the top 20 teams was a busy, busy day, with 4 matches over a 13 hour stretch. Lincolnshire had a very good girl in Anna Wilson and she won her singles and mixed matches. However, that was as good as it got for the opposition as we notched up an 8-2 win.

Warwickshire were always going to be tricky opposition and we were stunned when the first 4 rubbers (the singles) all went against us. Philip had a titanic struggle with Rhys Walker, losing a tight 3-setter. Danny was edged out by a similar margin, before Nicola lost a close encounter with Claire Mort and Lizzie just lost to Charlotte Close. Philip & Tom started the fight-back with a very good levels win, but Danny & Craig were beaten in 3 very tight games, leaving the team needing the last 4 rubbers to salvage a result. Nicola & Steph and Emily & Lizzie played superbly to win in 3, then Tom & Emily won superbly against Rhys Walker & Grace Ollivent at 1st mixed. But Warwickshire had already done the damage in the singles and, despite a valiant effort by Michael & Jenny to re-enact the Great Escape, unfortunately it was a Bridge Too Far and the match slipped away 4-6.

Our next match against Middlesex was a real nail-biter, with every game going to the wire. The mixed were split in close affairs, Tom & Steph winning in 3, Michael & Emily just edged out in 3. The singles were also split, before the boys’ levels both got away … Philip & Tom desperately unlucky, having match points in their second game before losing it 18-20. The girls were under pressure again and when Emily & Lizzie won in straight games our attention switched to Nicola & Steph at 1st. As in Philip & Tom’s match, the players played superbly to set up match points but it was not to be as Warwickshire took the third game 16-18 and with it the match. A 4-6 result, a bit deflated, but the players had played superb badminton in a great atmosphere.

The team was gelling well but a different tactic was needed for our final match on the Friday evening against second seeds Hampshire … throwing team selection up in the air and seeing how it fell! With players like Mark Cappleman, Ben Tier and Panuga Riou, Hampshire had a very strong team and we were duly defeated 1-9. Philip & Tom ran Mark & Ben close (12-15, 12-15) and Danny & Michael went very close at 2nd levels. But our success came at 2nd levels where Lizzie & Jenny played with no fear in defeating Olivia Payne & Jessica Shotton 15-13, 16-14.

The two close defeats in our second group nudged us into a final group playing for places 13-16. Warwickshire, by virtue of three 6-4 wins, made it to the 5-8 group, whilst Middlesex went into the 9-12 group. The players wanted to win the final group to prove to themselves (and others) that they were unlucky not to be punching higher up the rankings.

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Oh to be on court! Nic's favourite game  Hunger strikes More of the team Nic, Liz, Emily

Welcome Kent to a 9.00 a.m. meeting on Saturday. An early start maybe and some concern that Lizzie might be mentally ‘still in bed’ for her singles. But the team was ‘in the zone’ and we got off to a good start as Michael & Emily won an excellent 1st mixed, followed by Craig & Steph going so close, missing out 17-19 in the third. Philip and Tom were on form winning excellent singles matches, Philip taking Daniel Groom in 3 and Tom finishing his match in style to beat Kevin Wrigley 15-10, 15-12. Nicola was given the unenviable task of taking on well-ranked Emma Smethurst, whilst Lizzie shook off the morning blues to take 2nd singles. 4-2 in our favour became 4-4 as the boys’ levels went to Kent … no pressure then girls! Emily & Steph’s relentless attack forced the top Kent pair into submission, before our new pairing of Lizzie & Jenny had a 16-14, 15-9 win that saw Lancashire to an excellent 6-4 match win.

Sussex was another close match on paper and the opening mixed were key. So Michael & Emily’s 18-16 win in the 3rd, and Craig & Steph’s 15-11 win in the 3rd, gave us a great start. Philip, Tom and Lizzie continued the winning start in their singles. Nicola lost out to Bryony Morris, though Nicola knows and the team appreciate just how tough 1st singles is, with many counties having a top 30 ranked singles specialist … Bryony was in that group. At 5-1 things looked comfortable, but we had a bit of Middlesex ‘deja vous’ as the boys’ levels went against us, each in 3 close games. Emily & Steph could not quite overcome Bryony Morris & Filly Boyce, but Lizzie & Jenny played well together again to secure the 6-4 match win.

Saturday evening is a traditional social night and our players had certainly earned their evening’s entertainment. I knew things were going okay when I saw the dance floor awash with players jumping to Darude’s Sandstorm. DJ Wolf may have a case, though, for a role on the music decks next year as every request for some up-to-date music was rebuffed with “I’m a shift worker, I don’t have time to keep up to date with the latest music” … maybe a shift away from being a DJ might help!

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A treat for Dan? Liz, Em, Steph, Nic DJ Wolf & Craig In the photo booth! One last time

Now, the more astute will note that, having stated earlier that Lancashire recorded six 6-4 results, we have so far only mentioned five … so our last match against Leinster was going that way, but to whom?! With our mixed on song, it was almost a surprise when Michael & Emily were shaded 14-16 in the 3rd. However Craig & Steph produced their best performance to take their rubber and level the match. Philip, Tom and Lizzie won good singles, though Jenny was just edged out. Philip & Tom had yet another close encounter but couldn’t provide the killer blow, whilst Danny & Michael played the comeback of the week, recovering from a game and 3-11 down to win 14-16, 15-13, 15-12 … match score 5-3 in our favour. We had been untouched by illness and injury throughout the event, so it was a shock when Steph showed signs of real pain half way through her final levels with Nicola. She finished the match but the pair understandably lost the 3-setter … the amazing thing was that, when I asked when she had twisted her ankle (expecting her to say the first game of the match) Steph said it had happened in the Essex match (on day one!!). Emily & Lizzie needed to take their levels to secure the match and (true to form) they did just that. A 6-4 win, top place in the group and 13th overall in the ICT.

Warwickshire and Middlesex, with whom we might have swapped places had the odd point swung our way at crucial moments, came 8th and 11th respectively, whilst Essex, whom we beat in the first round, finished 12th. Ranked to finish in the 9-12 range we missed that by a whisker, but in another week we could have come 8th.

Cheshire, our friends and local rivals, had their best ever result, finishing 6th. Yorkshire did meet Hampshire in the final and, despite trailing by only one game after 7 rubbers, Hampshire were unable to sustain the challenge and Yorkshire ran out 7-3 winners. Leicestershire beat Nottinghamshire 6-4 to finish 3rd.

The atmosphere around the University over the four days was expectantly electric … it sort of sucks you in. It is difficult to stay calm on the touchline as a team manager at ICT … I think I’m more badminton’s version of Kevin Keegan than a Sven or Fabio!

Four of our players have played their last ICT and now move into the seniors; I hope and trust you will push for and attain (retain) senior Lancashire team places. Thanks to all the parents for your support - your offspring would not be involved in such a great sport without you.

So, that’s it! This was my 4th ICT and each one has been really enjoyable. Lancashire has missed out on a top half finish only once in that time and rose to the dizzy heights of 7th in 2007. I’d like to thank this group of very talented individuals that have lived and breathed badminton for some years along with me since I started getting involved with county juniors at the turn of the century (heck I feel old!). Many of you have been playing together for some time and have produced some awesome displays (I had to get that word in somewhere!). I always joke that it “keeps youngsters off the streets” … but it does. The amazing thing is that every one of you has been a delight to work with … different in personality, of course, but it’s been my pleasure. Thanks, well done, good luck and, most importantly, enjoy playing.

Dave Miller
U17 Team Manager

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Under 16s At Rotherham - Part 2
1st April 2008

The Lancashire U16 team pulled off a superb victory in the North Midway League Tournament on 16th March. Lancashire 1 were already in the top league spot, having played some excellent and exciting badminton in the first leg back in November, including a memorable defeat over Yorkshire on their home turf.

A couple of the counties that played in November were unable to field teams this time, so it was seven teams in one large league, with all teams playing off against each other. The league consisted of Lancashire 1, Lancashire 2, Cheshire, Durham, Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Yorkshire.

Leicestershire had recently been on the receiving end of a winning performance from Lancs in the Shires League, so were keen to make amends and fielded a strong team. Though Lancs slipped behind in a couple of the doubles, good wins from all of our singles players (Michael Johnson, John Gareth Phillips, Lizzie Balmforth and Steph Hall) laid the foundation for a 7-3 win.

The team got into their stride for the next match against Durham, and came through with an 8-2 victory, particularly helped out by some tight playing by the girls (21:17 from Lizzie at first singles, and an identical scoreline from Steph at second singles, and consolidated by wins at Level Doubles, 21:16 from Lizzie and Steph, and 21:14 from Jenny and Danya).

Despite some strong players in the squad, Cheshire proved no match for the Lancashire team who by now were firing on all cylinders, and came thorough with a clinical 10-0 scoresheet, with few of the Cheshire scores getting into double figures.

Next up were Lancs 2, with a team consisting of some of the old hands from the last round, plus a few new faces making their first appearance at this level. Though the scores on the doors reveal a 10-0 win for Lancashire 1, individual scores demonstrate the level of commitment from some of our up-and-coming players. Particularly worthy of mention are Matt Norris, who took John Gareth to a thrilling 20:21 conclusion, and Lloyd Dean, who paired with Matt to fight a spirited 17:21 against Michael and John Gareth. It certainly looks as if we’ve some players who intend to keep the NMBL trophy in the Lancashire Trophy Room next year!

Warwickshire had finished in 3rd spot at the end of the previous round, and had clearly come along intending to battle for the title, so they presented the strongest challenge for Lancashire so far. Our fortunes at singles were mixed: wins for Michael (21:13) and Steph (21:11) but rare defeats for John Gareth (18:21) and Lizzie (12:21), but wins in four of the six doubles matches more than made up for this. In the Girls’ Doubles, Lizzie and Steph fought their way back from being 4:15 down to a well earned 21:19 win, followed by an easier 21:10 win from Jenny and Danya. At mixed doubles Richard and Jenny came through at 21:16, accompanied by a 21:17 win for Robbie Macdonald (drafted into the team at fairly short notice) and Danya.

Crunch time came with the last match against Yorkshire. This was essentially a re-run of the last leg’s fight for interim top of the table position, but also the deciding match of the day. Perhaps only conspiracy theorists would see anything suspicious in Yorkshire (who organised the tournament on the day) getting their rest break in the middle of the tournament, but Lancashire getting theirs after all the matches had been played, but the team knew that they would have to pull out all the stops to clinch the title. Yorkshire had clearly picked up an injury with one of the girls over the day, so for the match against Lancashire, they fielded an unusually ranked side, hoping to pick up games in second doubles to compensate for any losses at singles. Lizzie’s narrow 16:21 loss to Rebecca Boyle at first singles was easily balanced out by Steph’s 21:6 win at second singles. Michael made relatively easy work of Ben Lambden at 21:7, and a Lancashire victory was in sight when John Gareth fought to a see-saw of a victory, finally emerging from a nail-biting scrap with a 21:20 scoreline, cheered on from the sidelines by mum, dad and sister! The boys doubles were shared (Michael and John Gareth holding tight for a 21:18 win, and Richard and Robbie very narrowly losing at 20:21). Wins for Robbie and Danya at mixed, and Lizzie and Steph at levels took Lancashire to an unbeatable 6-3 scoreline, so Yorkshire conceded the second girls doubles, sadly denying Jenny and Danya from a true clean sweep in their Girls Doubles matches. So, Lancashire: 7, Yorkshire: 3, and it was time to uncork the champagne – or at least the Powerade!

As is so often the case, the Lancashire 1 victory wouldn’t have been possible without our Lancashire 2 team having already softened up the opposition (including a win for Matt Norris over the Yorkshire No.1 in the Boys’ Singles), and we’ll definitely be seeing a lot more off all those players who turned out for the county in both this and the earlier leg. The level of play was incredibly spirited and enthusiastic, and although it may not have been converted into overall match wins, it once again demonstrates the strength in depth of our Lancashire players.

For the record, the teams on the day were:

Lancashire 1
Michael Johnston, John Gareth Phillips, Richard Walker, Robbie Macdonald, Lizzie Balmforth, Steph Hall, Jenny Salisbury, Danya Lewis (James Abdous and Lisa Roberts played in November)

Lancashire 2 
Matthew Norris, Josh Barnes, Sam Clucas, Aaron Owen, Lloyd Dean, Lisa Roberts, Emma Karsten, Hannah Buckingham, Rebecca Mayers (Daniel Myers, Sam Artingstall and Laura Watts played in November)

And, as ever, a big thank you to all the parents who supported and chauffeured the team on the day. Having brought back the medals this year let’s hope that next year’s U16 team can deliver a similar winning performance in the NMBL.

U16 NMBL Winners: Jenny Salisbury, Michael Johnston, Steph Hall, Lizzie Balmforth,
Danya Lewis, John-Gareth Phillips, Richard Walker (Robbie Macdonald missing from photo)

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U17 Shires
30th March 2008

The Under 17s qualified for the final of the Shires League, beating Leicestershire 2 in their final match on 9th March.  They finished second in their league to Yorkshire 1 and will play the final in Leicestershire on 13th April (postscript: Lancashire finished 8th in the final).  The team had the benefit of a settled line-up throughout the season and established some good pairings.

The Staffordshire match was a potential tricky start, with players like Amber Gregory and Lauren Bromley in their team, but Lancashire came through with a solid 13-7 win.  Cumbria was a straightforward match though it gave us an opportunity to introduce Jenny Salisbury and Tom Wolfenden to the team: both played well winning comfortably in all their games.

Yorkshire 1 were as good as ever, though they didn't get things all their own way.  Philip Aspinall recorded a good win against Paul Scott, Jenny Salisbury beat Jane Colley, then Craig Eccleston teamed up with Jenny in the mixed to beat George Hargreaves & Jane Colley in two close games.

The players gave themselves an early Christmas celebration with a win against our closest rivals, Cheshire, taking the match 18-2.  Tom Wolfenden's win against Richard Bergh and Nicola Poole's win against Nicky Rowarth, both in straight games, were the pick of the singles.  In the mixed, all four pairs won with Craig Eccleston & Emily Miller recording a good win against Matthew Slater & Alex Chambers, whilst the levels saw Kristian Byrne & Craig Eccleston, Danny & Tom Wolfenden, Emily Miller & Steph Hall, and Nicola Poole & Jenny Salisbury very nearly clean up with 7 out of 8 wins.  Well played!

Against Yorkshire 2 the team started well, with Kristian & Emily, Craig & Nicola, and Michael & Jenny winning in the mixed.  The boys took 3 singles comfortably, before the best singles of the day came from Steph Hall, recording a 21-6, 21-15 win over Steffi Clarke ... I always say you underestimate your singles ability, Steph.  Five wins in the levels gave the team a convincing 13-7 match result which gives the team a good shout at qualifying for the final (always a tough proposition with Yorkshire 1 in your group).

The final league match, at home against Leicestershire 2, saw the team record a comfortable 16-4 win.  Liam Walsh, injured for part of the season, played some good badminton.  The girls (the 'fab five') showed how important they are to the team, winning all their matches.  Danny Wolfenden, Michael Johnston and Emily Miller were ever-presents throughout the campaign.  Well done everyone on a terrific result and final placing.

16 Sept 2007
Won 13-7
21 Oct 2007
Won 20-0
Yorks 1
9 Dec 2007
Lost 3-17
23 Dec 2007
Won 18-2
Yorks 2
27 Jan 2008
Won 13-7
Leics 2
9 Mar 2008
Won 16-4
Philip Aspinall     Y      
Kristian Byrne Y Y   Y Y  
Craig Eccleston Y Y Y Y Y  
Michael Johnston Y Y Y Y Y Y
Liam Walsh           Y
Danny Wolfenden Y Y Y Y Y Y
Tom Wolfenden   Y   Y   Y
Lizzie Balmforth Y Y Y   Y Y
Steph Hall Y   Y Y Y Y
Emily Miller Y Y Y Y Y Y
Nicola Poole Y Y   Y Y Y
Jenny Salisbury   Y Y Y Y Y

To see match sheets click on the opposition name in the table above (Microsoft Word files).

Dave Miller
U17 Team Manager

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Railway Institute Octagonal
27th January 2008

The 20th RIO tournament took place on 19-20 January in York, with 8 top county teams taking part.  Lancashire's U17s saw a late change with Liam Walsh (injured) replaced by Danny Hart ... with our first group containing Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Surrey there was going to be no gentle start!

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Yorkshire had their top players in and Danny Wolfenden did very well beating Paul Scott 14-16, 15-12, 15-12.  That was to be our only success in the match, though 9 games did go to 12-15 or closer showing that we are not too far off the pace.  Well done also to Tom Wolfenden & Danya Lewis who took Alex Fowler & Natalie Jones to 3 games in their mixed.

Notts also came with a strong line-up, made all the harder for us with Alex Langley (previously Lincs) playing at top singles.  Michael Johnston had good wins at 2nd singles, against Lawrence Lee, and at 2nd levels with Kristian Byrne, against Rohan Midah & Kurran Sachdeva.  Steph Hall & Lizzie Balmforth beat Jess Tandy & Jessica Martin, though that was as good as it got as the rest of the matches slipped away.  The players were setting up good situations but weren't quite able to take their chances (we only converted 2 of the 13 games where we scored 12 or more points) .

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The last match on Saturday against Surrey was yet another tough affair, but brought a bright note for Danny Hart & Danya Lewis who secured an excellent win in the mixed after going a game behind.  We took 17 games to 12 points or better in this match, but again the pickings were thin as we only converted 4 into wins ... a lack of self belief maybe?  Craig Eccleston & Lizzie Balmforth came very close in their mixed against Michael Daw & Kirsty Walker, Jenny Salisbury nearly beat Rebecca Freeman, and Michael Johnston & Danny Hart just lost out to Toby Penty & Ryan Acquah, all three matches getting away setting third games!

The first day had been tough on the morale and best judgement seemed to be to let the players unwind and enjoy the evening back at the hotel.  Not much dancing was done (even after I threatened to get up there if they didn't!) but the team got on well together, for some reason trying to wear down the carpet on a route through the bar next to where the adults were talking tactics for Sunday (well I was drowning my sorrows actually after breaking a light on my car reversing out of the car park!).

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A short pep-talk before play on Sunday about keeping self belief and nerve in close games (or some other far less logical reason) seemed to find the players "in the zone" against Lothian.  Craig & Emily just lost a terrific 1st mixed, before Michael & Steph won well at 2nd.  Things looked tough when Danny Hart & Danya lost their mixed, followed by Danny Wolfenden losing a good match to highly ranked Michael Campbell in the singles, putting us 1-3 behind ... but then the story began!  Kristian, playing Adam Wade, produced a brilliant display winning 3 tight games, hopefully convincing himself he really does have talent if he has the will and the patience.  Nicola, battling a few gremlins of her own, played some lovely badminton winning in 3 games.  It is hard to appreciated how tough it can be for our best county players taking on the best other counties have to offer all the time ... our players deserve all the credit they get ... and sincere thanks from me.  These results seemed to spur the others on, as Tom, Lizzie and Jenny all recorded singles wins.  And when Danny Hart & Craig, Steph & Nicola, and Emily & Lizzie won their levels, the team had chalked up an excellent 9-6 win.  A great turnaround from Saturday ... real badminton therapy!

The last match against Leicestershire saw a continuation of our good form, with the team recording another fine 9-6 win.  The highlights were Danny Hart & Nicola's fine mixed win, excellent singles wins by Tom and Danya, finishing with five strong displays in the levels (the sixth was conceded to us) ... the only one to get away was as good a performance as the rest, as Danny & Tom Wolfenden only just lost out to Nayan Patel & Avinash Chandarana.

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Well played everyone on a 6th place finish, a very good result amongst some top class company.  A special presentation was made at the end ... no, not the one I won for my clothing sense ... but to Sue Foster.  Sue started the RIO event 20 years ago and is a superstar of junior badminton coaching and participation, helping take the game to another level in Yorkshire.  Yorkshire won the 2008 RIO, followed by Notts, Herts and Bucks.  Surrey beat us to the top of the second group.  Thanks to all the parents for your support, you know it is always appreciated.

Dave Miller
U17 Team Manager

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Sports Psychology Boost For Players
31st December 2007

A number of Lancashire's most promising players and their parents were fortunate enough to attend a session run by sports psychologist, Damian Hughes, recently. Damian talked about motivation in sport and used simple activities to show how positive thinking and mental preparation can help improve performance.

He emphasised the importance of understanding what you want to achieve from playing sport, ensuring your goals are set not just at the highest 'outcome' level (e.g. I want to play for England) but also at a 'performance' level (e.g. I aim to beat Jo Smith by Christmas) and 'process' level (e.g. I will get a higher percentage of serves in today). Pinning all hopes and aspirations on the highest 'outcome' level (with no successes at the more achievable, shorter term, more plentiful goals) makes the journey arduous and stressful, and can leave you open to crushing disappointment if it does not happen.

Damian played football as a schoolboy for Nottingham Forest and England, and is involved with the current England Rugby League team.  Many thanks to Graham Salisbury for arranging the session, which took place on 28th November at Shevington High School.

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Damian Hughes addresses the group Positive thinking exercise Nicola Poole & Craig Eccleston  participate

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U16s At Rotherham
30th November 2007

Lancashire U16s were in action in Rotherham for the first leg of the North Midway League Tournament on 11th November. As was the case last year, the county invited 16 players to make up two teams, with a number of players moving up at least one if not two age ranges. Lancashire 1 were grouped with Leicestershire, Cheshire, Durham and Nottinghamshire; Lancashire 2 arguably had the harder task, drawn against Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Northumberland and Yorkshire

Lancashire 1

Michael Johnston Steph Hall
John-Gareth Phillips Jenny Salisbury
James Abdous Danya Lewis
Richard Walker Lisa Roberts

A blistering 10-0 win against Leicestershire got the team off to a flying start, and boosted the team’s confidence for the rest of the day, especially as this was the first outing for some of the doubles pairings.

Cheshire proved harder opponents, but Lancashire still came out on top 7-3, spurred on by a 21-3 win for Michael and 21-11 for Steph in 1st singles. In fact the boys made it four out of four with wins from Michael and Richard (21-16) and James and John-Gareth (21-8) in 1st and 2nd levels. Although the going got even tougher against a strong Durham side, the team worked hard to achieve a 6-4 victory, only losing by a couple of points in three of the tightly fought matches. Wins from Michael in 1st singles (21-8); Jenny in 2nd singles (21-11) and John-Gareth and James (21-11), supported by 21-17 wins from both Steph and Jenny and Lisa and Danya ensured that Lancs were in a strong position to claim the group stage with just Nottinghamshire to face. Against Nottinghamshire the strength of our singles players, who all came through with comfortable wins, laid the foundation for a 7-3 victory, and again only the narrowest of margins prevented this from being totally Lancashire’s day. In the doubles, Steph and Jenny (21-13) and James and Danya (21-12) demonstrated what the team is capable of, and justified the top spot in the group phase.

Lancashire 2

Daniel Myers Emma Karsten
Sam Artingstall Laura Watts
Josh Barnes Hannah Buckingham
Sam Clucas Rebecca Mayers

Not only did Lancashire 2 have some tough teams in their half of the draw, but they were also up against some strong individuals with a wealth of county experience under their belts. Although Warwickshire proved too hot to handle, Sam Artingstall (2nd singles), Laura (2nd singles) and Hannah and Rebecca (2nd levels) came close to snatching a couple of games from strong opponents. Against Derbyshire the boys got into their stride with wins for Daniel (21-14) and Sam Artingstall (21-18) in the singles, and Daniel and Sam Artingstall (21-12) and Josh Barnes and Sam Clucas (21-14) in the levels. It was harder going for the girls particularly against some established levels pairings, and the team narrowly lost out 4-6. Yorkshire were understandably a difficult nut to crack, and even though final tally was 8-2 in Yorkshire’s favour, wins from Sam Artingstall (21-15) and Sam Clucas and Rebecca (21-16) showed that as a county we have strength in depth, and some up-and-coming players who will be names to be reckoned with in the future. The final group stage match saw Lancashire 2 up against a strong Northumberland team, and although the game slipped away 3-7, good efforts from the boys, and a gritty performance from Emma and Laura in 1st levels made sure that Northumberland didn’t have it all their own way. Laura’s shriek of delight after closing out the 1st levels at 21-20 was a delight to observe! Regardless of success, every member of the second team was totally tuned-in, good natured, sporting and determined to the last, and clearly with an appetite for more opportunity to represent the county.

So ... that only leaves the minor issue of the winners of the group phase to face each other in the play off for the day’s final, and that meant Lancashire 1 against Yorkshire!

It was level pegging after two games: Michael having stamped his authority on the match with a 21-7 win over Ben Lambden, and John-Gareth fighting his way to a well-earned 21-16 victory over Andrew Peebles in 2nd singles. Emma Hainsworth and Harriet West were difficult opponents for Steph and Jenny in the singles, with the Lancashire girls losing out 14-21 and 11-21. At levels, the boys kept the Lancashire drumbeat going with wins for Michael and Richard (21-12) and James and John-Gareth (21-17). Steph and Jenny made amends for their singles slip-ups with a hard fought 21-18 win at 1st levels to take the game to an exciting 5-2 with just three games to play. At 2nd levels, Lisa and Danya came very close to bagging the match for Lancashire, only narrowly falling 18-21 to a strong Yorkshire pairing. James and Danya had a gruelling scrap at 1st mixed, but the game drifted away 13-21 to leave the score at 5-4 with Richard and Lisa already battling it out at 2nd mixed on the next court. They looked as if they were heading for a comfortable victory, but Yorkshire are never a team to give up without a terrific fight, and they clawed it back to 20-20. Down to literally the last point of the match, Richard calmly (and, thank goodness, correctly) judged a Yorkshire clear to be drifting out, and brought an exciting duel to a tremendous conclusion, and a final 6-4 (182 points to164) scoreline. Beating Yorkshire on their home turf just seemed to make the victory all the sweeter too!

The terrific enthusiasm and team spirit of everyone involved were a credit to the county and resulted in an end result particularly for Lancashire 1st that surpassed all expectations.  Well done to all the players, thank you to Angela Walker and Lindsey Watts for running the two teams on the day, and particularly to John Abdous for so successfully encouraging, motivating and coaching the Lancashire 1 players. Finally a big thank you to all the other parents and families for your support and chauffeuring duties!

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Graham Salisbury
Team Manager

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Restricted Tournaments
15th October 2007 

Lancashire held its three junior age group restricted events in September. 

Under 13

  Winners Runners Up
Boys singles Oliver Hives James Gregory
Girls Singles Terri Lee Holmes Caroline Dawid-Paluch
Boys Doubles Oliver Hives & James Gregory Michael Bebby & Alex Lam
Girls Doubles Caroline & Stephanie Dawid-Paluch Katie Dixon-Turner & Lauren Eyes
Mixed Doubles Oliver Hives & Caroline Dawid-Paluch James Gregory & Alice Zou

Some very good matches were played in the Under 13s, with Caroline Dawid-Paluch playing the best badminton in the girls. She won two events and came runner-up in the third. Caroline won the level doubles with sister Stephanie, who still has another two years at this age. The boys were dominated by Oliver Hives and James Gregory, with Oliver taking the best of the results on the day, winning all three of his events. Well done to everyone - remember that teams are made up of 4 to 6 players, so there are always places in county teams beyond the top couple of players.

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U13 Singles
Singles finalists Oliver Hives,
Terri Lee Holmes, Caroline
Dawid-Paluch and James Gregory
U13 Winners and Runners Up
Lauren Eyes, Katie Dixon-Turner,
James Gregory, Oliver Hives, Alice
Zou, Caroline Dawid-Paluch,
Stephanie Dawid-Paluch, Michael
Bebby, Alex Lam

Under 15

In the Under 15s Robbie McDonald won both the singles and level doubles, playing some very accomplished badminton. Robbie and partner Matthew Tolman were pushed all the way in their levels semi-final against Peter Athans & Daniel Myers, just edging a result 22-20. Peter got his reward in the mixed doubles, winning with Danya Lewis.

The girls events saw another player in the limelight, as Lisa Roberts won the singles and then partnered Danya to victory in the levels. Lisa & Danya won two events each on the day, a terrific performance. Rebecca Ashton and Emma-Louise Karsten also gave notable performances.

To see a full set of Under 15 results click here.

Under 17

The oldest of our junior age groups saw some extremely tight matches, particularly in the mixed doubles where 7 of the 10 games finished 21-17 or closer, with one game going to 27-25. Craig Eccleston & Nicola Poole just edged the winners award over James Abdous & Lizzie Balmforth. James showed that he is a very capable doubles player as he and partner Simon Tomlinson beat seeded pair Craig Eccleston & Liam Walsh in the group stage of the levels, before losing the final to Michael Johnston & Daniel Hart. Michael made that his second win of the day, also taking the singles with semi-final and final wins against Craig Eccleston and Liam Walsh respectively.

The entry in the girls was particularly small, though the competition fierce, as Steph Hall & Emily Miller won a best-of-five tussle against Lizzie Balmforth & Nicola Poole, the match going all the way to five games. Nicola was well rewarded on the day for her efforts, though, taking the girls singles and mixed. Lizzie came runner-up in the singles and Jenny Salisbury came third with a win over Emily.

A full set of Under 17 results is available - click here.

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U17 Level Doubles
Michael Johnston, Danny
Hart, Simon Tomlinson
and James Abdous
U17 Mixed
Lizzie Balmforth, James
Abdous, Nicola Poole
and Craig Eccleston
Players in competition
U17 Singles Plate
Winner Jamie Allen (right)
with runner-up Josh

[There were a few questions raised about the draw for some U17 events, caused by a discrepancy between the draw used by the organisers and the draw available to players. The draw with the organisers was correct (i.e. winners AND runners-up should and did progress from all group stages) and the order of each draw ensured players could not re-meet a group player until the final. Apologies for the lack of information provided during the day.]

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