The SA National Junior Championships were hosted by the Kwazulu Natal Squash Association at the Berea Rovers Club from Friday 25th until Sunday 27th April.
It was an interesting weekend with roads closures on Friday evening because of the Sharks match and then again on Sunday with The Freedom Day celebrations but needless to say these were not a challenge. Perhaps the Sharks should have rather come and watched the squash – that was definitely better than their performance on the field!!!!
Despite the disappointingly small entry, we were treated to some really outstanding performances by a number of players. It was also an absolute pleasure to organise the event as the behaviour on and off the court by every single one of the entrants was exemplary. They refereed whenever asked over and above the matches after theirs and there was a really happy vibe – also some very sore legs !!!!
On Saturday Chris Hewitson delivered a fascinating presentation : What defines your game ? “Dash and Bash” or “Cat and Mouse”. The parents also enjoyed the presentation. Later in the day Craig van der Wath also gave a practical down to earth talk covering a number of vitally important topics to the boys and a number of interested parents and coaches while Sally White and Liz Mackenzie drew on their experience from international junior tournaments to inform the girls of what is needed to lift their performances. Liz Mackenzie also told them what is required when they go to university and how they can get involved in squash from the beginning.
Alex Hewitson and Craig Sadler, both national referees, officiated at some of the matches and also helped mentor some of the players.
Thus the weekend really had a lot to offer everybody.
On to the squash:
Girls Under 16: The under 16 final was the best final seen for many a year in this age group. 13 year old Panashe Sithole, who has captured the SA Prince Open, Bloemfontein Open and SA Schools Hitec Open titles for 2014 raced to a 10-5 lead in the first game but Noel Lee fought back astutely to take the game at 12-10 and lead 9-5 in the second. This time it was Sithole, who rattled off 6 consecutive points to level the match at one game all. Lee took the third and Sithole the fourth and then the match came alight. Lee 4-1: Sithole 5-4: Lee 6-5: Sithole 9-6: Lee held match point at 10-9: Sithole at 11-10: Lee at 12-11: Sithole levelled at 12 all and won the match at 14-12. An absolutely delightful contest where both girls called on all their reserves and delighted the crowd.
Boys Under 16: As there was a very small entry, the under 16 boys were placed together with the under 19 boys. Callan Hall and Martin Currin really produced some solid squash against their respective older opponents and then in their clash, Hall edged through 16-14 in the fourth game to take the under 16 title.
Girls Under 19: The first round provided no upsets although Casey Preece from Kimberley was extended all the way by Boland’s Phebe Bronkhorst, winning the fourth and fifth games 14-12, 12-10.
Second Round: Preece pushed top seed Kacey-Leigh Dodd to 4 games. Makgosi Peloakgosi and Bianca Brown accounted for Boipelo Montwedi and Megahn Flower Howard respectively in straight games while Siobhan Hawyes and Mariska Wiese, meeting for about the third time this year, saw Hawyes go through in four.
Third Round: Top seeds , Dodd and Peloakgosi again showed their strength in outplaying Hawyes and Brown in straight games while Preece caused the upset defeating Wiese in 5 games and Howard defeated Montwedi in 5.
Fourth round : Bianca Brown, fully recovered from her injuries, was involved in a 5 game tussle with Dodd. Dodd led by 2 games to 1 and held match point at 10-8 and 10-9 but was unable to push the advantage and allowed Brown to take the game 12-10. Dodd pocketed the decider 11-7. Peloakgosi cantered through against Hawyes for the loss of only 7 points.
The battle for third place produced some really tough hard squash with Brown, after trailing by 2 games to 1, hanging in to win 11-7 in the fifth.
In the final Peloakgosi started off strongly winning the game 11-5 but a calm, determined Dodd took control thereafter pocketing the next three games and the title to add to the Prince SA Open and the SA Schools Hitec Closed which she has already won this year.
Boys under 19 : Michael Howard, seeded 10 played strong attacking squash in the first round. After losing the first two games 8-11 3-11 to the higher seeded Shailan Maharaj (7), he took the next 3 games. Cleelynd Potgieter caused a minor upset by out playing 8th seed Callan Hall also from Northerns in straight games.
In the second round some again really tough matches were the order of the day. Top seeded Dylan Groenewald (Easterns) struggled through in five games against Potgieter: Aubrey Lawrence was taken to 4 by Howard: but it was 6th seeded Justin Wesson, who edged through in five against 3rd seeded JP van der Merwe in a tough evenly fought contest. Van der Merwe took the first two games only to see Wesson level at two games all. Van der Merwe led 6-4 in the decider but Wesson levelled at 6 points all: van der Merwe led 9-8 only to see Wesson take a well deserved victory at 11-9. Sithole had a reasonably comfortable straight game win over Fourie.
3rd Round: Groenewald needed 71 minutes to subdue Sithole in an outstanding display by both players. Sithole held a game point at 10-8 in the first game which Groenewald eventually pocketed at 13-11. In the second game Sithole had a comfortable 8-3 and 10-4 lead but again Groenewald took 8 points in a row to lead by two games to love. In the third game it was Groenewald, who held match point at 10-7 but this time Sithole fought back reeling off 5 consecutive points and the game at 12-10. Sithole had a game point at 10-9 in the fourth eventually levelling at 2 games all at 12-10. The decider was however one way traffic with Groenewald racing through 11-3.
Lawrence and Wesson were engaged in another cliffhanger which Lawrence took in five.
4th Round: The effects of the previous days battles was clearly evident on Sunday morning. Although the players gave of their best, it was slightly jaded. Nevertheless Groenewald and Lawrence set themselves up for the final clash with Wesson and Sithole playing off for third position.
In the Wesson/Sithole match, Wesson took the first game with Sithole levelling at 1-all. Wesson had game points at 10-8 and 10-9 in the third but Sithole fought back to hold game point at 11-10 and then capture the game 13-11. In the fourth points were even with Wesson taking the game on his first game point. The decider was tight : Sithole held match point at 10-8 but the match slipped away to Wesson at 12-10.
Groenewald raced through the first 2 games in the final against Lawrence 11-3 11-5 in 11 minutes and held his first match point at 11-10 only to see Lawrence take the next 3 points and the game 13-11. In the 4th game Groenewald again held match point at 10-9: Lawrence clawed back and held game point at 11-10 : again Groenewald levelled and had a second match point at 12-11 eventually taking the match 14-12 after a really interesting 54 minute battle.