It was Ipswich’s turn to host the 4th leg of England Squash’s National Silver tournaments and the three Luton youngsters, Sophia John and siblings Lily and Natalie Main, had very contrasting fortunes. Whilst John and the elder Main, had disappointing tournaments, Natalie enjoyed her best yet coming second.
Play started late on Friday night and Lily faced Lancashire’s Saran Nghiem, 4th seed for the event. Main played arguably some of her best squash ever, but Nghiem was just too strong. Next up Sophia John faced Warwickshire’s Anya Shah. John had a 4-1, head to head record, but lost very tamely without winning a game.
Natalie Main received a bye on Friday and faced her first opponent, April Parry from Worcestershire on Saturday morning. Main showed her class to triumph comfortably to take her into the quarter finals where she faced Essex’s RenithaSrindran. After an unusually sticky start Main recovered to win comfortably 3-1, to book a place in Sunday’s semi-final.
For the older girls Lily was in confident mood lining up to face Essex’s Olivia Broderick, but the optimism was misplaced as Broderick overpowered Main. Meanwhile Sophia John faced Nottinghamshire’s Mia Hardy. John started well taking the first comfortably before losing the second in a lung-bursting 17-15 tie-break. The exertion clearly had an impact as she lost the third meekly, before regrouping to take the fourth 16-14. Hardy’s fitness proved pivotal as she took the deciding 5th comfortably.
Sunday saw a very early start for Natalie Main as she faced Warwickshire’s Meha Shah. Main had never taken a game off her before as the awkward left-hander always seemed to get inside Main’s head. The match started well for Main as she took the first 11/9, the second went to her opponent, but Main regrouped to edge the third 11/9. Shah raced ahead in the fourth as Main was posted missing. Historically that might have signalled the end for the Luton player, but she showed tremendous maturity to regroup and take the match in the fifth, 11/9. The fist pumps in front of the large crowd and England selectors showed what that meant to her.
In her penultimate match Sophia John faced long-time rival, Cheshire’s Lauren Hall. John continued her recent dominance in the fixture to prevail 3-1. Meanwhile, Lily Main faced Kent’s Isabel McCullough. Main appeared to still be in bed in the opening two games before taking the third with some excellent squash, however, she couldn’t maintain the momentum as she lost 3-1.
In the next round John and Main faced each other’s opponent from the previous round and John made short work of McCullough, whilst Main lost unusually tamely to Hall. Giving them finishing positions of 19th and 24th respectively.
Natalie’s final was against Yorkshire’s Fran Hall. The last time they met, in Pontefract, Main really rattled her opponent for the first time in ages. The first game was nip and tuck, but Main squandered a game ball, losing 11/13 in the tie-break. Main recovered to take the second, but Hall took the third as the exertions of the morning’s semi-final took their toll. Main took an early lead in the fourth but failed to capitalise as the fresher Hall took the match. Main was left to think what might have bee, given her opponent had not been required to play a semi-final when her opponent withdrew on Saturday evening due to illness.
Natalie said after, “I was really pleased with my squash this weekend and it’s given me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”