Tuesday, October 3, 2023

England juniors aim for top-four finish


Fiona Geaves, England’s manager at the forthcoming World Junior Women’s Team Championship, believes the five-time champions can end an eight-year wait for a top-four placing in Poland next week.

It was 2005 when England last finished amongst the leading quartet in the event, coming third behind winners Hong Kong and runners-up Egypt, and 2001 when they last lifted the trophy.

But Geaves said of her squad’s prospects this time: “There is no reason why the team cannot finish in the top three or four – or even higher.”

With Egypt having won the last three World Junior Women’s Team Championships, Geaves acknowledges they are red-hot favourites to make it four in a row in Wroclaw from July 22 to 27.

“Without a doubt,” she said. “They have a banker at No.1 with (Nour El) Sherbini, who is ranked No.11 on the WSA Tour, and the rest of the team have all had success as juniors, as well as on the WSA Tour. So they are not only highly skilled but extremely experienced.”

Otherwise, she feels the main rivals for Victoria Temple-Murray, Nada Elkalaawy, Lucy Beecroft and Lily Taylor will be the USA, Malaysia and Hong Kong. “They have excellent depth in their teams,” she explained.

England won’t find out their seeding or group until after the individual championship, which takes place from July 16 to 21 at the same venue.

“No team seedings or draws have been announced yet,” Geaves said. “They tend to wait to see how every nation performs in the individual to then see where each nation will be seeded. So we need our girls to perform well in the individual to help our seeding and hence our draw.”

Geaves, who will be attending the championships as coach for the individual women’s event and manager for the team tournament, is hoping there may be an English player in the last four.

“We are looking for at least two quarter-finalists and two third or fourth-round finishes, and a possible semi-finalist if all perform to their best ability,” she said.

England’s main hopes are joint fifth seed Temple-Murray and joint 13th seed El Kalaawy. “Both these girls have secured their No.1 and No.2 positions on the team with solid performances all year in junior and senior events,” Geaves pointed out. “If all goes to plan, they could face each other in the quarter-finals for a semi-final spot.”

Temple-Murray (Devon) and El Kalaawy (Surrey) will be joined by Beecroft (Northumbria), Taylor (Leicestershire), Anna Kimberley(Essex) and Georgina Kennedy (Kent) for the individual championship, where the top-seeded El Sherbini will be bidding for her third world junior crown.

As for the junior men’s individual event, which runs parallel with the women’s, Geaves says: “It will be a tough battle and is difficult to predict. Fares Dessouki has been having a lot of success on the PSA Tour and made the quarters at the Worlds in Qatar last year, so I am sure he is hoping to take the world title this year.”

The England men, who will be coached by Adam Fuller, will be represented by joint fifth seed Richie Fallows (Essex), Devon’s Lyell Fuller, Hertfordshire’s Angus Gillams, Leicestershire’s George Parker and Lancashire’s Bradley Smith.

Whatever happens at the championships, though, Geaves feels England’s players will benefit from them. “It’s an excellent environment to be involved in – all the best junior players in the world under one roof playing and fighting to become world champions,” she said.

“It gives them an indication of where they are now and where they will want to be in the future, looking at the exceptional players who will proceed to the later stages of the event.

“Players who have won this event or have made semi-finals have gone on to be world-class players on the professional tour. For younger players, it’s an excellent opportunity for them to see what they will need to do to compete in next year’s and the year after’s events, and who their likely challengers will be.”

Looking further into the future, Geaves reckons “all of them” will be in contention for selection for the Great Britain team if squash gets into the 2020 Olympics.


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