Celtic Challenge Review

Posted by Carissa Turner at 09:02 on 16 February 2017

February 11 th and 12 th saw the Welsh Under 13 squad travel to Edinburgh to compete in the annual Celtic Challenge. The squad travelled from Cardiff and Manchester and were in good spirits when they met in Edinburgh airport. After settling into the hotel and listening to a team talk from head coach Nic Strange, the squad were off to bed to ensure they were rested for the long weekend ahead.

CC Team

Up bright and early on the Saturday morning, the squad were first in the hall, and lead by Tom, they took their warm up and preparations very seriously. The first match for Wales was against Lothian. Adil Khan and Tom Morgan took on first boys doubles. After taking the first game 21-19 they then went on to lose the second 12-21. After a quick regroup they won their third with an impressive 21-13. In second boys doubles, Daniel Kite and Arnav Patil also treated the crowds to a close three setter and after losing the first game 17-21, they then went on to win the next two 21-18 and 21-19. At third boys doubles the new partnership of Nabil Taufiqrrahman and Liam Hird put up a good fight but ended up losing out to the Lothian opponents 15-21 and 11-21. 

The girls’ doubles followed the boys and with all games going to three sets it was clear that this match was going to be close from beginning to end. Jasmine Owen and Freya Cottrill could not quite manage a win, losing their game 11-21, 21-23 and 11-21. Saffron Morris and Aarthy Aravind also played out of their skin, narrowly missing out 17-21, 21-16 and 18-21 and so it was down to Maisie Kite and Fearne Williams to take a game for the girls which they did in style, winning 19-21, 21-15 and 21-17. This brought the overall match score to 3-3 after the doubles.

Onto the singles and the boys put on a strong performance. Adil won his game in 3, 21-18, 20-22 and 21-18, demonstrating that he was able to keep composed in a very tight match. Daniel had a comfortable win in his singles 21-10, 21-18 and Tom finished the boy’s singles with two close sets. After losing the first 17-21, he fought back to take the second 21-18 and then completely outclassed his opponent with a 21-4 win in the third end. Jasmine narrowly missed out on her singles in another close three setter which finished 21-18, 14-21 and 15-21 to Lothian. Saffron looked comfortable during her 21-10, 21-11 win and Freya finished the singles with yet another three setter, finally winning 16-21, 21-15 and 21-6.

With the score now at 8-4 the match belonged to the Welsh team but with every point counting the mixed was still all to play for. Arnav and Aarthy started the mixed by winning their first set 22-20! They then lost the second set 11-21 but were able to pull it back together to take the third set 21-18. This was the only mixed game Wales were to take in this match. Liam and Fearne grew in confidence during their game which was reflected in their scores of 13-21 and then a much improved 18-21. Maisie and Nabil ended the match in style with a nail-biter of a match. They lost their first 23-25, won their second 21-19 and then took it right to the wire, narrowly missing out 20-22 in the final game! An overall victory to Wales with a score of Wales 9, Lothian 6. 

CC Girls

With the team in very high spirits it was time for a spot of lunch and a re-group. Wales knew that their next opponents, Leinster, was going to be tough as they had just completed a 14-1 thrashing against Alpha. Leinster proved that they were not going to go down without a fight and Wales made a nervous start in the afternoons’ match. The Welsh boys found it hard to get the better of Leinster. Tom and Adil lost their game 21-14 and 21-9. Daniel and Arnav faired a little better, narrowly losing out 17-21 and 19-21 and Nabil and Liam also could not manage a win, losing their game 12-21 and 13-21. At first girls doubles Jasmine and Freya suffered the same fate as the boys losing their game 11-21 and 12-21. Spirits were lifted slightly as Saffron and Aarthy battled through their three setter to eventually win 23-25, 22-20 and 21-15 but with Maisie and Fearne losing out in their doubles (15-21 and 11-21) suddenly the score stood at Wales 1, Leinster 5.

The Welsh team could quite easily have given up at this point but in true Welsh dragon style they decided to display their dominance on the singles court. Adil stepped up first and walked away with a comfortable 21-8, 21-5 win. Daniel followed suit winning 21-7, 21-10 and Tom completed the set with a 21-12, 21-11 win. Things were looking up! Jasmine played out of her socks but was unable to overpower her opponent, losing 20-22 and 14-21. Saffron proved she was not to be messed with in her psychological battle. She walked away with a 21-16, 21-13 win and Freya (in true Freya style) decided she would make it interesting by taking yet another of her singles to three. She eventually won 25-23, 22-20 and 21-18. All of a sudden Wales were back on a level playing field with the score at 6 games each!

And so it was down to the mixed but despite the roaring crowds and 100% effort from all the Welsh players, Leinster proved that they were a force to be reckoned with on the mixed court. Arnav and Aarthy lost their game 8-21, 3-21. Liam and Fearne got a bit closer with their score of 13-21 and 15-21 and finally Nabil and Maisie fought hard but lost 12-21 and 7-21 leaving the final score at Wales 6, Leinster 9. What a match!

After a long day's play the teams relaxed with some food and a spot of socialising at the local community centre but it was soon clear that what they really needed was sleep so it was off to the hotel to get rested for tomorrow's match against Alpha.

CC Huddle

Once again, the team were up before anyone else and were in the hall preparing, showing they were ready to go and up for the match. After one last cheer of "Oggy, oggy, oggy" the match was underway. Wales showed they had not been phased by yesterday's loss and got off to a flying start with Tom and Adil winning their first doubles 21-18 and 21-12. Daniel and Arnav completely outclassed their opponents with a 21-6, 21-9 win and with Allha having to concede third boys doubles, Wales were straight into a 3-0 lead. The girls got off to a good start with Jasmine and Freya winning 21-13, 21-17. Saffron and Aarthy dug deep in their game but just lost out 16-21 and 16-21 and Maisie and Fearne also gave 100% and only just lost 15-21 and 20-22!

With the score at Wales 4, Alpha 2, Wales knew that they needed to take as many games as possible to ensure they finished at least second. Adil started off the singles with 21-19, 21-15 win. Daniel's game was a little closer but his cool, calm attitude on court eventually won over his opponent and he finished with a win (21-18, 20-22, 21-17). Tom finished off the boys singles in style with a 21-3, 21-3 hammering! Jasmine and Saffron also won both their singles comfortably With Jasmine winning 21-4, 21-7 and Saffron 21-16, 21-17. Once again, however, Freya liked to keep us all on the edge of our seats with her three setter which she eventually won 15-21, 21-12, 21-12.

With the win in the bag, the three Welsh mixed pairs were able to approach their games a little more relaxed this time and this helped as they all managed to win. Arnav and Aarthy won 21-18, 21-14. Liam and Fearne came out on top in their three setter 17-21, 21-10, 21-17 and Nabil and Maisie entertained the crowds with their final game eventually winning 19-21, 21-18 and 21-16. The final score for this match was Wales 13, Alpha 2!

CC Medals

All the coaches agreed that every single player performed out of their skin. They all gave 100% throughout the competition. They supported each other and behaved with maturity and professionalism at all times. They certainly were a credit to the Welsh squad, to their parents and most importantly to themselves! It was great to see that their hard work in training is paying off and even better to see that the future of Welsh badminton is looking bright!