Three Luton youngsters had contrasting fortunes at the fourth leg of England Squash’s National Silver tournament held in Ipswich at the weekend.
While Sophia John and Lily Main endured a disappointing event, Natalie Main enjoyed her best yet, finishing in an excellent second place.
Play started late on Friday night and Lily faced Lancashire’s Saran Nghiem, the fourth seed.
Main produced arguably some of her best squash ever, but Nghiem was just too strong.
Next up Sophia took on Warwickshire’s Anya Shah as although the LDSC player had a 4-1 head-to-head record, lost very tamely without winning a game.
Natalie received a bye on Friday and faced her first opponent, April Parry from Worcestershire, on Saturday morning.
She showed her class to triumph comfortably, reaching the quarter-finals where she faced Essex’s Renitha Srindran.
After an unusually sticky start, Main recovered to win 3-1 and book a place in Sunday’s semi-final.
Lily was in confident mood lining up to face Essex’s Olivia Broderick, but the optimism was misplaced as she was overpowered.
Sophia then came up against Nottinghamshire’s Mia Hardy and won the first set comfortably before losing the second in a lung-bursting 17-15 tie-break.
The exertion clearly had an impact as she was beaten in the third meekly, before regrouping to take the fourth 16-14.
However, Hardy’s fitness proved pivotal as she took the deciding fifth comfortably.
Sunday saw a very early start for Natalie as she faced Warwickshire’s Meha Shah.
Main had never taken a game off her opponent, an awkward left-hander, before.
The match started well though as she won the first 11-9, although Shah recovered to claim the second.
Natalie made it 2-1 by winning the third 11-9, before beaten in the fourth as it was all square.
Historically that might have signalled the end for the Luton player, but she showed tremendous maturity to 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 faced long-time rival, Cheshire’s Lauren Hall, continuing her recent dominance in the fixture to prevail 3-1.
Meanwhile, Lily 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 out 3-1.
In the next stage 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.
That gave 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 13-11 in the tie-break.
She recovered to win the second, but Hall took the third as the exertions of the morning’s semi-final took their toll.
Main had an early lead in the fourth but failed to capitalise as the fresher Hall, who didn’t have a final four encounter when her opponent withdrew due to illness, went on to win the match.
Natalie said: “I was really pleased with my squash this weekend and it’s given me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”