Over the weekend of the March 16-17, the University of Birmingham Sport (UBSport) squash team had fantastic success as they picked up a team gold and silver in the men’s British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Trophy and Championships respectively at the Abbeydale Sports Centre in Sheffield.
The action began on Saturday, which saw Birmingham’s women’s second team compete in the BUCS Trophy semi-final, whilst the men’s firsts’ took part in the BUCS Championships semi-final.
The women began the day as underdogs against a strong Leeds Met team, whose line-up boasted former world number one Vanessa Atkinson. The day began promisingly for the Birmingham side however, with Eleanor Mann taking the first two games in her match, but she was unable to finish off her opponent and eventually succumbed to a 3-2 loss on the day. This appeared to set the tone for the rest of the team, as they were beaten in each of their three remaining games to fall at the semi-final stage.
Following this defeat the Birmingham side needed a boost from somewhere, and they got it through the men’s first team who looked to defend their BUCS Championships crown when taking on Loughborough in the semi-finals of the competition.
Josh Taylor and club captain Richard Shellam both triumphed 3-0 over their East Midlands opponents leaving Birmingham needing just one more win to see them safely through to the final. This victory came through Olly Rawlins, who played out a highly competitive match to beat his opponent 3-1 and keep Birmingham’s hope of winning the competition alive.
Sunday then saw the men’s seconds travel up to Sheffield to join the rest of the team and compete in the men’s BUCS trophy final. The semi-final to this competition took place two weeks prior to this weekend, where the Birmingham side comfortably defeated Heriott Watt 4-1.
The match started well for Birmingham, as Rob Harrison came back from a game down to take a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Paul Van Walsum Vas Non.
This momentum appeared to carry through to the rest of the Birmingham team as they set about defending their crown from last year with Martin Szwaba, Sam Mullins and James Ryan each winning their matches comfortably 3-0 to ensure Birmingham retained the Trophy.
Captain Pete Fozzard, whose 3-2 victory over Elliot Knight completed an impressive 5-0 match win for Birmingham, said afterwards: ‘We’ve had such a great season and the guys have been absolutely fantastic with consistent wins and good quality. I think the guys deserve it.’
The last match of the day saw Birmingham’s men’s first team return to take on the University of West of England (UWE) in the final of the BUCS Championship.
Winning this match appeared to be a mammoth task for the Birmingham team, as the UWE side included brothers Mohamed and Marwan el Shorbagy who are currently world number 8 and 35 respectively, as well as former European Junior Champion Lucas Serwe.
Birmingham began brightly, with Shellam and Taylor both winning their matches to give Birmingham hope of an unlikely win. Arguably, the performance of the weekend then came from Olly Mapp, who amazingly managed to take a game the younger of the two brothers, Marwan, but eventually went down 3-1.
Defeats for both Ash Harris and Olly Rawlins then wrapped up the victory for UWE and left the Birmingham team proud to have grabbed the silver medal.
Head Coach Jon Tate said after the weekend: ‘One thing we have had a lot of over the last few years is strength in depth and the second team has often done well. They’ve continued that on with another great season winning the championship the trophy.’