Isle Of Man produce an impressive performance in ETC 2018
The Isle of Man Squash team returned from the European Nations Team Championships - Division 3, which were held at the Pepsi Centre in Riga. The team are shown in the picture from left to right they are Malcolm Levy, Ashley Sandyford-Sykes (team captain), Oscar Hill, Dave Hedley, Pat Fitzpatrick and Tom Whiteway. Not shown in the picture is team manager Peter Ferguson.
The played in a centre that boasted 8 courts and suitable viewing galleries for fellow players and supporters who came along to watch and support a very high standard of squash. The event, which was streamed live via media sources and Latvian TV, saw a record number of 18 nations compete with the island being one of the smallest populations. Other competing nations included Russia, Ukraine, Croatia, Sweden and Norway.
The island was drawn in group C along with Sweden, Luxembourg and Lithuania. Pre-tournament expectations looking at the draw would be for the island to finish in 11th or 12th place, especially given the teams in their group. Sweden were one of the tournament favourites having professional and world ranked players in their team, and Luxembourg were seeded higher than the IOM and expected to make a top 6 finish.
The IOM team started off their tournament against Luxembourg and lost the first of 4 matches with Luxembourg number 1 Mark Radley beating Ashley Sandyford- Sykes in straight games 3-0. Malcolm Levy, Oscar Hill and Tom Whiteway all lost their first games and had some very hard work to do against (on paper and rankings) a more qualified Luxembourg team. Number 2, Malcolm Levy, took a 2-1 lead, only to find his opponent draw level and force a final set. Malcolm really found his form and finite drops in the fifth game to draw the island level.
Oscar Hill was having his own battle at number 3, being 2-1 down only to win the fourth game and force a final game. The fifth game couldn’t get much closer, however Oscar pulled off a great result to win the fifth game and match. The island was now leading 2-1, however Tom Whiteway had a very difficult match against his opponent. Tom recovered after losing the first game, to take a 2-1 lead. The next game was very close with extra points having to be played, however Tom held his nerve to ensure the Isle of Man had one of the best wins against a much-fancied team.
The IOM next faced Sweden and the outcome was inevitable with Sweden showing their class winning comfortably in straight games, despite the IOM putting on a great performance.
The IOM then faced Lithuania and despite an early defeat at number one, recovered to win overall 3-1.
The island was now in the quarter finals and faced Croatia, a team who were too strong for the IOM team and went on to win and eventually reach the final against Sweden. Despite this defeat, the island finished in the top half of the tournament, and a very respectable 8th place, having had one of their most successful tournaments.
The sport of squash continues to grow across many countries and team manager, Peter Ferguson was able to speak to fellow officials regarding the sport, its growth and how more facilities were being built as programmes were being rolled out to schools. New facilities with quality courts and viewing and spectator facilities is something the island needs and the IOMSRA aspire to.