This year our Under 19 team headed to Prague for the European Team Championships. Our team consisted of Madeleine Hylland, Elias Ratejczak, Nicolai Bø and Andreas Knoph. This was a very young squad with three of the four players being available for the Under 19’s next year. All the players were excited to compete and wear their Norwegian shirt with pride.
We started our campaign on Thursday morning against Denmark. Although Denmark were seeded lower they were an extremely strong side. The match was on the glass court, a fantastic location in the middle of the park. Both Nicolai and Elias struggled to get used to the glass court and the bright sunlight glaring onto the court. Elias lost his first match 3-0 but the game scores were very close. Madeleine didn’t start well and went 2-0 down and 9-4 down. She found some mental toughness and fighting spirit and clawed her way all the way back to win 3-2. All the pressure was on Nicolai but despite battling hard he lost out 3-0. Not the start we wanted but we remained positive with plenty more squash to play.
In the afternoon we played a strong Polish team, a new match and fresh mindset. Elias played fantastic squash and only lost narrowly in 4 games. Madeleine played out of her skin against Karina Tyma the recently crowned Under 19 Individual champion. Madeleine took the first game and gave a solid account in the next three to just lose 3-1. Nicolai came out storming and tore his opponent apart 3-0 with some clever squash.
The following day we had two tough matches against England and Wales. In both matches we gave a good account of ourselves and tested both teams. Against Wales Madeleine had a tough battle against Ciara Richards winning 3-2 and Andreas took the second game against the number 2 boy. Andreas showed some excellent precision play with some aggressive volleying throughout. In the last match against England we kept them on their toes. Madeleine taking the first game against Alice Green and Nicolai reaching a tie break with Lewis Anderson. Some excellent squash from our youngsters!
We were now playing in a round robin group for 17th-20th places. Our first match v’s Israel was a noisy affair (not from the Norwegians!). Elias came through a mental battle and managed to keep his concentration to win 3-2. Nicolai tactically outsmarted his opponent to win 3-1, Madeleine then dominated her opponent easily to win 3-0.
In the afternoon we were back on the glass court against Italy, a team we lost to last year. It was the boys this time who performed out of their skin. Elias had another 3-2 tussle and kept his cool, his opponent certainly didn’t keep his. Nicolai showed great maturity to finish off the match 3-0, his best performance of the event. Madeleine played an extremely talented Italian player and narrowly lost 3-1.
The last match of the competition was against Finland and we certainly finished with a bang. Elias lost the first game to the Finnish giant but listened carefully and changed the tactics completely. He played some incredible squash to take him apart in the next three games. Nicolai carried on his fine form to win 3-1 and Madeleine finished off proceedings with a 3-0 crushing.
Overall we finished 17th and it was a great learning experience for all the players. Well done to Elias who captained the side brilliantly. We all left the event feeling positive about next season! Lots of hard work ahead but all the players are making fantastic progress and Norway should be proud of their efforts.