The European Team Championships were a happy hunting ground for Scotland’s squash players as the men’s team beat top seeds and defending champions France to claim a podium place and the women scored a huge upset to finish 4th, their best placing since 2005.
Scotland excelled, over four intense days of action at the Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, with several notable wins over higher ranked opposition.
Greg Lobban’s superb five game win over world number 16 Gregoire Marche and Alan Clyne’s devastatingly clinical dispatch of Lucas Serme (WR41) in three, paved the way to victory over France in the bronze medal match.
22 year old Rory Stewart, ranked 153 in the world, was instrumental in the team’s success, pulling off sensational victories over two French players ranked inside the world top 100. He took a five game thriller against Baptiste Masotti (WR61) in the group stages and followed up with a win over Victor Crouin (WR73) in the bronze medal match. Scotland debutant Angus Gillams gave the men’s squad added depth and pulled off an important five game win over Germany’s Yannik Omlor in the opening group match to set the team up for a shot at the medals.
While the men replicated their medal success of 2016, it was the women who sprung the biggest surprise on their opposition. Promoted into the top division just last year and bottom ranked of the eight teams, they played superbly to qualify out of their group and make the semi-finals for the first time in 14 years.
The team were led by Scottish No. 1 Lisa Aitken, who played great squash against opposition ranked inside the top 10 in the world and scored a significant victory over world number 32 Milou van der Heijden in Scotland’s vital group-stage win over the Netherlands.
The rest of the young squad also stepped up to the plate with teenager Georgia Adderley stunning world number 46 Melissa Alves in the semi-finals, winning 11-7, 9-11, 11-9, 2-11, 13-11 against the French player. She also scored a win over Holland’s Tessa ter Sluis (WR75) 11-8, 13-11, 10-12, 11-9 in the group stages, while Alison Thomson’s victory over Welsh player Elin Harlow proved significant in the push for the semi-finals.
Scottish Squash National Coach Paul Bell was full of praise for his players:
“Every one of the players performed unbelievably well,” he said.
“In the past we have got really close and just fallen short at the final hurdle. This week seemed to be different and we have done a lot of work on the mental side of the game. The work paid off because every single time we have been in a tough situation we have managed to get over the line which has been the best thing from my point of view.
“We have always had the ability and talent to compete with these players. It’s one thing to compete with them but it’s a completely different thing to beat them. We feel the players are better than the world rankings suggest but you have got to get the results to prove it and this week they have certainly shown that.”
“The players came into this event with a completely different mindset and I think that’s a by-product of all of the work we do on a day-to-day basis. You instil that belief they belong on this stage and they weren’t scared to make things happen. All credit to them because they got their just rewards this week.”