Squash: Play-off miss can’t take shine off Chichester’s season

Chichester and Exeter had a great battle
Chichester and Exeter had a great battle

Chichester travelled to Exeter for the final match of the season. Although Chichester had beaten them in the home match, Exeter needed just two points from this final-round home tie to qualify for the play-offs.

Chichester were fourth position with 107 points and determined to do the double and move third.

Exeter’s position in the play-offs was sealed in the opener, in which Chichester’s Lauren Briggs had a battle royal against Irish international Ashling Blake.

After an hour of excellent all-court play, Briggs beat Ashling 11-4, 9-11, 8-11, 12-10, 8-11. It was an excellent win but Exeter had secured the points to confirm the squad’s semi-final place.

Chichester’s Miles Jenkins, called up at the last minute, played former Chichester legend Tim Vail. Miles struggled to find his length and get his game going from the outset. Vail was in no mood to allow the youngster any luxuries and was in control to win 11-4, 11-4, 11-4 to put Exeter level.

Robbie Temple of Chichester faced Joey Barrington, who appeared to injure himself in the last rally of the first game. From that point forward, he struggled with his movement around the court. Temple took 36 minutes to win the match 3-0.

Rex Hedrick faced Olli Tuominen and it was an identical battle to their encounter at Chichester. They both battled hard and gave nothing away but Tuominen just had the edge and it was another 3-1 scoreline to the Exeter man.

Chichester’s Jon Kemp had to play the deciding match, against Laurens Jan Anjema, world-ranked 16.

Kemp, himself world 51, has not beaten the Dutchman for more than two years. Semi-retired Kemp, however, caused an upset with an impressive 3-1 win. Kemp is in a rich vein of form and produced breathtaking squash.

He lost the 1st game 11-3 but his consistent and inspired match-play ran LJ to a standstill and Kemp took the match in magnificent style.

Chichester’s 3-2 victory and double over Exeter gave the team the points needed to finish third in the PSL Group B.

Team manager Mike Phillips said: “Congratulations to the squad. Although the squad did suffer a setback when they lost 3-2 at Bristol, this season was one of our best, with Chichester winning six out of 10 matches.

“The Chichester players have proved time and time again they can pull off shock results and our players have been victorious against several world top-30 opposition.

“Nothing in the PSL is ever certain apart from one thing - the passion and camaraderie which Chichester develop when they have a victory in sight.

“With tough opponents such as five-times defending champions Surrey, Exeter and St George’s Hill in the same league, a third-place finish is very creditable indeed.”

Kemp, Hedrick and Temple have already confirmed they are available to play for Chichester next season.