For the first time since Dame Susan Devoy led the team in 1981, the Bay of Plenty Women’s Squash Team are national champions! After years of heartbreak the Bay has finally taken the elusive title. Bridesmaids on countless occasions has shown the consistent strength of the region in women's squash, but the big prize has always been just out of reach. Not this year.
The team was led by professional player Amanda Landers-Murphy (Rotorua). The current BOP Player of the Year has just come off an exceptional World Doubles Champs where she defended her Womens World Title with Joelle King. Amanda has developed into a very strong Doubles player on the world stage, with her ability on the Doubles court being described as "phenomenal" by the team manager. She has also had a good year in the singles arena with recent titles in domestic PSA events.
Joanna Shanks (Tauranga), Camden Te Kani-McQueen (Rotorua) & Nadia Hubbard (Rotorua) complete the very balanced BOP team that went into the event as top seeds. The team was coached by former professional player Kylie Lindsay, and managed by the experienced Michel Galloway.
First up the girls had a comfortable win over Eastern with all four players enjoying a win. Round two was a match up with Wellington and it was the same 4-0 result, which saw our team through to the familiar ground of the NZ Inter-District Teams Final.
First up in the final was Camden. Fresh off an outstanding World Juniors campaign where she performed outstandingly in the NZ Junior Girls Team, Camden was fired up for a big one in front of her parents who had made the trip to support her, and her brother Matiu who was competing in the BOP Mens team (I'll get to them in a minute). She faced a much higher ranked opponent in Auckland's Juee Bhide. After a tight first game which Camden won 11-9, Juee seemed to get the measure of Camden, winning the next two games comfortably. After the third, coach Kylie Lindsay suggested Camden “reassert herself and be more aggressive. Fight hard and attack”. The words sparked her into life forcing a fifth game with an 11-7 win in the 4th. The final game was all one-way traffic with Camden blowing her opponent off the court 11-1 to give the Bay a fantastic start.
Long-time loyal Bay player Joanna Shanks was next on court against one of NZ's rising stars Abbie Palmer. “Jo fought very hard as she always does in a Bay shirt” said coach Kylie Lindsay. “She played well and was unlucky not to claim at least one game”. Auckland levelled the tie at 1-all with the 3-0 win.
Despite feeling the effects of illness, Amanda Landers-Murphy was solid in the next match, taking an important win 3-0, setting up a fascinating final match for all the marbles.
It all came down to Nadia Hubbard, who needed to win at least two games to force a count-back. A win for Nadia would seal it for the Bay. Nadia was also part of the recent World Junior Championships, so she was heading into the match at the peak of her powers. Auckland’s Priscilla Wildsmith (over 100 points ahead of Nadia on the grading list) stood between the Bay and a famous victory. Priscilla looked confident from the outset, taking the first game 11-4. Nadia looked to work her way back into the match in the second but was unable to convert, going down 12-14 but showing enough to give the Bay supporters some hope. Nadia is only 16 years old and she faced a daunting situation. She was 0-2 down against a higher graded opponent and the fate of a region who has been perennial bridesmaids lay firmly on the young shoulders. Nadia stepped up. Kylie noted that “she started moving the ball around nicely. She chased every ball and was volleying confidently.” She claimed a tight third 11-9 meaning she needed the next one to at least force a countback for the title. Again she showed incredible determination to wear her opponent down, winning 11-8 in the 4th. Her confidence, and the hopes of the team, were sky high and there was no looking back. She clinched the long-awaited title with a resounding 11-6 final game.
It was an emotional victory for the Bay Ladies who have been so close so many times over the last 36 years. Cheryl Te Kani-McQueen was in the 1981 team that last won the title for the Bay and she was excited to be part of the supporters at the club. She summed up the feeling by saying “We are so proud of our girls. It means a lot to the Bay, especially those of us who have been involved and represented the Bay in the past.”
In the Men’s competition, the boys were seeded 3rd, and were led by current professional Ben Grindrod. Evergreen Bay stalwart Paul Bedford, and Auckland-based players Aaron Kopittke and Matiu Te Kani-McQueen completed the Bay team.
The first round was no cake-walk for the Bay, with neighbours Eastern proving a tough task, but the Bay completed a 3-1 victory to see them into the semi-finals where they faced a very youthful Auckland team. Only one game separated the two teams with the Bay getting pipped on a countback, forcing our lads into a 3rd/4th playoff against Canterbury. Coach Robbie Wyatt was very proud of how the team performed “You know, the team really fought hard. They gave it absolutely everything. There was a great team culture throughout the Bay side, and that showed through in the passion they displayed on court.” A 1-3 loss saw the men’s team complete the event in 4th place.NZ Senior Inter-District Teams Event - Bay of Plenty Results:
First Round: BOP vs Eastern
Camden Te Kani-McQueen v Puti Ferguson Bay of Plenty 11/5, 11/6, 11/6
Nadia Hubbard v Kate Graham Bay of Plenty 11/4, 11/4, 11/6
Amanda Landers-Murphy v Rhiarne Taiapa Bay of Plenty 12/10, 11/2, 11/3
Joanna Shanks v Winona-Jo Joyce Bay of Plenty 11/7, 3/11, 11/8, 11/3
Semi Final: BOP vs Wellington
Camden Te Kani-McQueen v Gemma Gee Bay of Plenty 11/4, 11/9, 11/6
Joanna Shanks v Debbie Dunbar Bay of Plenty 9/11, 11/6, 11/9, 11/7
Amanda Landers-Murphy v Rebecca Barnett Bay of Plenty 11/7, 12/10, 11/3
Nadia Hubbard v Charlotte Galloway Bay of Plenty 11/4, 11/7, 11/6
Final: BOP vs Auckland
Camden Te Kani-McQueen v Juee Bhide Bay of Plenty 11/9, 2/11, 4/11, 11/7, 11/1
Joanna Shanks v Abbie Palmer Auckland 11/5, 11/9, 11/8
Amanda Landers-Murphy v Ellie Epke Bay of Plenty 11/5, 11/4, 11/3
Nadia Hubbard v Priscilla Wildsmith Bay of Plenty 4/11, 12/14, 11/9, 11/8, 11/6
First Round: BOP vs Eastern
Matiu Te Kani-McQueen v Bryce Redman Eastern 2/11, 11/8, 10/12, 11/8, 11/9
Aaron Kopittke v Will Hirst Bay of Plenty 11/9, 8/11, 11/6, 11/7
Ben Grindrod v Cameron Jamieson Bay of Plenty 11/4, 11/5, 8/11, 11/7
Paul Bedford v Joseph Watts Bay of Plenty 14/12, 11/8, 11/3
Semi Final: BOP vs Auckland
Matiu Te Kani-McQueen v Sam Sayes Bay of Plenty 11/9, 11/6, 11/4
Paul Bedford v Gabe Yam Auckland 12/10, 11/4, 11/7
Ben Grindrod v Matthew Lucente Bay of Plenty 11/9, 11/7, 6/11, 11/8
Aaron Kopittke v Brad Robinson Auckland 11/5, 11/8, 11/5
3rd/4th Playoff: BOP vs Canterbury
Matiu Te Kani-McQueen v Quinn Udy Canterbury 5/11, 3/11, 11/9, 11/6, 11/9
Paul Bedford v Joe Willliams Canterbury 11/2, 12/14, 13/11, 11/7
Ben Grindrod v Jayden Millard Bay of Plenty 11/4, 11/6, 11/4
Aaron Kopittke v Adam Odering Canterbury 11/6, 3/11, 11/1, 11/7