The Curtain Comes Down on First Ever Premier Division Season for Benwell Hill Squash.
For the first time in the history of The Club, Benwell Hill’s squash team were promoted to Northumbria’s top league – the Premier Division. Fitting perhaps, that this coincided with the 50th anniversary of team squash at Benwell Hill.
Playing against the region’s best players, the team knew it would be a hard ask to match their skill and experience. And poignantly, this was realised at the opening game of the season - an away trip to the reigning league champions, and our first ever premier division point was secured by our team captain. Sadly, but expectedly, we lost the match 5-0, but all the individual games were hard fought, and the reigning league champions acknowledged we were no push over.
The season continued to be tough, but our first match win came, fittingly at home, against Primrose 1. This was perhaps our Team’s finest hour. The first game was as expected, their ringer, drafted in from the Durham & Cleveland leagues, cruised to a 3-0 victory. Next on court, our #1 faced another ringer, who would eventually go on to beat all the best players in the league, another 3-0 victory to them.
At 2-0 down, the match was going the way our opponents expected and we stared a whitewash in the face. The next two matches however, were much more evenly contested and we were victorious in both. The match was now poised at 2-2, the comeback seemed unlikely but was still possible and our opponent’s confident expectation of winning was starting to diminish. The final match got underway, and very soon we were 2-0 down. Then, with what can only be described as ‘inspirational’ words from our coach and a strategic shift in play, our #5 pulled it back to 2-2.
The final game ensued, almost point for point until reaching a tie break at 10-all, groans and sighs came from those watching on the balcony as the tension mounted. With stunning skill and determination, our #5 Karen, won 17-15, having exchanged match point no fewer than 7 times, thus securing the team a 3-2 victory.
Several very close matches followed, but sadly not enough points were secured across the season to prevent us from relegation - so division 1 it is, come September.
It was a first for many of our opponents to play at our Club, with just as many complements being paid about the quality of the court and how well it is maintained. We can now say the best in the region have played at Benwell Hill.
There have been some great highlights along the way and all the team deserve huge credit for their part played.
Special mention to our player of the season Jake Mottram who won the most matches and showed dogged determination to win throughout the campaign. His name has now been added to the Player of the Season Roll of Honour Shield, now hanging proudly in the clubhouse.
Also special mention to Cole Windscheffel, our new recruit, who until this season had not played squash for some 10 years, played fantastically well. And of course, Michael Bridgwater who faced the toughest of all challenges playing at #1, with great courage and at times heroic efforts for the cause - The Team salutes you.
The team would like to place on record it’s sincere gratitude to The Squash Secretary, Martin Avery, for not just his contribution as a team player for approaching 30 years, but for the tireless efforts to ensure the squash club section is what it is and continues to flourish.
Thanks must also go to Janice Mussett for providing the after match meals, we can be a fussy bunch when it comes to food!
Thanks also to Andy Greenwell and our new team sponsor NBM Solutions for their kind contribution towards the cost of the trophies and support for the coming season.
We are to have a 2nd team entered into the Northumbria Leagues next season, so if anyone is keen on playing team squash, they will need to register their interest to The Squash Secretary by the end of July. This means more competitive squash for our members to watch if you do not wish to participate!
Congratulations for a great effort this season.
Benwell Hill Squash’s Premier Divison 1st team 2022/23:
Michael Bridgwater, Cole Windscheffel, Charlie Ponente, Philip White, Karen Heron, Jamie Pitchford, Jake Mottram, Martin Avery & Ian Allen. All of whom receiving an individual trophy in recognition of their contribution.
Report produced by Phil White.