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Under 9 EPSCA Zone Saturday, March 08
Mark Vandersluis writes:

Click for larger photo
Click for larger photo

With 7 of the top 8 counties from last year's Finals competing in our Zonal qualifier, it was never going to be easy....

For the last two years Berkshire has won the SW Zonal Qualifier (both main and reserve competitions), but with Devon and Somerset dropping out this year, the boundaries were redrawn and the number of teams were increased - the South West now extends as far east as Sussex, Surrey and Richmond! We faced 9 other teams in a tough match, with Kent (the EPSCA U9 Final hosts this year) automatically qualifying for the Final along with the 7 highest placed of the 9 remaining teams. That meant we needed to finish in 8th place or higher to get to the Final.

With a number of existing squad players unavailable for the day, we welcomed three new faces to the Berkshire team: Aisling Cunningham, Kieran Brown and Tarun Puri.

After exhortations from the Team Managers to take their time over their moves, the team went in for the first round, and emerged with 6½/12 and in 7th place ahead of Bucks, Hants and Wilts. In the second round we gained 5½/12 to remain in 7th, but Bucks were gaining on us. After the team photo, we headed back to the playing area for the third round. During the round, a mobile phone sounded off in the playing area, and a red-faced Board Steward for Richmond had a point deducted from his county's total. Unfortunately, after only managing to score 4/12 in the third round, we were overhauled by Bucks but we had done enough to qualify in 8th place for the Final, and encouragingly almost all the team came away with some score over the three rounds.

The reserves had a similar tough time - 3 of the 4 reserves were playing in their first U9 county match, and all credit to the reserves for listening to the Team Managers and giving their best. Overall the reserves also finished in 8th.

The strength of the opposition showed as no Berkshire player scored 100% or even remained unbeaten over the three rounds.

We'd just like to say thanks to all the players, and also to the parents for travelling to High Wycombe for the event.

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