Barbados’ junior girls have returned home having proved too good for the competition at the 34th staging of the Caribbean Junior Squash Championships held in Grand Cayman over the weekend.
The ultramarine, gold and black was well represented as Barbados under the leadership of Amanda Haywood not only defended their girls’ team title for a second consecutive year with a convincing 3-2 win against Guyana, but they also equalled the total of 14 team gold medals, also held by the Guyanese young ladies.
Speaking after the squad’s arrival late last night at the Grantley Adams International Airport, coach Rhett Cumberbatch told Barbados TODAY they utilized home court advantage last year to win the girls’ team title and made a vow then to keep it in their possession for the next five to ten years.
Cumberbatch added that even though there were some disappointments in the tournament where one player got injured, and they placed second overall with 16 points behind undisputed champions Guyana (18 points) who have now retained the team title 12 consecutive years, he was still happy with the overall squad’s performance.
“We know that once we are the defending champions all the teams are going to target us so we just had to put in more hard work and it paid off. However we had a few unfortunate situations where one player [Shemane Griffith the under-17 boys champion] fractured his hand in a match so we went into the semi-final of the boys’ team competition not having the strongest team. But the boys did put up a good fight even though Cayman Island had home court advantage and support behind them,” the coach explained.
Barbados players finished with a record six individual gold medals, two silvers and three bronze along with three other medals in the team events.
In the best of five team competition for girls, Sumairaa Suleman, Meagan Best and Haywood who are all individual champions in the under-13, 15 and 17 divisions respectively, returned to court and saw Barbados to victory in the team competition after Guyana managed only two wins in the final. Those victories came through Taylor Fernandes and Larissa Wiltshire who are the number one and two seeds for their country.
The Broken Tridents were also aiming to upset Guyana who won gold for the fourth consecutive year in the boys category but that never materialized and they had to settle for bronze by defeating OECS 4-1 during the third-place match-ups. Barbadian players Darren Benn won 3-0 against Luca Reich, Khamal Cumberbatch won 3-2 against Kai Bentick, Reggie Brewster was victorious 3-0 over Mikel Quashie and Zachary Proverbs-Harris was victorious by default after his opponent was a no-show. But unfortunately for captain Benjamin Griffith in his final year at the under-19 level, he lost 3-0 to Jason Doyle and Barbados missed out on what would have been a clean sweep for the bronze medals.
Captain of the girls team Haywood was very elated about the result for her charges, stating it was a good tournament in what was her final year at the under-17 level.
The 16-year-old said: “The girls in my category came out and played good squash in this tournament so I just stayed focus knowing that I had a job to do. I am really proud of my girls we stayed as a team through the ups and downs, through the wins we were a team because we are all like sisters.”
Haywood, along with many of the other juniors including under-15 champion Best, has her eyes set on the senior Caribbean Area Squash Association (CASA) tournament in two weeks time.
Best said from a scale of one to ten she was about seven in terms of preparation leading up to the senior competition.
Meanwhile, Cumberbatch who defended his Under-15 boys title once more is also in fine form coming out of junior CASA and intends to make his mark at the senior level after a relatively good outing last year.
“Retaining my title was no walk in the park because I know what I was going up against but I knew that I only needed to get the first game and I would be pretty good from there. From here on I am looking to prepare myself for seniors,” he said.