Chris Hebberd and Leonie Marshall. Photo: Supplied.

Squash duo selected

Marlborough’s squash fraternity are celebrating the selection of two of their number in a national team.

Leonie Marshall and Chris Hebberd have been included in the New Zealand secondary schools tournament team following the national tournament in Tauranga.

Leonie was named captain of the senior team while Chris was selected in the junior (year 9-10) combination.

Forty nine schools competed at the Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre in Tauranga from Friday until Sunday last week, with the top-seeded Mt Albert Grammar side taking out the boys’ title and Whangarei Girls’ High School claiming the girls’ crown.

Marlborough Girls’ College finished 12th overall, while the Marlborough Boys’ College A team ended up 11th. The MBC B team finished 22nd in the 32-team grade.

Tom Marshall with the spoils of victory in Christchurch. Photo: Supplied.

Marshall bags squash double

Marlborough squash player Tom Marshall has got the country covered.

In Christchurch at the weekend, the youngster added the South Island under-15 boys title to the North Island Junior Age Group crown he picked up the previous week.

Marshall relished playing at the new Christchurch courts and underlined his burgeoning talent by backing up from his efforts in the North Island. He took out the final 11-8, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9 against national No 3 Ryan Ko.

At the Havelock North and Hastings clubs, from July 6-8, Marshall’s sister Leonie made it a family affair by taking out the NI under-17 girls crown.

At the weekend she went close to making it a sibling ‘double-double’ in Christchurch, losing in five in the U17 girls final to Martha Toghill of Otago. Marlborough’s Paulie Moran was runner-up in the under-17 boys’ section, losing in four to NI runner-up Jack Conder from Auckland.

Tom went through the North Island tournament without dropping a set, winning his final 11-7, 11-5, 11-7. Leonie also managed a straight sets win in her final, 11-5, 13-11, 11-7, but found the going tougher previously, having to battle through a five-setter in her semifinal.

The third member of the Marlborough crew in Hawke’s Bay was Chris Hebberd, who picked up a bronze medal, also in the under-15 boys section.

Next up for the Marlborough contingent is the Greymouth Open at the end of the week.

That is followed by the nationals in October, while Tom is preparing for a tour of Canada and the US with a NZ junior team in December.

Megan Craig grabbed a podium position in Auckland. Photo: Shuttersport.

Megan returns to NZ champs

Marlborough’s Megan Craig defied her fifth seeding, plus a lengthy break from top-level squash, to claim third place in the New Zealand squash champs last weekend.

Twenty-six-year-old Craig, the champion in 2014 and 2016 before taking time off to give birth to 10-month-old daughter Ameika, beat top junior Natalie Saves in the second round, then fourth seed Abbie Palmer [world-ranked 103] in four games during the quarterfinals.

In the semis, Craig came up against the country’s leading player, Joelle King, and was beaten 11-5, 11-8, 11-3 by the world’s sixth-ranked female.

In Sunday’s play-off for third and fourth, Craig got the better of “old friend” and former NZ junior team-mate Lana Harrison, who narrowly lost to Amanda Landers-Murphy in the semis, in four games. Craig tagged the game “the battle of the mums” with both players making their return to top-level squash after having given birth to their first child.

The Marlborough No 1 was happy with her efforts, reaching her goal of making the top three, especially as she is dividing her time between running, squash, personal training and baby-minding these days. Consequently, she struggled to stay with fully-professional player King in their semi, Craig noting that “she’s classy”.

“[Joelle] has that accuracy that I don’t have any more, because I don’t get to drill as often. She’s playing with top girls, and guys, all the time … definitely a bit faster-paced that I have been used to.”

However, despite her baby break, Craig felt she was not far off the pace.

“By Sunday I felt like I was back where I was … maybe not as speedy but I’m playing a bit smarter now and I’m probably fitter than I have ever been. I also enjoyed not having any pressure this year, that was really nice, not trying to get into any teams … just being there to play.”

Craig had husband Keegan and baby Ameika along for support suggesting, “there was a lot more to pack than just my squash gear these days”.

“It was nice looking out from the court to see [Ameika] smiling back at me.”

King went on to clinch her eighth national title, defeating second seed Amanda Landers-Murphy from Rotorua 11-2, 11-4, 11-6.

Former Marlborough No 1 Quinn Udy also attended the champs in Auckland. He was seeded 22 in the men’s open and finished 18th overall. The men’s title was claimed by Paul Coll who beat second seed Campbell Grayson 11-3, 11-7, 11-4.

Meanwhile, the Marlborough Boys’ College and Marlborough Girls College teams travelled to Dunedin last weekend to contest the South Island Secondary Schools championships.

MGC finished second, the MBC A team wound up 5th and the MBC B side ended up second in division one.