The Great Britain team travelled to France to compete in the European Championships in Maubeuge. Hosted by the CIJB, the tournament lasted three days and competitors took part in three events; Jeu International, Wallball and Llargues.
Wallball was again the main focus for the GB squad. Our ladies team consisted of Kathleen and Tessa who had earlier this year beaten the current World Champions, the Dutch, in a group match at the French Open.
The first group match was against Italy, another pair that they had beaten at the Italian Open in March. We took the first game 11-1. In the second game the Italians game back strong and the GB pair found themselves defending at the back. After losing a few points the GB ladies upped their tactics and won 11-7. Next they took on France and with no mercy won 11-1, 11-0.
Our ladies then met the Dutch in the semi-final. Could we repeat our victory at the French Open? Nerves were running high in the GB camp and the controlled Dutch pair of Scheffer and Beckers took the first game 11-7. We knew we had to change our strategy and play the ball higher on the wall to push them back. This change rattled the Dutch who in return made a few unforced errors. This then put us in a strong position at the front of the court where we were able to dominate the game. We were leading 10-8 but then lost our serve. Scheffer and Beckers gained two more points which took us to 10-10. We then broke their serve and had another chance. The pressure was mounting and on the last serve Kathleen served wide and the Dutch were back in control. The final point was won by a volley into the left hand corner by Scheffer.
Our girls then faced Italy again for the bronze medal. Our expereicne over the Italians meant we won comfortably, 11-1, 11-0.
It was the Dutch against the Spanish in the women’s final. After a very tense two games the Spanish won 6-5 in the tie-breaker. It was an incredible match with long rallies, good-hitting and a great example of how the standard of the women’s game is on the rise.
As for the men – this year we fielded our new GB Development squad. It was Day 2 of the CIJB European Championships, writes Andrew Ibbetson, and it saw the British men (Penn Chai, Oliver Arnold & Andrew Ibbetson) compete in the Wallball Doubles tournament. The teams were split into two groups; Group A: Holland, Belgium & Spain. Group B: Great Britain, Italy, France & Portugal, with the top two teams from each group progressing to the semi-finals.
Having avoided being placed in a tough looking Group A, the British hopes of securing a qualification spot were high despite the fact that, for all three of us, this was our first experience of international level Wallball. However, these hopes took a significant knock in our first game against the Italians as we never really got going and as a result lost quite rapidly, 2-0. This was a harsh lesson for us, but such is the nature of the game that if you are not on it from point one you can find yourself in big trouble rather quickly. The team were keen to move on from this early disappointment, and we did just that in our next game against the Portuguese, running away with a 2-0 victory.
Therefore, to progress from the group we would have to beat the hosts, France, in a tough final group match. Unfortunately we were unable to turnover an experienced French team, going down 2-0 to the eventual bronze medallists. The team were rightly disappointed not to have gone further in the competition. But, for the three of us, this was a fantastic experience, one that has only left us with a greater desire to represent UK Wallball and succeed at the highest level. Thanks must go to all the people who supported us from back home in the UK, and fellow team mates Kathleen Briedenhann and Tessa Mills for their support from the sidelines.
This year the GB men and women teamed up to participate in Jeu International and Llargues. Despite little experience in both sports our team did well against the other countries. Ollie Arnold was our star server in the International game serving consistently well and ensuring that we got to have some rallies and Tessa was nicknamed the ‘hammer’ after her powerful hitting from the back of the playing field. Her hitting impressed our opponents and spectators alike. Llargues on the other hand proved more challenging and our newly formed team took a while to grasp the rules. Luckily the crowd were on our side and we received a lot of cheering and advice from the side lines during the matches. Thanks to Andrew Ibbetson who controlled the back and the occasional hit from Penn who guarded the front, we were able to gain a few points. Despite not winning a game our team bonded well and we all enjoyed the experience. We were thanked and complimented for the sporting manner in which we participated.
Our thanks goes to the CIJB president and the organisers for their wonderful hospitality and for organising a great tournament. We enjoyed reuniting with old friends and making new ones and look forward to the next World Championships in Mexico in 2017.