Malaysia will play for a place in the top four of the WSF Women’s World Junior Team Squash Championship for the first time since 2007 after defeating New Zealand 2/1 in the quarter-finals of the World Squash Federation event at the Squashtime Centre in Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
It was a 3/0 final qualifying round win over hosts Netherlands in the morning which confirmed fifth seeds Malaysia as winners of Pool D – resulting in a favoured quarter-final slot against New Zealand, the No.6 seeds.
Malaysia took the lead when third string Zoe Foo Yuk Han beat Juee Bhide in straight games – but New Zealand levelled in the top string match after Eleanor Epke won a thriller against Sivasangari Subramaniam.
UK-born Epke took a two-nil lead but the Malaysian fought back to level, then saved two match balls to force a tie-break decider. Subramanian had a match ball at 11-10 but served out, then tinned on her second chance and it was Epke who finally took the match 14-12.
“I was feeling so tired in the fifth,” admitted the Kiwi, “I just tried to stay calm and told myself ‘don’t lose’ !”
The deciding match between Andrea Lee and Abbie Palmer was equally close, equally tense and exciting. After the first four games were shared, Malaysian Lee led 9-7 in the fifth – but Palmer had the first match ball at 10-9. Eventually it was the Malaysian who drove the ball deep into the corner for the victory, 14-12 after an hour’s play.
Malaysian Manager Andrew Cross (celebrating with his squad above) was naturally delighted: “Never in doubt,” he joked to the event website www.wsfworldjuniors.com later. “What a match!
“We got a good start, then Siva went two down but came back to get match ball and served out, which didn’t make me feel good! The decider was such a close match, at the end they were both hitting it hard, keeping it tight but we were lucky enough to win it.
“That’s what it’s all about, quarter-finals of the World Juniors, big match, big challenges to see if you can come through.”
Runners-up in 2007, Malaysia now face favourites Egypt for a place in the final. The defending champions despatchedIndia 2/0.
“Tomorrow, against Egypt, it’s going to be difficult,” Cross continued. “But it’s going to be good experience for our girls – they’re all going to be able to play in two years’ time, so that’s what they’re here for, to get experience against the best in the world.”
The other semi-final will see USA, runners-up in the past two events, take on former champions England. Second seeds USA beat neighbours Canada (both teams pictured above) in convincing fashion, and third seeds England beat Hong Kong, the No.4 seeds, 2/0.
Hany Hamouda, Vice President of the Egyptian Squash Federation, was wary of being too confident: “People may think ‘oh, Egypt will win’, but we don’t think like that,” he said. “We haven’t won anything yet and we tell the players that they must concentrate and do their best in every match.”
USA manager Scott Devoy was happy with his team’s performance: “All the girls played well, they were focused and played disciplined squash. It should give them some confidence for tomorrow, and if we can take that momentum into the match and play as well as that, then we’ll be difficult to beat.”
England manager Tania Bailey (team pictured above) was equally delighted with her team’s performance: “It’s great to reach the semis, that’s what we came here for at least. I’ve been really impressed with the girls, they’re looking strong and have handled themselves well. The nerves built up a little waiting for the Malaysia match to finish, but Lucy handled that very well, and Gina is playing world top 50 squash at the moment.
“We know the USA are all strong, but we believe we can get a result in all three matches, so they’ll certainly be giving it a go and hopefully it will be a great match.”
Quarter-finals: playing order 3-1-2
 EGYPT bt  INDIA 2/0
Salma Hany Ibrahim bt Nikita Joshi 11-5, 11-6, 11-2 (17m)
Habiba Mohamed bt Adya Advani 11-3, 11-5, 11-3 (12m)
 MALAYSIA bt  NEW ZEALAND 2/1
Zoe Foo Yuk Han bt Juee Bhide 11-3, 11-9, 11-8 (24m)
Sivasangari Subramaniam lost to Eleanor Epke 9-11, 7-11, 11-2, 11-8, 12-14 (46m)
Andrea Lee bt Abbie Palmer 11-6, 8-11, 10-12, 11-4, 14-12 (59m)
 ENGLAND bt  HONG KONG CHINA 2/0
Lucy Beecroft bt Lui Hiu Lam Bubble 11-7, 11-4, 11-8 (19m)
Georgina Kennedy bt Choi Man Shan 11-4, 11-8, 11-6 (34m)
 USA bt  CANADA 3/0
Kayley Leonard bt Maddie O’Connor 11-2, 11-1, 11-3 (16m)
Sabrina Sobhy bt Chloe Chemtob 11-3, 11-3, 11-4 (17m)
Reeham Sedky bt Sophie Mehta 11-5, 11-3 (17m)