Scotland’s next generation are just one win away from a medal, having reached the quarter-finals of the U19 European Junior Team Championships being held in Tallinn, Estonia.
The young Scots won all four of their matches to top group eight, justifying their status as one of the 5/8 seeds and progressing to a quarter-final clash tomorrow.
With both losing semi-finalists winning bronze medals, Scotland need only one more win to guarantee themselves a medal and match the achievements of last year’s U17 European Junior Team Championships bronze medal winning team.
A strong French team stand in their way in tomorrow’s match but the confidence of the young Scots will be high, having scored some good wins in the group stages.
Scotland had started strongly on Friday with a 4-1 win over Croatia, a result which coach Robert Blair described as being “a good start moving into the crucial games against Poland and Holland tomorrow.”
Facing Poland on Saturday morning, Adam Pringle and Rachel Andrew battled to a 21-12 18-21 21-13 win to give Scotland the lead.
Christopher Grimley made the score 2-0 to Scotland before Rachel Sugden clinched the winning point with a solid 21-11 21-17 win over Anna Duda.
Pringle returned to court with Matthew Grimley to win the men’s doubles, but a three-game defeat for Lauren Middleton and Sarah Sidebottom meant Scotland missed out on the chance of a whitewash.
In the evening tie against The Netherlands, arguably the toughest opponent in the group, Scotland again won 4-1.
This time Andrew teamed up with Matthew Grimley in mixed doubles, again winning a hard-fought three-game match to give Scotland the lead.
Once again Christopher Grimley made the score 2-0 with a straightforward singles win before Rachel Sugden returned to try and clinch the win for her country for the second time in a day.
Against Amy Tan she took the first game 21-17 before Tan hit back to win the second by the same 21-17 score line to level the tie.
In the third game Tan led 11-6 and 15-10 but Sugden displayed outstanding resolve to battle back to 16-16 before taking control of the game, winning it 22-20 on her first match point to ensure Scotland would finish top of the group, saying afterwards that it was: “Good to come back and win an important match, setting up the team for a chance at a medal.”
The Grimley brothers won their men’s doubles while the women’s doubles again slipped away to give Scotland another 4-1 win.
All that was left was to wrap up the group with a 5-0 demolition of Romania today to reach the quarter-finals.
Four of the squad (Apiliga, Pringle, Andrew and Sugden) won bronze medals at last year’s U17 European Team Championships and they will hope to repeat the feat at this year’s U19 event but they face a tough test against second seeds France.
But Blair, having seen his young charges put in some extremely good performances, is cautiously optimistic:
“The team has performed very well over the past few days” he said. “They coped with the pressure of being group favourites and everyone who came into play gave a very good account of themselves.
“We will need to be at our best tomorrow against France. However, we have the quality throughout the squad to provide a stern test and hopefully we can take our chance to progress and get a medal tomorrow.”
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UPDATE: Due to mistakes made in the original live draw procedure, Badminton Europe had to conduct a re-draw at 10.45pm on Sunday. As a result, Scotland will now play top seeds Denmark in the quarter-finals. After the re-draw, Robert Blair said: “This is a tougher challenge than France as Denmark have some very strong girls. However, it is a great opportunity for our team to test themselves against some of the best in Europe. We will go in optimistic that we can cause an upset as there should be some close matches to contest.”