Lancaster took three five man teams down to Nottingham for the inaugural English universities pool championships; the firsts and seconds were comprised of some of the best male players on campus, with the thirds being comprised of five of the best female players available.
In the singles tournament the ladies, Alice Sunderland, Emily Clarke, Maria Madin, Laura Christie and Jennie Grayson all received rather unfavourable draws seeing all five leave the tournament courtesy of 3-0 losses. Richard Floyd was the only Lancaster player to receive a bye in the first round, before an uncharacteristic 3-1 loss in the second round. Reece Dizenzo stepped up magnificently on his University pool debut to grind out a 3-2 win in the first round versus a University of East Anglia firsts player, before crashing out in the second round 3-1.
Ben Gill and Jimmy Cinquemani were surprise first round victims, losing 3-1 and 3-2 respectively. Cinquemani was unfortunate to lose from a 2-1 lead; but his opponent was on top form. Nick O’Malley won his first round match 3-0 versus Kent 1sts captain, hardly giving his opponent a shot, before losing to a Nottingham second team player in the next round.
Rob Wiggans won his first round match 3-2 before crashing out 3-0 in the second round. Danny Worthington arguably Lancaster’s player of the tournament played magnificently in his opening two matches, cruising into the last 32 with two 3-0 wins. Lee Osborne also made his way into the third round, with two very comfortable yet extremely tactical 3-0 wins. Graeme Gibson followed suit with two 3-1 wins against East Anglia and Manchester opponents respectively. Jeremy Clifford was the fourth and final Lancaster player to make the last 32; winning 3-0 before a rather scrappy 3-2 win to seal his place in the third round.
However, this was as good as it got for Lancaster with all four players crashing out in the round of 32. Osborne was outplayed by a semi-finalist from Nottingham 1sts losing 3-1. Clifford and Gibson both lost 3-1 to very good players. The tie of the round from a Lancaster perspective was Worthington versus Mike Walsh of York University, who represents England at 9-ball pool and Snooker.
Worthington put up a marvellous effort, narrowly missing out on the last 16. He took a 1-0 lead before losing the second game by default, after potting the black, but also potting his opponents red. Worthington took a 2-1 lead after a total clearance in the third game. Walsh stepped up his game to a professional standard in the fourth game, as with six colours and a black remaining Worthington did not return to the table once in the best of five games match. Walsh playing numerous outstanding developmental shots in the fourth game to clear up all seven balls, before clearing up from the break in the fifth game, leaving Worthington dumbfounded.
The team event
Lancaster University thirds, the women’s team put up a fantastic fight in the group stages, all gaining their first wins of the weekend, pushing Manchester 2nds and Warwick 1sts all the way to deciding frames. this was as close as they came to a team win and the women’s team exited the competition after finishing bottom of the group. Alice Sunderland was arguably the third team’s player of the weekend; however, her picking up wins left, right and centre was still not enough to help the team pick up that elusive win.
The men’s second team were expected to finish third or fourth in their group with three first teams in their group, which would see them enter into the trophy at the quarter final stage as opposed to the championship. The championship being the competition for group winners and runners-up. The second team had other ideas, their first match of the weekend was against Kent firsts, on paper, the second best team in the six team group after York 1sts captained by England player Mike Walsh.
Kent captain Zak Guimaraes was there for the taking having already lost 3-0 to Captain O’Malley in the first round of the singles. Lancaster capitalised on this, seeing their captain succumb to two further defeats, and Lancaster secure a surprise 6-2 win. Each team match is played as a best of 10 with the game finishing if any team gets to 6 and therefore an unassailable lead.
Lancaster added two more wins versus Nottingham 4ths and Bangor 2nds before a close draw with East Anglia 1st team, and a crushing defeat by the formidable York team saw Lancaster’s second team sneak through in second place and guaranteeing themselves a place in the quarter final against group winners, Exeter 1sts.
Lancaster were massive underdogs for this encounter, yet Lancaster stormed into a 4-2 lead courtesy of Dizenzo, O’Malley, and Cinquemani, two wins. Captain O’Malley then had the chance to guarantee at least a draw, but he missed a tight black to the middle pocket with two shots remaining for what would have been his second total clearance of the match. After escaping his own snooker, he did not return to the table with his opponent clearing up. Meanwhile on the other table, almost simultaneously Gibson had lost to see Exeter pull the scores back to 4-4. Before they knew it Lancaster had gone 5-4 down with Wiggans losing to their captain for the second time, seeing all of Lancaster’s hopes pinned on fresher Dizenzo. Dizenzo was flawless in his clearance to keep Lancaster’s hopes alive, pulling the score back to 5-5 and forcing a three man play-off.
O’Malley nominated himself, Cinquemani, and Gibson for the deciders, with all three games being played simultaneously. Gibson gave Lancaster a 1-0 lead without playing a shot, with his opponent potting six yellow balls on his initial visit, before developing the black a little too far, into the middle pocket. Meanwhile the other two Lancaster players were on the back foot in their games, with more balls remaining and their opponents covering pockets. O’Malley’s opponent was too good for him in the end, clearing up his remaining three balls rather comfortably, after O’Malley had missed an awkward long red and failing to get the white safe. Cinquemani could only prolong the inevitable in his game seeing the second team crash out in the quarter final stage after losing their three man playoff 2-1.
Lancaster 1sts performed magnificently in the group stage remaining unbeaten, winning three versus Nottingham 2nds, Warwick 1sts, Manchester 3rds and drawing two games, to Exeter and Manchester 2nds.Although unbeaten this saw the 1sts finish in second place in their group, and therefore received a slightly harder draw than expected in the quarter-final, as they would have to play a group winner. Lancaster 1sts were drawn against Manchester 1sts, who had a quarter finalist and a semi finalist from the singles tournament amidst their ranks. Gill, Worthington, and Floyd all won their first games seeing Lancaster 3-2 ahead at the halfway point. Gill won again in nonchalant fashion, comfortably clearing up all of his remaining balls to put Lancaster in the driving seat at 4-2. Two minutes later Manchester had pulled the deficit back to just one frame, with Floyd losing out in an extremely tactical encounter. Worthington was unflustered by the massive occasion, and dominated his opponent from start to finish, finishing off with an outstanding double before calmly rolling the black into the corner pocket to send Lancaster 5-3 up, and guaranteeing at least the draw.
Clifford was millimetres away from putting Lancaster in the semi-final, with the black ball coming to rest in the jaws of the far corner pocket. With his opponent only having to make one other pot before the black, Clifford lost by the narrowest of margins to see the scores pulled back to 5-4. Osborne stepped up for Lancaster to try and put them into the semi-final, but he was outplayed from start to finish by his opponent, who punished Osborne’s one bad shot by slowly but assuredly clearing up his remaining four balls and the black, to force the second three man playoff of the night.
Captain Osborne chose to nominate the three players that had performed the best against Manchester in Worthington, Gill and Floyd. With only two spare tables all three games could not be played simultaneously as was the case with the second team. This saw Floyd and Gill step up for Lancaster, with Floyd losing with only one ball remaining to pot, and Gill making a fantastic clearance to tie the decider at 1-1. This saw Worthington up against Manchester’s captain to try and keep Lancaster’s hopes alive.
Worthington was extremely unlucky to not pot off the break, and with the way in which the balls were laid out, his opponent had only to pot one yellow to give him an unbelievable advantage in the frame. Worthington never really recovered, and although he did nothing wrong he could not prevent his opponent from knocking Lancaster out of the tournament in a Déjà Vu of what had happened to the second team earlier in the night. Although both teams were only a matter of centimetres away from making semi-final appearances, all of Lancaster’s players can be extremely proud of their performance in the inaugural English Universities pool championships, and they will have all put themselves in fantastic stead ahead of BUCS championship pool next year, and just as importantly Roses.