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Unbeaten Nottingham Are Prince O3 Challenge Champions

Prince O3 Squash Challenge,
Vale Hotel, Cardiff.

National Finals - final play-offs
Nottingham bt Chichester 3/0 (Karl Murray bt Tim McIlwain 9-3, 9-3, 9-2; Matt King bt Paul Wykes 9-3, 9-1, 9-3; Sarah Zipser bt Claire Briance 5-9, 9-1, 9-7, 9-0)

Connaught bt Northumberland 2/1 (Will Brand bt Peter Carter 6-9, 9-0, 9-10, 9-6, 9-3; Elliott Fowell bt Freddie Bolton 9-4, 5-9, 9-2, 9-2; Jo Ravenhall lost to Jackie Carter 7-9, 5-9, 9-10)

Final placings: 1st Nottingham (35 points); 2nd Connaught (22); 3rd Chichester (17); 4th Northumberland (8)

National Finals play-offs:
Nottingham bt Connaught 2/1 (Matt King lost to Elliott Fowell 9-3, 5-9, 9-6, 0-9, 3-9; Sarah Zipser bt Jo Ravenhall 9-1, 9-3, 9-3; Karl Murray bt Will Brand 9-6, 9-1, 8-10, 9-6)
Chichester bt Northumberland 3/0 (Paul Wykes bt Freddie Bolton 8-10, 9-3, 9-5, 9-7; Claire Briance bt Jackie Carter 9-4, 9-4, 9-5; Tim McIlwain bt Peter Carter 9-5, 9-4, 9-6)
Nottingham bt Northumberland 3/0 (Sarah Zipser bt Jackie Carter 9-7, 9-2, 9-4; Karl Murray bt Peter Carter 7-9, 9-1, 9-4, 9-3; Matt King bt Freddie Bolton 9-1, 9-6, 9-0)
Connaught bt Chichester 2/1 (Jo Ravenhall lost to Claire Briance 4-9, 0-9, 2-9; Will Brand bt Tim McIlwain 10-8, 9-6, 9-6; Elliott Fowell bt Paul Wykes 9-1, 9-2, 4-9, 9-3)
Points standings after two ties (final tie on Sunday): Nottingham 23, Chichester 16, Connaught 13, Northumberland 2

Unbeaten Nottingham Are Prince O3 Challenge Champions
In the third and final play-off tie today (Sunday) in the Prince O3 Challenge at the luxurious Vale Hotel, Golf & Spa Resort near Cardiff, Nottingham beat Chichester 3/0 to win the inaugural national inter-club squash competition for non-county players.

Unbeaten in their two earlier clashes against Newcastle club Northumberland, and London club Connaught, Nottingham began the tie in convincing style when Karl Murray beat Chichester's Tim McIlwain 9-3, 9-3, 9-2.

Team captain Matt King clinched victory for Nottingham with a 9-3, 9-1, 9-3 win over Chichester's captain Paul Wykes.

In the final rubber between the two teams' women, Claire Briance took the opening game against Nottingham's Sarah Zipser as Chichester seemed set to cement their bid to take second place in the final placings. However, Zipser fought back to win 5-9, 9-1, 9-7, 9-0 to ensure maximum points for the East Midlands club, and third place for the Sussex team.

In a hard-fought tie between Connaught and Northumberland, wins by the London team's Will Brand and Elliott Fowell over Northumberland's Peter Carter and Freddie Bolton, respectively, left ladies Jo Ravenhall and Jackie Carter to play out the dead rubber.

But, despite suffering a minor cut above her left eye midway through the third game, Jackie Carter earned a popular 9-7, 9-5, 10-9 victory over Ravenhall to give Northumberland deserved consolation points.

With wins over both Northumberland and Chichester on Saturday, Connaught finished in second place behind Nottingham.

Equipment prizes were presented to all four teams by Welsh and British Lions rugby star Ieuan Evans, with the winning Nottingham team members each also receiving a travel voucher for £700.

"It's absolutely fantastic – it's like a dream come true to win this great tournament," said Nottingham's Matt King, who will now be able to join team-mate and girlfriend Sarah Zipser at her sister's wedding in Perth, Australia, next November.

"We had long been planning to go, but would have had to go on stand-by, and therefore probably not together. Now we can fly together - and might now even consider an upgrade to business class!"

"These sort of tournaments are usually only reserved for top professionals – so we feel very privileged to have been treated so royally here over this weekend. The whole thing has been beyond our expectations – and the prize-fund is unbelievable," added King.

Prince organiser Andy Bunting said: "This new tournament has more than achieved the objectives we set. We've put Prince's new O3 racket technology into club players' hands and have had overwhelmingly positive reaction.

"The finals weekend has been extremely successful and the Vale hotel, with its three new glass-backed courts, could not have been a better venue.

"Nottingham are worthy winners of the first O3 Challenge – and I now look forward to beginning the preparatory work for next season's event," added Bunting.

Nottingham Lap Up The Prince O3 Challenge
Nottingham established a commanding lead after the first day's play in the National finals weekend of the inaugural Prince O3 Squash Challenge at the luxurious Vale Hotel, Golf & Spa Resort near Cardiff.

In their opening tie against Connaught, team captain Matt King lost 9-3, 5-9, 9-6, 0-9, 3-9 to the Chingford club captain Elliot Fowell in one of the standout matches of the day – but girlfriend Sarah Zipser levelled the score for with a 9-1, 9-3, 9-3 win over Connaught's Jo Ravenhall.

In the Over-35 rubber which completed the tie, Nottingham's Karl Murray defeated Will Brand 9-6, 9-1, 8-10, 9-6 to clinch an overall 11-4 points victory for the East Midlands side.

In the other morning tie, Chichester completed a 3/0 win over Northumberland – but went down 1/2 to Connaught in the afternoon session.

Nottingham however earned maximum points in their afternoon tie against Tynesiders Northumberland, with King and Zipser securing straight games wins and Karl Murray recovering from a game down to beat the Newcastle club captain Peter Carter 7-9, 9-1, 9-4, 9-3.

Sunday's final ties will see Nottingham (with 23 points) take on second-placed Chichester (16 points) – the East Midlands club needing just a single rubber to make sure of winning the top prize which includes a £700 travel voucher for each of the winning team members.

Nottingham Lap Up The Prince O3 Challenge Four clubs - from Newcastle, Nottingham, London and Chichester - will contest the finals of the inaugural Prince O3 Squash Challenge in Cardiff over the weekend 8/9 April.

Three of the regional finals went to the wire as the two teams battled to the death to finalise the line-up for the finals weekend at the luxurious Vale Hotel, Golf & Spa Resort.

"It couldn't have been closer," said Chichester club captain Paul Wykes, who played the deciding rubber in the club's 2/1 victory over Gloucester's Riverside club.

After Claire Briance put the Sussex team ahead after a 9-1, 9-5, 9-3 win over Riverside's Annie Phelps, squad No2 Andy Henshaw fought back to level the match from 2/0 down against John Anderson, but was unable to stop his Gloucestershire opponent winning 9-4, 9-5, 5-9, 7-9, 9-7 to level the tie.

In the final 'nip-and-tuck' affair against Riverside's Andy Gale, Wykes let slip a 2/0 lead, and was then 3/7 down in the decider when he dug deep to claw back the deficit to beat his opponent 9-7, 9-3, 3-9, 3-9, 9-7.

"We had a couple of monumental rallies in that final game and I just managed to sneak it," said a relieved Wykes.

"It's been a great event, and all our matches have been very close. But we're delighted to be in the final now and are really looking forward to doing well in Cardiff."

While the Northumberland club had a walkover into the final after weather problems prevented Sheffield club Hallamshire from getting to the regional final in Newcastle, Nottingham prevailed in a tight encounter at Edgbaston Priory in Birmingham.

After team captain Matt King went down 0/3 to Priory's Alan Watson, Karl Murray pulled it back for the visitors by beating fellow Over-35 player Jim Hill in straight games.

It was left to King's girlfriend Sarah Zipser to fight out the decider for Nottingham, coming back from losing the first and third games to overpower the home side's Amy Brightwell in five games.

"We're really chuffed that we've got through to the finals," said Nottingham-based King, aged 28.

Connaught Club, from Chingford in north east London, also left it to the final rubber against Martlesham Heath before beating their Suffolk visitors 2/1. Dave Weddell put the club ahead with a 9-2, 9-0, 9-4 win over Gary Woolnough, but Martlesham's Sue Penman came through an evenly-contested match against Jo Ravenhill to beat her Connaught opponent 9-4, 9-4, 9-7.

In the decider between the over-35 players, Will Brand proved too strong for Connaught's Simon Kelly, winning 9-6, 9-3, 9-4 to take the London club to the national finals weekend.

The inter-club event is for teams of two men (one of whom must be over 35) and one woman. Players who have represented their country or county, at any age group, are not eligible.

Team members have been invited to use the revolutionary new Prince O3 racket - which England squash hero Peter Nicol used to devastating effect in Melbourne this month to win two Commonwealth Games gold medals!

RESULTS: Prince O3 Squash Challenge
Regional finals:
Nottingham SC bt Edgbaston Priory SC 2/1
(Matt King lost to Alan Walton 0/3; Karl Murray bt Jim Hill 3/0; Sarah Zipser bt Amy Brightwell 3/2)

Connaught LT&SC, Chingford bt Martlesham Heath SC 2/1
(Dave Weddell bt Gary Woolnough 9-2, 9-0, 9-4; Jo Ravenhill lost to Sue Penman 4-9, 4-9, 7-9; Will Brand bt Simon Kelly 9-6, 9-3, 9-4)

Chichester LT&SC bt Riverside SC, Gloucester 2/1
(Claire Briance bt Annie Phelps 9-1, 9-5, 9-3; Andy Henshaw lost to John Anderson 4-9, 5-9, 9-5, 9-7, 7-9; Paul Wykes bt Andy Gale 9-7, 9-3, 3-9, 3-9, 9-7)

Northumberland LT&SC bt Hallamshire SC, Sheffield w/o