PACE A crowned National Boccia League Champions!
On July 1st, the PACE A Boccia squad attended the National league finals after coming 1st in the London League for the third year in a row. Having come 13th and 11th in the previous two years PACE knew it was going to be a very tough competition.
PACE A squad included Alex Dukes (C), Jamie Keat, Reshad Saraj, and Ramandeep Mann. Before the competition began, the team discussed the game plan they were aiming to implement and their individual and team targets for the day. Reshad would play from box 1-2, Alex in box 3-4 and Jamie would play from box 5-6, with Ramandeep Mann used as our sub. Going in to the first match, everyone knew the strategy and their individual roles.
The game-plan worked out perfectly in their first match against Percy Hedley A. PACE’s opponents were a young team and PACE kept calm, collecting points strongly throughout the match. The final score line reflected this with PACE winning 14-2 after a strong performance from the whole team.
PACE’s second match against Blackpool Boccia. After such a big win PACE were feeling bullish, but also knew that there was a long way to go. Their opponents for the second match were a strong and powerful team who liked to play long. PACE had prepared for this situation, utilising key players Jamie Keat and Reshad Saraj for the long game. The final score was 9-2 to PACE A; this was a big psychological victory for PACE A, it proved that they could compete with teams that like to go long and be aggressive, which is where we’ve been undone in the past.
After a fifteen minute break, PACE were back at it again preparing for their third and final match of the group stage against Surrey Sportsable. This match was very close; their opponents were a team that are experienced and their team captain was Penny Froude, a BC4 England international. Her tactical experience of the game battling against PACE’s game plan led to an incredibly tight affair. PACE narrowly lost the match 7-6.
Even though pace lost their last match, they still went through on points, thanks to the 14-2 and 9-2 score lines. PACE had never before managed to get past a group stage and progress into the quarter-finals. They had no time to dwell on this achievement; they headed straight into the match with Sheffield City Rebels. This match will go down as one of the tensest Boccia matches ever. It had everything, controversial refereeing decisions, disrupted ends, a dramatic comeback, and to top it off, a nail-biting tie-break. The final score was 7-7 with PACE A winning the tie-break. The team showed tremendous character and resilience to come back from a 5-0 deficit after the first end and win.
After such a demanding match both physically and mentally, the team had very little time to compose themselves and reset. This showed in the semi-finals as PACE’s demanding schedule seemed to catch up to them, however PACE had a slight advantage in that the opponents team had two players instead of the usual three. Even so it was still a difficult match, with the opponents going long on their ends. PACE were 6-3 down going into the last end, something dramatic needed to happen. PACE took a quick time out to discuss their new strategy, playing close to the side, forcing the opponent to play their shots and then knocking the Jack ball off court. The plan hinged on this one shot. Knocking the Jack ball of court resets it in the middle leaving a wide open space to score big points. This is a risky strategy with every shot having to be accurate. The responsibility of knocking the Jack ball off court fell to Jamie; if he missed PACE wouldn’t have been able to accumulate enough points to win the match. Fortunately Jamie succeeded with a fantastic knock-off shot allowing Alex and Reshad to score the points needed to advance to the final. The final score was 7-6 to PACE.
Heading to the final, PACE had no break as the competition schedule was overrunning. This affected the match in a big way. In the second end PACE were forced to make a substitution subbing Reshad off for Ramandeep. This changed PACE’S game plan which was working for them up to this point. Again though, the team showed great character to deal with the setbacks. Ramandeep who was on the side lines for most of the day did incredibly well to come into the final of a big competition and perform to her top standard. It was a tense and close final with the score being tied 3-3. At this point in the day, it was 19.00pm; most of the other teams in the competition had gone home. PACE had been playing for 10 hours straight and this was the most important end in PACE’s history. PACE won the coin toss and chose to throw first. The Jack ball was placed in the middle and Ramandeep played the first shot. It was not only the best shot of her career but the shot that won PACE the trophy. Her first shot touched the Jack blocking the other team completely. The opponents tried but failed to knock Ramandeep’s ball off the Jack and when the paddle turned, Alex sensible forfeited the remaining PACE balls.
PACE had won the tie break and we were crowned the Boccia National League Champions. In doing this, they have gained qualification to Next Year’s Boccia Super League competition.
Alex Dukes – 9/10
Alex led the team and put himself at the forefront of all the decision making, managing his team-mates on court, making the tough calls, taking responsibility and leading by example. Alex combined his leadership with a very strong performance on court, executing the majority of his shots.
Reshad Saraj – 8/10
A very strong performance from one of our most experienced players, demonstrated maturity to re-focus on court when the momentum and decisions were going against us. Executed critical shots in the knockout stages to keep the team progressing and shared his experience and insight with his team-mates.
Jamie Keat – 10/10
The player of the tournament. Jamie asserted himself on court, and on numerous occasions was tasked to play the critical shot, which he never missed. Despite being so young, Jamie has added tactical awareness to his game and has fully justified his position in the PACE A starting line up.
Ramandeep Mann – 8/10
Motivated and reliable, Ramandeep made a huge impact on the tournament. Having played the first game, she patiently waited for her next opportunity which came in the final of the competition. Fresh and hungry for success, Ramandeep was the key player in the final, executing the critical championship-winning shot under intense pressure.