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County's youngsters braced for battle of Britain

TENNIS by Jackie Thorley

STAFFORDSHIRE under-14 girls are preparing to challenge some of the best sides in Britain this week in Group Two of the LTA inter-county cup. The youngsters will travel to Aldershot, where they expect to face a tough task against Surrey, Sussex and Nottinghamshire in the three-day national competition, which Kicks off on Saturday. Meanwhile, Staffs under-14 boys are tipped to clinch promotion for the second year running in their Group Four campaign in Ripon. Eleven-year-old Betley hotshot Ben Stannard will join the line-up alongside Uttoxeter's Jamie Muirhead, Adam Woodall (Stourbridge) and Wolverhampton players Henry Parocki, Matthew Hingley and Duncan Keir. Their opponents will include North Scotland, Lincolnshire and Berkshire and county performance officer Stuart Twigg is confident his Staffs team will nail the top slot. "These lads will be looking towards promotion, unless one of the other teams unexpectedly comes up with some superb players," said Twigg. "We have a very solid squad all the way through and although one or two of them are quite young to be in this age group, they are ranked highly in Britain in the under-12s."

Twelve-year-old Basford junior Amy Ellis will fly the flag for North Staffordshire in the girls' line-up. The Newcastle-under-Lyme School pupil will be joined by Wolverhampton's Hayley Marshall, Grace Baker, Cassidy Crawford, Katie Woodbine and Rebecca Tennant. High expectations rested on last year's team, which delivered the goods by capturing promotion for the second year on the bounce. Several nationally ranked players who were in the successful lineup have moved into an older age group, leaving younger girls to fill their places. The under-14 girls have never competed at such a high level and Twigg believes their main target will be to keep a foothold in the group. Twigg said: "Over the last two or three years our side has included three British top-10 players. We started in a low group and worked our way up to Group Two, which is fantastic. "However, it leaves the new younger players with the difficult task of coming into the side in an extremely high division."

Sentinel, 01 May 2007
Courtesy of The Sentinel News & Media

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