Scotland have been named as one of the joint 5/8 seeds in the team event at the European Junior Championships, to be held in Tallinn, Estonia, from 7-16 September 2018.
A strong squad comprising four members of last year’s U17 European bronze medal winning team will start their Group 8 campaign against Croatia on 7 September before playing both Poland and the Netherlands on 8 September and Romania on 9 September.
Joshua Apiliga (Glasgow), Adam Pringle (Giffnock), Rachel Andrew (Edinburgh) and Rachel Sugden (Alexandria) were key members of the U17 squad that won bronze in the team event last year in Poland while Pringle and Andrew also won mixed doubles bronze in the individual events.
Christopher and Matthew Grimley (both Glasgow), who narrowly missed out on a medal of their own in the U19 Europeans last year, as well as Lauren Middleton (Dundee) and Sarah Sidebottom (Rothesay) complete the team and Coach Robert Blair confirmed he is happy with the strength of the squad:
“The young players have done well over the last year to get in a position with their individual rankings so that we managed to get a seeding position in the team event.
“We have some good players. The twins Matthew and Christopher are two of the best players in the doubles and singles events so hopefully they can help inspire some of the younger players who are also doing quite well and I think we have a solid team throughout.”
Last year a 5-0 victory over Portugal and a 4-1 win against the Netherlands were not enough to take Scotland into the knockout stages after defeats by Spain 3-2 and Bulgaria 4-1 and Blair is only too aware of the challenge facing his young squad again this year:
“We had a tough group last year with Spain and Netherlands and Bulgaria in our group, so four teams of quite an equal standard, but we came through and had a good win against the Netherlands.
“There are some quite big teams this year and with the Netherlands in our group again that could be difficult as they are normally a good standard.
“But our players have performed well over the year and we are seeded for a reason so hopefully we can go in with confidence and look to progress through our group and try and trouble some of the big teams later in the tournament.”
Denmark are top seeds ahead of France, with Russia and England joint 3/4 seeds and Germany, Czech Republic and Turkey the other 5/8 seeds.
Although Scotland didn’t make it out of the group stages of the team event last year, Alex Dunn and Eleanor O’Donnell won an inspired silver medal in the mixed doubles of the individual events and Blair is confident his young squad can challenge for individual honours once again this year:
“I think we are looking quite good” he said. “The big chance is for Christopher and Matthew in the doubles and they should go in as top seeds.
“They had the experience of fighting for medals last year and unfortunately they just got pipped at the end but there are a few events where it is quite open.
“The men’s singles will be quite strong but Christopher should get a good seeded position that would give him a chance to fight for a medal and mixed is sometimes a good opportunity so hopefully we will be in there fighting for one or two medals come the end of the tournament.”
The team event takes place from from 7-11 September 2018 followed by the individual events from 11-16 September.