London Academy are the big winners at the National Schools Team Finals

London Academy walked off with an unprecedented trophy haul at this year’s Butterfly Schools Team Finals, held in Wolverhampton on Sunday 28th Of April.

Half way through Sunday’s event, I was approached by a parent from Nottingham’s Toot Hill School. They were looking around the hall in disbelief at the sea of Red and Black shirts. “Are all these teams from the same school?”, she asked. When I told her that they were she shook her head. “How is that even possible?”

That’s a good question. To put it into perspective you have to look at the competition. Only two other schools managed to bring two teams to the event. Every other school could just manage one, every other school apart from London Academy, who brought six.

And those six teams weren’t there just to make up the numbers. They were there to compete with the best the country has to offer. The National Schools Finals are the culmination of a long hard road. Every team has to get through the North London Finals; the London and Essex Finals; and then the Regional Finals before they can even think about going to Wolverhampton for the National Finals.

Under 11 Girls Champions

Last year a group of five friends came out of nowhere to give London Academy their first ever primary national trophy. This time around the three eldest had moved up to the Under 13 bracket, leaving Serene Rahmani-Walentynska and Ruby Gandi Bamidele as the core of a new squad. These two vastly improved players were joined by Naomi Adjei and Alexia Ciobanica in defending their title. Eventually, after two wins in their opening ties, only old rivals Fox Primary stood in their way.

Serene and Ruby won their opening matches convincingly. Alexia did the same and when Ruby and Serene teamed up in the doubles to make it 4-0 London Academy had retained their title.

Girls Under 13

Having moved up from the Under 11s, Soraya Rahmani-Walentynska, and Assil Sarri, were joined by Shriya Nimse (who had bravely stepped in to replaced the departed Inayah Zasella).

They were pushed hard by local rivals St Marylebone CE who took then to the very last match of the day,between Assil and Eva Yared. In the end The LA No.2 proved far too strong for her opponent and took the match in straight sets, giving London Academy their second gold of the day.

Girls Under 16

Sienna Jetha, Mauli Shah and Alisha Dutta went to Wolverhampton as holders of the Mick Betts Memorial Cup but a slow start against eventual winners, Charles Read Academy saw them needing to win both of their remaining matches to secure second place.

They showed a lot of character to bounce back against former champions, St George’s Catholic School 6-1, despite an early disappointment when Jonabel Taguibao beat Mauli Shah in the fifth set. A comprehensive 7-0 win over Toot Hill meant that the girls took Silver on the day.

Boys Under 11

The Boys Under 11 squad has completely rebuilt itself in the space of a year. Zach Sarri is the only remaining player from last year and he now leads a rapidly improving team alongside, Rafi Hanzel Wacker, Dominic Rimmy, and Nicholas Andrei.

This may have been a year too soon for this team, as they lost out to the more experienced players from Fox Primary. Despite going down 5-3 in the decider, this emerging group of players put fox under a lot of pressure, with a couple of narrow 5 set losses proving crucial in the end. They will be back hunting for Gold next year.

Boys Under 13

Yacoub Rahmani-Walentynska, Adam Riadi, Connor Godley, Stefan Pop and Lewis Macsween went into the final determined to make up for the previous year’s disappointment in the Under 11s. They were in no mood to lose again and won the T Austin Harrison Cup for the loss of only two games throughout the day, giving London Academy a clean sweep of the U13 bracket.

Boys Under 16

Like the Under 16 Girls, the Boys went to Wolverhampton trying to retain their title and they came to within one tie of doing so.

After two wins over schools from Plymouth and Peterborough, the older boys faced off against Charles Read Academy for the title. Despite a number of hard fought and close encounters, the London boys lost out to their Grantham rivals 5-2.

This meant that London Academy’s final haul was 3 trophies and three runners-up medals, a set of honours that no other school in the country has come close to.

London Academy is now the premier table tennis school in England. No other school produces the quantity and quality of players that the Edgware giants do. And now we have the silverware to prove it.