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Sophie Earley shines at The World Hopes, Alicante,  2018

10 August 2018

Sophie Earley shines at The World Hopes, Alicante,  2018

Over the past week, Sophie Earley from Ormeau Table Tennis club has been representing Ireland at the World Hopes in Alicante, Spain. Sophie qualified for this event by attending the European Hopes challenge in Luxembourg in April. Sophie impressed the ITTF coaches very much and recorded the highest European evaluation which qualified her for the world hopes in Alicante.

The world hopes program holds significant importance to any high-performance player under the ages of 12 as a small number of players will qualify to compete for the world hopes team in the world cadet challenge in Japan in October. Over the week Sophie and coach Gervis Knox spent many hours in the training hall fine-tuning and working on her game putting in just under 6 hours each day on the table. Feedback from the ITTF coaches Japan’s Takashi Watanabe and Slovenia’s Joze Urh was very positive and complimentary leaving them impressed with her improvements in the past year.

Overall all the world hopes comprises of 16 of the best boys and girls from around the world who have qualified through the European, Oceania, Asian, North American or South American hopes week. After 6 days of training, it was time to put the training into a competitive environment and the World Hopes Challenge started on the Sunday with Sophie going in as number two seed after a great performance on Thursday's test tournament.

Group Stage

Sophie at number two seed was put into a group of four players. The first match of the day was against Melendez from Peurto Rico with Sophie starting a little slow and hesitant she manages to come through this match 3-1. Next up in the second match was against Arellano from Ecuador where she raised her level from the previous game and won convincingly 3-0 showing good form and attitude. The final match of the group to keep her number two seeding was against a tricky opponent Tayapitak from Thailand. This match was always going to be tough as the girl from Thailand plays very strong both sides and also hold herself very close to the table and hence difficult to make winners. Sophie showing her class was able to adjust her game and start to change the pace and make many winners using wide angles. Sophie after a long game stepped it up and won finishing with a strong fifth set.

Last 16

Next up for Sophie was the knockout stages where she was up against it drawing a strong girl Baiasu from Romania. Romanian have always been a European powerhouse in Table tennis producing many current champions. This did not phase Sophie and went into the match confident getting better each round she played. After two very close rounds that finished in deuce points, Sophie took the lead 2-0. In the third set, the flow was with her and she was able to close out the match 3-0.

Quarter Final

After a good match with the Romanian girl, Sophie was the last European girl standing in the main event. Next up for her was Cux Tiriquiz from Guatemala who she played on the Thursday test event. Gervis was very happy how Sophie's game was improving round by round and in the quarters she put in a clinical display of table tennis winning comfortably 3-0

Semi-Final

Semifinal of the event seen Sophie face Egypt's Hana Goda who was showing impressive form through the event by beating one of the favourites Saini Suhaa from India 3-0 in the quarterfinals! Sophie came out in the semi-final strong winning the first game 11-4 but Hana hit back in the second winning 11-6. Sophie again before the third set composed herself and got herself a good start in the third and seeing her playing some fabulous winning shots took the set 11-5. Again as we have seen many times from Hana in the tournament she is a massive fighter and came back strong winning the fourth set 11-7. Now with both girls showing good form the fifth set was set for a nailbiting finish where Sophie came out like a warrior and lead all the way through the fifth to lead 9-6. After some great play from Hana, she eventually closed the game to 9-8 with Gervis now calling a timeout on Sophie's service. Sophie composed went back on the table winning the next ball leaving the score 10-8 and two match points. Somehow in this next point, Hana kept herself in a massive rally and took the point giving her massive confidence to level the game 10-10 in the fifth set! With tension and nerves high Sophie again pulled it together and took the next point to leave it 11-10 but again Hana got back in the game levelling the set 11-11. Now with momentum, a little with Hana but Sophie playing unbelievable table tennis with massive rallies Hana showed some class and held the next two points giving her the match 13-11 in an epic fifth set! Sophie could not have thrown much more into this game and showed her class throughout! 

Bronze Medal Match 

The final game of the day for Sophie was difficult as it was not easy for her taking this loss but again showed her character by bouncing back quickly and came out in the very first point pumped (With a massive Cho) against the American Emily Tan. First set was very nip and tuck with Sophie winning 12-10, Emily fired back winning the second 11-9 but Sophie started to fight as a Medal at the World Hope means the world to her and she won the next two sets 11-8 and 12-10!

Finishing the tournament on a high by winning her last match and now giving herself a massive chance to qualify for the World Cadet Challenge in Japan in October. Coach Gervis said "After seeing Sophie putting in many top class European performances this semi-final was one of the best in terms of level and the high quality of points played! Think she has given herself a massive chance to qualify for Japan and we now just have to wait for the team selections!" 

From all of Table Tennis Ireland, we are very proud of Sophie's achievements and we wish her all the best in the World Hopes Selections which should be announced in the next couple of days! 

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