The year drew to a close with one of the most swashbuckling and intense squash matches ever.
The occasion wasn’t the World Chamiponship final in Manchester, but the Galashiels Ladies Squash Championship Final, a few miles north.
Two-time champion Rachel McAleese was facing Kerri Andrews, in her debut season.
Rachel hadn’t had a smooth title defence on her way to the final.
Sandra Frizzell fought valiantly in a 3-1 semi-final, whereas Kerri had swept Joy Dawson aside 3-0 in a more straightforward win.
Kerri exploded out of the blocks, with several deft serves which found the side wall, and ran off to a 6-0 advantage before Rachel managed a cross-court return.
With Rachel having the hand (serve), Kerri didn’t have much more to her game and Rachel pulled it back to 6-5.
But, as soon as Kerri got the hand back, her serves proved key, as not too many rallies ensued and Kerri won the first 15-6.
The second game was a lot closer, as Rachel played the returns slightly earlier to produce cross-court drop shots.
Then, at 6-6, Kerri got the hand and again produced several aces to go up 11-6, which was too much for Rachel to claw back and Kerri went to 2-0 with a 15-12.
Rachel composed herself during the break and came back more focused. In the third, Rachel bossed the rallies and the game was exciting, as the different styles were evident.
Kerri displayed more power and lobs, while Rachel was more graceful in her court movement and picking where to play her shots.
Rachel led all the way in this game, although she had five game points at 14-9 and was brought back to 14-14.
Rachel adjusted to using drop shots and took it 16-14.
Neither player was wilting and although the game was close, rallies were long and fast. It was 9-8 to Kerri before Rachel started dropping her racket slightly and hitting the tin on key points in the rallies.
Rachel couldn’t rescue the tie as Kerri took this one 15-10 and won the title 3-1.
Kerri said: “I’m exhausted. I didn’t know what to expect, as I’d never seen Rachel play. I’m so chuffed, as I’ve never won anything before.”
Match umpire and Gala club captain Del Sharratt said: “It’s good to see the newer members coming through. That’s the gents and ladies’ titles both won by debutants this season. The competition in the club is thriving as more members are joining and, indeed, some old faces re-joining. This makes for an exciting future at the club.”