Sophie Barcsai travelled to Strasbourg for the European Mini Cadet Championships with dad Lazlo and coach Ken Macleod. Sophie trains both at Waterside TTC with Ken Macleod and Bournemouth Sports Club with Rowden Fullen.

At the Euro Mini Championships there are two age categories, U11 and U12, with Sophie competing in the U11 Championship (she is actually an Under 10 so qualifies to play in this same category next year). The format for the championships is 3 group stages to decide who progresses into the elite last 32 stage and who will move into the consolation event.

Sophie started her campaign on Table 1 with two 3-0 wins against Nina Guo Zheng (Normandy FRANCE) and Sofia Minurri (ITALY)

The two wins in Stage 1 group 11 meant Sophie went through to Stage 2 as group winner where she met Julia Bragina (ESTONIA) and Maelys Messe (Brittany FRANCE). Sofie was in determined mood and notched up two more 3-0 wins without being seriously challenged.

Stage 3 arrived at 12:45 on table 19 and Sophie faced another Normandy player Lola Douine (Normandy FRANCE) as well as Candela Montero (SPAIN). Sophie dispatched Candela Montero 3-0 in the first match of the group then faced Lola Douine in the second match. Lola proved to be a stronger player than her compatriot from Normandy Sophie had played in the 1st Stage. Lola went 1-0 down but levelled the match at 1-1, from there however Sophie stamped her authority on the match and closed it out 11-3, 11-3. Winning her stage 3 group ensured Sophie progressed into the last 32 as group winner.

At 5pm Sophie played Joana Pinto (PORTUGAL) in the last 32 with the winner to progress to the round of 16. This was an electrifying match with the balance of power swinging one way then the other. Joana took the first end 11-6 before Sophie levelled proceedings winning 11-8 in the second end. Joana re-established her lead in game 3 with a strong 11-3 performance, that however did not deter Sophie who responded with an equally emphatic 11-5 win in game 4. The match went into the 5th and final end, leaving dad Lazlo jumping about in his seat. 10-10 at the end of the 5th set did nothing to calm Lazlo’s nerves, Sophie secured her place in the final 16 taking the next two points.

The opponent in the last 16 was yet another French girl, Gaetane Bled (FRANCE). Gaetane had been impressive in the previous rounds and her powerful physique and spin reverse pimples were a challenge for Sophie. Sophie fought hard to the last point but she simply did not have the movement or consistent enough forehand attack to go through the resilient Gaetane. The French girl beat Sophie 3-0 and progressed to the quarter finals. It should be noted that Gaetane would eventually take the silver medal only losing to a Japanese girl in the final (Japan were appearing as a guest country).

On Saturday morning Sophie now entered a phase of the competition where she would play for positions 9 through to 16. This was not just a matter of pride or placement there was a prize at stake, a top 12 finish would result in an invitation to the Minime U11 Masters Tournament in Liege, Belgium in October.

Sophie played Malenka Balcou Muller (Brittany FRANCE) with the winner going through to play for positions 9-12. It is always difficult to play immediately after a loss which both girls had just encountered. Which one of them could recover and reach the top 12. Sophie started strongly taking the first end 11-4. The second set was hard fought and Malenka was at 10-10 before Sophie took the crucial next two points to establish a 2-0 lead. It was not easy but Sophie closed out the 3rd end 11-8 and secured her top 12 finish and the invitation to the Minime Masters.

Sophie’s day was still not done though as she was now faced Julia Leal (PORTUGAL). The winner of this match would progress to play for position 9 or 10 while the loser would contest positions 11 and 12. This time with with a top 12 finish secured the challenge was to reach the top 10 in Europe’s premier tournament for U11’s. Sophie started strongly winning the first end 11-5 before Julia levelled the score by taking a close second end 13-11. This was a battle and Sophie did not back down end 3 went Sophie’s way 11-8 and the challenge from Julia went out in the 4th as Sophie secured a top 10 finish 11-6.

The last match of the event for Sophie was the playoff for position 9 or 10 against Faustyna Stefanska (GERMANY). Faustyna started strongly and continued in that mode and despite Sophie’s best efforts secured position 9 with a 3-0 win.

In summary, it was an excellent event for Sophie finishing 10th in the European Championships. The Hungarian national coaches, Ken, Rowden and dad Lazlo were very happy with this strong performance. Now starts the preparations for the Minime Masters in Belgium.