Monday, April 14, 2014

A CANADIAN TSUNAMI


Cross Border Challenge - April 12

A record 28 matches for the 15th Cross Border Challenge was an excellent way to welcome in the summer months as we approach the end of the season... and wait for the snow due on Tuesday! I mean, why not have at least one more snow fall to remind us what a wonderfully frigid winter we’ve had and not to get too comfortable. Mother Nature is mean old b...

A number of firsts were attached to this record breaking day as well: 1. We emptied the keg. Surprising as that may sound since we empty a lot of kegs, this is actually the first keg we’ve destroyed at a Cross Border. It’s what happens with 60 plus people I guess. 2. We won all 4 doubles matches. Either we are getting better, or they are getting worse. Either way, going 4 for 4 is miraculous. 3. Mike Counsman didn’t have one beer all day. Haha haha! Sorry, couldn’t write that with straight face! 4. Team uniforms were ordered - sort of. You can see from the photo what a few of the DAC players donned for the day. Brave? Yep. Could be a good tradition to start... let’s get patriotic!

Need I say more?
It appeared nothing could stop the Canadians on this particular day. Not even the American Border Police as they stopped, searched, probed, scrutinized, poked, jabbed, and explored all cavities, creases, and compartments of their... belongings. Who knows what they were looking for but eventually they allowed them to continue on to the DAC with their balls and racquets in tact to take out the embarrassing episode on our players.

The inflicting pain started immediately. Niko Ahee and John Mann both couldn’t get anything going, struggling to keep up with the pace and length of their opponents, and they rolled over 3-0.  Dave Devine went a little better and admitted he performed well but his opponent - Ty Stacyszyn - simply outplayed him and he went down 3-1. Our lone victor in the first round of singles matches came at the hands of Mike LoVasco who did it tough to scrape through in 5 sets over Adam Pole.

The second round of singles matches were not something the DAC wants to remember. If goose eggs were a currency, we’d be able to afford a new court center after Saturday. Made of gold. All four of our lads came off the court chewing on sour donuts, big fat zeros splattered the DAC score line. The Canuck tsunami was hitting us hard.

A better spread of results followed however as we tried to climb out of the wet, slippery crater we had found ourselves in. Matt DiDio and Dane Fossee returned the 3-0 favor making quick work of their opponents and at that juncture, we were still within reach of Windsor down 7 matches to 5. (Including the 2 doubles victories we had chalked up). And we were very close to tying it up. Unfortunately, the next 2 results fell onto Windsor’s side - both tight 3-2 wins. One of our almost-wins was Sante Fratarcangeli, who I of course have to mention based solely on outfit alone. If points were awarded on appearance, we either should have won in a landslide or be disqualified immediately depending on which side of the fashion sense you lie. It was so wrong, it was right. Only Sante could pull it off.

We were now 9 matches to 6 down after our third doubles victory. Still in the hunt, especially with 13 matches yet to play. Derek Aguirre pulled another one back with a comprehensive 3-0 drumming over an opponent he lost to in 5 games at the Cross Border a year ago. It was gearing up to be an exciting finish... and then... POP!

Craig Guthrie and Peter Logan.
Two giants of the Michigan
Squash world.
The DAC bubble burst. After we had picked up the fourth and final doubles match, it was the last sweet taste of victory we would receive for the afternoon. Windsor decided to assault us from every angle and the abuse didn’t let up. At least we weren’t bageled in all the matches, so the chastising in many cases was slow as well. Dino DeMare almost begged for the defibrillator after his 3-2 loss, lucky for him the keg still had some beer left and that seemed to do the trick just as well (if not better). The losses kept on piling up and it wasn’t long before retaining the Cross Border title was out of our reach.

The final match of the day had Peter Logan play his long time buddy Craig Guthrie. It was a great match to finish with; these two have a long history of going back and forth. Peter especially likes playing Craig since he is one of the very few opponents that is actually shorter than him that isn’t a junior! Some fantastic rallies, great court coverage, delicate touch, both players used all four corners well. Craig, however, ended up being the steadier in the 5th game, his length slightly more consistent, and amidst the chant of ‘one more game’, he walked off the 3-2 winner.

When we were able regain our senses from the clobbering we just endured and shake off the twinkling stars floating above our heads, I humbly handed over the trophy. The 20-8 final score was rather conclusive to say the least. They deserved it. Our winning streak of 4 Cross Border victories was broken, but we all had a great day. We’ll be back at it to start a new streak in September - another winning streak, that is.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

MY FIRST DOUBLES TOURNAMENT


Canadian Nationals Doubles~~

That was certainly a new experience for me. I am not a doubles player. In Australia, hardball doubles does not exist, nor does it exist (as far as I know) in Europe. I had never even seen it before moving to North America. After 12 plus years here, I understand (more or less) the tactic of the game, recognize that it isn’t quite like singles, and the technique required to be an effective player is a little different. Unfortunately, after 37 years of pure singles, adapting to what was needed proved to be somewhat challenging. My forehand crosscourt roll drop shot wasn’t quite as effective here…

My partner was Rob Doherty from London, Ontario. You may recognize the name since he is a regular at our DAC Classic. A very good left-waller, he has been bugging me for quite a while now to play a doubles tournament with him, and the Canadian Nationals just happened to land on a convenient weekend so thought I’d take the plunge and head to Toronto for the 40+ category with him and see what all the fuss was about. Why not initiate myself with one of the toughest tournaments out there?

The event was hosted by the Granite Club. It’s a massive (beautiful) facility that has 2 doubles courts side by side with a reasonable amount of space for viewing, both from behind the glass back wall and from a mezzanine level. But with over 250 entries for the event, a total of 8 clubs were needed to accommodate the amount of matches. We regrettably did not get to play at the Granite Club, we would have had to have won our first match for that pleasure, and as you can now tell, we did not.

Our rude awakening came at the hands of Chris Deratny and Patrick Ryding. Patrick is the head squash pro at the Toronto Cricket Club – another behemoth of a club with 2 doubles courts and 5 singles. (They are also starting construction of a third doubles court plus another 1 or 2 singles…) Chris and Patrick are doubles experts, were probably strong enough to actually play the Open category rather than the 40+. Chris played the left wall and hit the ball from cannon I’m sure he had hidden under his shirt. Patrick didn’t display the same power, but that didn’t stop him from being just as dangerous with his racquet. Visibly, I was not prepared for what came our way. The two moved around the court smoothly and had little trouble finding the right angles at the right time, taking full advantage of our (my) poor court positioning. On the positive side, Rob and I improved every game against them, and the third was a respectable 15-13 loss, we even had the lead 11-10 at one point. We were not expected to win that match, but overall we were happy with how we performed. On to the consolation draw.

Our first cons match was at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RCYC). They only house 1 doubles court (poor people!) and 5 singles, and admittedly it wasn’t as pristine as the other 2 clubs we’d seen so far. No complaints, of course, but I would have liked the steam room to be working after the match we endured! Rob and I started off like a bull out of the gate. We gained a healthy first game lead and closed it out comfortably. The second game was the reverse. We struggled to keep the ball out of the tin, and our opponents hustled well. Andrew, their left-waller, ran down some balls into the back corner that we thought were 100% winners. Their persistence paid off for them. The ‘real’ battle started in the third. Small momentum runs for both teams, but neither of us could actually establish or assert certain dominance. At 14-all, a Rob Doherty boast winner snagged us the game and the 2-1 lead. The fourth was virtually another snap shot of the third. Back and forth we went – again to 14-all. This time, a Mick Joint boast tin handed them the game to even it up at 2 games apiece. In my (pathetic) defense, if the boast didn’t hit the tin, it would have given us the match. I learnt over the weekend that you simply have to go for your shots. If the angle is open – just hit the darn thing. The fifth game had the same drama – and the same score line. Once again it was 14-all, and once again it was Rob to the rescue with a backhand boast winner for the match! By now, after 2 matches of doubles, my body was getting rather achy.

The cons final saw us back at the Cricket Club. Our opponents didn’t have the power to blast us off the court, and for a lot of the match, they played a basic defensive approach of lobbing soft length and waiting patiently for an opening to slot the angle. That tactic worked as well. Rob and I again fell into to trap of trying a little too hard and too early, and we found the tin all too often. Frustration kicked in when we found ourselves 2-0 down. We knew we could beat these guys. We started to pick it up in the third and fourth – started to find the right angles, moved up the court a little better, started counter dropping a lot of their short attacks. It seemed to unsettle them a little as they too began to catch the dreaded ‘tin’ disease. Taking it to a 5th game, we played tightly to about 9-all and then we got a solid run for a 14-11 match point score. We butchered the first two opportunities, but good ol’ reliable Rob set the record straight with the winner for a 15-13 in the 5th victory! So we ended up winning the consolation – a satisfying result and one we thought we could achieve.

My general thoughts of the event were by and large positive. Everyone we met was extremely friendly and social. It was that portion of the weekend that made the trip worth it. Because I didn’t think the tournament was great value for money. For an entry fee of $175 per person (so that’s $350 per team), I expected more than the one function, 3 drink tickets, and the bath robe entry gift. I realize we are spoilt at the DAC for our Classic, but I have played other Nationals before with a better bang for your buck. A not that it is all that important, but we didn’t receive anything for winning the cons draw either. It’s the small things…

I was surprisingly sore as well. I knew (and expected) my shoulder to be in a lot of pain – it was – but I didn’t expect that pain to extend all the way through my stomach muscles and hips. I guess all that extras effort one provides to crack the ball as hard as you can – very often on overhead volleys – takes its toll. It didn’t help that I dove for a ball on the third rally of the first match and scraped my knee (plus, I missed the shot, so it was a useless dive on top of it!), managed to smack my own ankle with my racquet in the second match and then thwack my own calf in the third! If one’s body is one’s temple, then mine was a pile of decrepit ruins!

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I had a great weekend – winning the cons draw certainly helped that – but just hanging out meeting people and experiencing the doubles the way it should be played was a fantastic learning experience. Toronto must be one of the biggest communities of doubles players in the world (if not the biggest) – there was no better place to host it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

BOSSES OF THE BOASTERS


Boasters League final~~
 
Last week I mentioned that the “Butter Nutz” hammered “Foss Nation” during the season by an embarrassing 20 points. I was hoping their rematch for the Boasters League final would bring the teams closer together, ideally from my perspective that it would come down to the final game of the final match… just like the winning grand slam being smacked in the World Series Game 7, bottom of the ninth, 2 out, down by 3 runs…

Alas, we didn’t have such drama, but it was closer – a lot closer. Could “Foss Nation” pull off the upset? They were up against it from the get go when they had one player requiring a sub and another falling ill the day before the matches. In a night where every point is vitally important, picking up only 12 (of 15) bonus points hurt them. “Butter Nutz” also were one player short, but their other 14 players all turned up. In other words, “Butter Nutz” had a 2 point lead even before a ball needed to be hit.

It was an evening of 3-0 results. Cathy Lysack got the ball rolling for the “Butter Nutz” early as she continues her recent excellent form taking care of “Foss Nation” captain Sean Fossee 3-0. Cathy has definitely turned herself into a contender for the 3.5 Club Champ title coming up in April.

Foss Nation’sBrendan Fossee then evened the tally as his speed and retrieval abilities were a little too much for Marc Lakin beating him 3-0. The “Butter Nutz” then took charge. Both JC Tibbitts and Tom Bejin picked up all 3 games and when Julie Vande Vusse turned in her 3-0 result, “Foss Nation” was looking like they were on shaky ground. But there were still plenty of matches to come and the comeback had already started.

Andrew Walawender and Nick Cinqueranelli
Mike Rock was in charge the whole way as he collected a 3-0 win over “Butter Nutz’Doug Troszak, James Van Dyke overcame the problematic styling of Jerry Rock to pick up a much needed 3 points as well and when Andrew Walawender pulled out a suprising-ish 3-0 against Nick Cinqeranelli,”Foss Nation” had crawled out of the hole they were just one hour before in, and found themselves only a handful of points back.

Only 4 of the matches ended up 2-1. Dane Fossee (“Foss Nation”) v Bob “Pinball” Rogers was one of them – as you’d really expect between these two. The art of making the 600+ square feet of the court look like 1200+ square feet, Bob bounces of the walls like a WWE wrestler off the ropes, springing back into the arena for more punishment. Dane is no stranger to scurrying around the court either (as I am more than happy to exploit during cruel ‘Challenge the Pro’ sessions eh, Dane?) and even though the league match is only 3 games, when they walked off the court at the end, it was as if they had just completed the Hawaiian Triathlon. For the record, Dane won 2-1.

Andy Petcoff and John 'I'm The' Mann
An entertaining affair between Andy Petcoff (“Butter Nutz”) and John Mann later in the evening encouraged the most crowd involvement. Many eyes were glued to the action as the result had big implications. John really needed to win (obviously a 3-0 score line was preferable here) to keep “Foss Nation’s” hopes alive. He won the first game, but went down in the second. Losing the third would have secured the result for “Butter Nutz”, so desperate situations calls for desperate measures. John clearly has no regard for his body (!) and his frantic, furious, Tasmanian Devil-like effort proved that. In one rally, John did a full body dive for the ball – twice – managed to keep it in play only to lose the point in the end… but the crowd loved it (as did Andy no doubt!) John, though, did win the match and with that 3rd game, “Foss Nation” could survive for a while longer.

With 2 matches to play, 4 points separated the teams. Next on court was Brian Schrage (“Butter Nutz”) and Anthony Kalorgeridis. Brian was favorite to win this match; Anthony would have to play well – and he did. But not quite well enough. He managed to get one game, but losing 2 of them was all the “Butter Nutz” needed. Now with just the final match left, “Butter Nutz” held an unassailable 5 point cushion.

That match was still played the next day – Andy Adamo (“Butter Nutz”) took Scott Adlhoch 3-0. Final score was 38-30, a great competitive effort from both teams.

Congratulations to the 2013-2014 Boasters League winners -- “Butter Nutz”!!



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CAN WE KEEP DOMINATING?


Cross Border Challenge ~ Saturday, April 12 @ DAC

We have all heard the saying that “all good things must come to an end”. I suppose it does, but it doesn’t have to end just yet, right? Surely we can squeeze out one more victory (at least!) over our Canadian buddies to make it five in a row? After all, they took us for seven in a row before we started our roll. Its only fair we returned the favor – in spades.

It’s a little odd that this rivalry has been so streaky. But seven wins in a row is hardly earth shattering stuff. Unlike the rivalries in the real sports world. Even in squash. World number 1 Nick Matthew, for example, holds a 20 match to 5 advantage over his biggest British rival James Willstrop having won their last fifteen encounters! Willstrop – world number 5 – hasn’t recorded a victory over Nick since 2007. Or take Navy Football. They lost to Notre Dame 43 times in a row. But even that pales in comparison to the Washington Generals who haven’t beaten the Harlem Globe Trotters since 1971 – the year I was born. Reports have it that the overall score is over 13,000 wins to the Generals 6. I was actually surprised to read that they had won any at all. Even the Detroit Lions feel like winners compared to that!

We have a long way to go to top 13,000 victories over Windsor, and it would take 6 and half thousand years to do it even if we never lost. Chances are, I won’t be around that long. (John Dunwoody may be, but I won’t… J) Let’s work on one victory at a time. I’m concentrating on 5…

To be a part of the action, all you have to do is e-mail me your interest in playing. It does not matter what playing level you are. Beginner to top club standard. Together with Windsor’s pro Graeme Williams, we will try to match you up with one of their members. Unfortunately, I cannot 100% guarantee an opponent, it will depend on who from Windsor steps up. We need singles players and doubles players. Surely we can get 3 doubles teams together?

Matches will start at 2pm at the DAC. A keg will be available for compulsory consumption. Make sure you oblige. We should be done around 5pm. There is no cost to play. Even if you don’t have a match, come on down and enjoy the crowd, the squash, and the libations. Registration deadline is Monday April 7.

And then we’ll have 12,995 victories to go.

Monday, March 24, 2014

DOUBLES 1-HUNDRED HEROES


Surprisingly, we did not increase the registration numbers from last year for this event. Doubles participation has been up overall so I was expecting more teams to enter. The B draw was larger, but the A draw shrunk to just 6 pairs. Overall, we were 2 players fewer. Happily - and unlike last year - every single match was played. No forfeits awarded and we almost had the entire event finished on time! Some nudging and prodding was required, but everyone complied rather well!

B draw: The reigning B champions once again hooked up to do what no one else has yet managed to do: defend the title. Rich Stimson and Drew Creamer are a strong combination - something they clearly proved in 2013. Rich is a relentless hustler and Drew keeps is steady and clean. It was never going to be easy for them with 15 other couples in the draw, and a few of them had also tasted victory in this event.

A team that had not yet managed to reach the podium’s top spot but have been awfully close - twice - was Joe Moran and Ken Katz. (In fact, they were so close in 2011 when they lost 18-17 in the 5th in the final...) This year did not work out for them so well when they lost first round 3-0 to doubles court rookie Justin Winkelman and his more experienced partner Len MacEachern. Justin and Len then almost pulled out a quarter final upset over 2012’s finalists Mike Petix and John Chouinard but ended up going down in 5 games. Mike and John then met their fate in the semi final as they were steam rolled 3-0 by Rich and Drew. The Stimson / Creamer team were one victory away from retaining their title.

My other ‘favorite’ to won this category was Frank Willard and Tom Shumaker. Two very experienced doubles players, a team that would have to rely on all of that knowledge if they were to win. They were not going to win with power or court speed, they were going to win on anticipation and angles. Smarter - not harder. It was, nonetheless, anything but smooth sailing. Winning their first match was predicted, but they did lose a game to Curt Pedersen and another doubles court greenhorn, Al Iafrate. They then almost faltered in the quarter final but they squeaked by the unpredictable Alan Howard / David Devine team 3-2 before following it up with another 3-1 semi final win against 2012 winner Craig Hupp and his (not 2012) partner Paul Flanagan.

The final was almost just as close as the 2011 epic, although with the rule change coming into effect last year, an 18-17 score line is no longer possible - it could have been 15-14... and it almost got there. It is of course what every tournament yearns for - a 5-set nail biting final which is anyone’s for the taking. Frank and Tom did what they do best - move the ball around the court and forced Rich to do what he does best - run. Drew held as steady as he could and the two teams went back and forth for almost an hour. The difference in the end was the couple of unforced errors that came from the Stimson / Creamer team. Bad timing no doubt but we all know the cost of clipping that tin. The 5th game ended 15-12.

For the 5th year running we have new Doubles 100 champions in the B level: Congratulations to Tom Shumaker and Fred Willard!

The smaller A draw did not produce the competitiveness it really should have. The closest match of the event came in the first round with the Stimson / Creamer team - stepping up from the B draw to try their hand in the A – against Scott Langenburg and Manny Tancer. Rich and Drew held their own pretty well, and managed to sneak a game but steadiness and pace was a little too much and they eventually went down 3-1. Nonetheless, it was a good effort.

Manny and Scott then lost 3-0 to the 2011 winners Peter Logan and Patrick Petz. Peter and Patrick have failed to repeat as champions as they have lost the final in the past 2 years. They were looking at changing that trend this time around. They would, however, have to overcome their Doubles 100 nemeses John Dunwoody and Eric Green to do so.

John Dunwoody, Patrick Petz, Peter Logan, Eric Green
John and Eric also reached the final with a 3-0 win the semi over Mike Skaff and Shail Arora. The final was potentially a great looking match – last year John and Eric beat Petz / Logan in 4 games, 2 of those games going deep into the tie-break. Unfortunately, the 2014 version wouldn’t live up anywhere close to the expectations.

The early morning match was a perfect time for Eric – he thrives better before the sun has even thought about coming up. There wasn’t much Peter and Patrick could do as Dunwoody / Green controlled the game from rally one, not really giving them a sniff. They never lost momentum. It was a quick 3-0, none of the games closer than 15-10.

Let’s put our hands together for our repeat A draw winners Eric Green and John Dunwoody!

Friday, March 21, 2014

SEMI FINALS DOMINATION


Boasters League Semi Finals~~
 
Now that’s what I’m talking about! Participation! An excellent semi finals night with all the matches completed (almost all of them on the day)  is precisely what the league is about. Team members watching and cheering on their fellow team members, courts were full all evening, the atmosphere fun-filled. Results were decided on court and not on bonus points which is also the way it should be – each team had 12 players turn up, except “Foss Nation” which had 13.

Butter Nutz” v “Wardogs”: This was a “Butter Nutz” team that really stepped up to the plate. Four matches were played early in the week and they won all of them. It was a huge head start that they never came even close to relinquishing. In one of the biggest ‘upsets’, Tom Bejin reversed a 0-3 heavy loss to Mike Nihem in round 5 into a rather valuable 2-1 victory for the “Butter Nutz”, winning the first game 15-14 and the third 15-13. Also reversing round 5 fortunes, Julie Vande Vusse turned a 1-2 loss into a 3-0 win against Jim Miller – the “Butter Nutz” were off and running. Hard.

Andrew Spohn continued the ascendancy taking Jon Walton 3-0, Cathy Lysack has found an extra gear with her new squash shoes and took care of Jay Poplawski 2-1 as well, and when Marc Lakin walked off the court a 2-1 winner over Sean Moran, the “Wardogs” were looking down a very long barrel.

Not mathematically out of it, but with only 5 matches remaining at that stage, a full comeback was looking highly improbable. The “Wardogs”, however, did do their best to spoil the “Butter Nutz” party. Paul Ward was too good for Andy Adamo and picked up 3 much needed points, and then James Stuntz kept the dim candle burning just a little longer with his 3-0 win over Brian Schrage. But by the time Nick Cinqueranelli was finished with Colin Bayer, his 2-1 triumph had the “Butter Nutz” into the final. Once the final match of the evening had been completed, it was “Butter Nutz” 40 to “Wardogs” 29.

Winky-Dinks” v “Foss Nation”: It’s never an easy task to arrange a suitable sub for a finals game. Firstly, subs don’t get bonus points, and secondly, I don’t want to find a player who is stronger than the player they are replacing. But, I still want to keep it competitive. Unfortunately, “Winky-Dinks” needed 2 subs for the evening. It wasn’t all bad though, one of them did manage to win. It wasn’t – nevertheless – the reason the “Winky-Dinks” lost.

The loss can be contributed to the fact that the “Winky-Dinks” only won 4 matches of the 15. Outside of the sub (thank you Jim Kelly!), the only 3 winning “Winky-Dinks” were Kevin Prather, Scott Langenburg and Niko Ahee- they all survived their matches 2-1. Another seven “Winky-Dinks” lost 1-2 and 4 of them 0-3. Clearly it was not a good night to be a part of that team, but before you think that they didn’t have a chance from the beginning, when these two teams played back in round 3, “Foss Nation” only beat them by 4 points overall – so if you look at it from that perspective, the 42-28 final score could have (should have?) been a lot closer. “Winky-Dinks” captain Justin Winkelman was disappointed to say the least, but be assured that his team will be back next season and no doubt vying for the title again.

So we have “Butter Nutz” v “Foss Nation” for the all the marbles. These two teams played in round 7 with “Butter Nutz” coming out on top quite convincingly 36-16. From that, you’d have to say that the “Butter Nutz” are heavy favorites going in. Matches start at 5pm – come down and cheer on / support the competitors! Can “Foss Nation” defy the odds?

Monday, March 17, 2014

BACK-TO-BACK BLITZ CHAMP


Blitz Tournament - March 14, 2014

I was a little disappointed with the amount of entries we received for this Blitz Tournament. Two days before the event we had 20 players - which is average - and by the time we started we only had 18. Nothing was taken away from the competitiveness, but I would have liked a few more bodies. I wonder why more people don’t take advantage of the opportunity to get on court with new people - as a couple of members of the 2.5 level mentioned to me, it was a great experience playing against the 4.0 (and up) guys.

Handicapping this event involves a little guess work, a little luck, and a little bit of a spine having to ignore all the complaints. The higher ranked players scream it’s too much, the lower ones not enough. I try to make it relatively difficult for the higher ranked players as they are supposed to win - force them to be very careful on court. Every unforced error carries more weight, every ‘lucky’ winner from their opponent that much more valuable.

Mike Counsman had a tough time in the round robin portion and fell victim to a rough start. He lost his first three matches, including going down to newcomer Steve Boloven 15-13. Steve did a magnificent job at 14-13 digging out a deep forehand for a boast winner catching Mike unawares. Mike did manage to win his last game against Josh Slominski 15-14, but only after saving 3 match balls in the process. Josh decided to live on the edge for his round robin matches. He actually beat Steve Boloven 15-14, but went down to Chuck Doyle in the final match of the group 14-15. That loss forced a ‘drawing of straws’ between Josh and Bert Donovan to see who would advance to the knock-out round. (Chuck won the group.) Lucky for Josh, his loss to Chuck didn’t come back to haunt him - he won the pass ahead.

Matt and Kevin. Lovely.
Matt DiDio earned his advancement winning all of his round robin matches. He escaped with a 15-14 win over Kevin Prather in one of the matches, coming off the court a little relieved because he initially underestimated the big man until he ripped a return of serve for an outright winner half way through. Anil Kathuria also advanced from that group, but not before a close call against Kevin as well - not on the score board (Anil won 15-11), but physically! After missing an “easy” drop shot in the front left corner (no shots are “easy”, right?) Kevin threw his racquet up in despair, only to have the unsuspecting Anil walk right under it at the perfect time and have it clonk on top of his head! No damage done (as far as we can see!), total accident. Good for a laugh, though!

Like Matt, Bob Rogers went undefeated in his group too. Of the six matches played in that group, 3 of the them ended up 15-14. Sudden death points are always exciting, even when the two players are not of the same standard. The crowd certainly tends to get behind the underdog rather strongly. Ted Morris unfortunately was on the wrong end of two of the sudden death rallies, and Sante Fratarcangeli was the winner of the third. That proved to be an important winning rally for Sante - if he had lost that point, Tom Shafer would have advanced to the knock out round instead of him.

Chris Van Tol completed his group going 4 for 4 as well. His was the only group that did not have any matches come down to a 14-14 winner take all rally. The final match of this group would decide who along with Chris would move on to the final draw. Dino DeMare and Dane Fossee battled it out with Dane taking the honors 15-12 after having to give up 6 points handicap at the start.

Of the 8 finalists in the knock-out draw, 2 of them had won it before: Sante and Josh. (Josh has actually won it twice!) Josh’s first opponent was Matt DiDio, I handed Josh 6 points head start. I knew it would be tough for Matt, but as I said earlier - that was the idea. It turned out the handicap was off by about 14 points - in the wrong direction! Matt looked rather lost on court as Josh chopped him up 15-6. In the quote of the day, Matt’s parting words were altogether humorous and unprintable.

Sante’s first game was against Chris Van Tol. No handicap was given here, they played straight up. Good thing too. It was a great game, both players charged around the court not giving the other an inch. Chris kept his nose in front (barely) and look poised to advance when he held a 14-12 lead. But that final point can be the hardest to win, and in fact, he couldn’t win it at all. Sante bullied his way back and stole the victory 15-14.

He kept up that attitude against Josh in the semi. Even with 5 points handicap, and playing pretty solid squash, Josh couldn’t keep the now charging Sante at bay. The rallies between the two were entertaining, quite a few of them were long, but Sante just happened to be a little more steady and patient. He took the game 15-10 and advanced to the final.

Bob and Sante
On the other half, Chuck Doyle entered his first match with 6 points on Dane Fossee. Dane’s tactic worked very well of keep running and force Chuck to keep hitting. Consistency would get Dane through and he took the game 15-10. Dane then played Bob Rogers who’s tactic was exactly the same: Keep running and... keep running and... yeah - keep running. Between them, they took more steps than the million man march. They started at 0-0 (no handicap) and for some reason I forgot to write down what the final score was. Bob got through, and I’m going to say it was a very tight game, could have gone either way... :-)

Finalists Sante and Bob played in the round robin. There, Bob took a 4 point advantage and turned it into a 15-9 win. I wasn’t going to be any kinder to Sante, so I kept the 4 point handicap. It was another impressive, absorbing game. After trading the first half a dozen rallies, Sante caught up relatively quickly and actually held a 8-7 lead. We all thought he would run away with it after that, but stubborn Bob just doesn’t stop doing what he does best: Run. (And bounce off the walls.) When the score gets tight, anything can happen. The two got back to point-swapping. 8-all. 9-all. 10-all. 11-all. A fascinating duel, the crowd was doing a McDonald’s commercial: loving it. 12-all. A 15-14 score line was on the cards and on the hopes of all who were watching, but Sante decided enough was enough. Crack, boom, bang. Thanks for coming. 15-12. Three quick points and it was sadly over.

So Sante pulls out his second consecutive Blitz Tournament victory. (In the 3rd / 4th play-off, Dane snuck out with a 15-13 win over Josh - no handicap - in what was also quite a nail-biting encounter.) Congratulations to Sante and to the finalists, and of course a huge thank you to all the other participants for supporting! Encourage your peers to play the next one!
Most of the Blitz  players!

Friday, March 14, 2014

TOP 4 TEAMS IN THE SEMI


Boasters League Quarter-finals~~

For a change, the play-off seeding held true. It has been rather common that teams have barely managed to scrape into the finals, falling onto the right side of the ‘bubble’ as it were, only to come out in full force once the play-offs start and mow down the opposition. That being said, no team has won the league from the 6th spot on the standings (yet), but no team has won the league from the top spot either since 2010. This time though, the higher seeded teams in the quarter finals proved their worth.

It also must be said, that all four teams on Wednesday scored more bonus points that evening than any of the other rounds during the season. It’s strange (or not) that suddenly players are committed to turning up once the finals come around. At least the matches for the most part were completed. All but 5 of the 30 reported scores.

Vivio’s” v “Wardogs
Both teams picked up 9 bonus points which was a good thing – the winner would be decided on court. Things started out well enough for “Vivio’s” when Todd Baker took care of business in the first match of the day with solid 3-0 win over Steve Murphy. But it didn’t last long. Phil Pitters quickly put “Wardogs” on the score board as he ran out Rich Stimson with a 2-1 victory, and that appeared to open the flood gates a little. Winning scores for the “Wardogs” flowed in – three of them 3-0 – before Paul Flanagan stemmed the tide with a 2-1 win over Jordan Ellis. Playing catch up is always a difficult prospect but “Vivio’s” started to make a charge of their own. Joey Gaylord picked up a 3-0 win against Jon Walton, two of those games went 15-14! Then Josh Gershonowicz proved too strong for Jason Massey and he took a 3-0 win to the bank as well. By the time Friday morning rolled around, there were still 3 matches yet to be played. Mathematically, if “Vivio’s” had played and won them, they would have beaten the “Wardogs”, but you aren’t going to win from the side lines. The “Wardogs” move on with a 30-24 triumph and next week play the “Butter Nutz

Foss Nation” v “Paddy’ Dropshots
Sean Fossee's secret training regime.
Salad and beer. Yummmm
Despite “Paddy’ Dropshots” needing 2 subs for the day, they picked up one more bonus point than “Foss Nation”. Not that it helped them. Like “Vivio’s”,  Paddy’ Dropshots” started off strongly with a 3-0 win, but it didn’t take long before that small lead evaporated and turned into an ever increasing deficit. The trio of Fossees (Sean, Dane and Brendan) dropped only 1 game between them, and when James Van Dyke also scored a 3-0 win, things were looking rather bleak for “Paddy’ Dropshots”. They did get some joy from Joe Danley as he picked up all three games off Chato Hill, but the damage had been done and the point difference insurmountable. With 2 matches to play, unlike the “Vivio’s”, “Paddy’ Dropshots” had zero chance of catching “Foss Nation” who take the 35-27 victory and now face “Winky-Dinks”.

The semi finals should be a very close affair. “Wardogs” played “Butter Nutz” in round 5 and won 24-20 and “Foss Nation” beat the “Winky-Dinks” in round 3 also by 4 points 28-24. In both cases, 3 matches were not done, so the outcome of these match-ups is very much in the air. Will the top seeds get through? Come on down next Wednesday and enjoy the atmosphere!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

PUT YOUR BODY ON THE LINE


2014 Singles Club Championships - Apr 1 – May 1

We all love winning. And we all despise losing. In order to win, you have to risk losing. For some reason, we seem it necessary to continuously prove ourselves against our peers. Is superiority a rite of passage? Consider yourself fortunate that you don’t live in the ancient times with the Mayans.

History reads that the Mayans played a form of basketball where opposing teams attempted to throw (or heave) an 8 pound rubber ball (that had a human skull as a core) through a stone hoop 23 feet high. I can’t imagine there were too many ‘slam dunks’ back then, but it is also written that the losers of the competition were often sacrificed to the Gods. Well, if that doesn’t motivate you, then I guess nothing will!

Be assured, that losing in the DAC 2014 Singles Club Championships will not give you a one way ticket to the chopping block. It’s simply too much paperwork to worry about and the cleaning bill would be hideous. Apart from that, we really want you all to continue playing afterwards. Not everybody can win; in fact, we’ll only have 7 of them. Out of 270+ players, if you do manage to be one of them, consider that you’ll be in a unique class.

So – if you are ready to put your body on the line here is what you are to consider:
  • You can play ONE category only. Choose wisely. I hold the right to move you if I think you enter the incorrect level: 2.5; 3.0; 3.5; 4.0; 4.5; 5.0; 5.5
  • All matches will have a deadline for completion. The tournament must keep moving along, so failure to play the match within the time limit may result in a default.
  • If you will be away for a significant amount of time during the month of April, then do not enter. We cannot hold up the tournament waiting on you.
  • ALL finals will be held on Thursday May 1. If you cannot play on May 1, then either don’t play, or lose before the final.
  • May 1 is also the Awards Dividend. You should be here anyway. J
  • Scoring is best of 5 games to 11 points. There is no consolation.
The winners and finalists of each category will be able to represent the DAC at the 2015 Farris Cup scheduled for January. Registration deadline is Monday March 24.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A TOUGH SLOG IN TOLEDO


Toledo Open Mar 7-9

The DAC had a little better representation at this year’s Toledo Open. Compared to our sole player in 2013, we had 4 members (plus myself) make the trip this time. Unfortunately, none of us could really get our racquets working the way we would have liked.

As you know, the Toledo courts are narrower and that throws off your timing quite considerably. This is the 10th time I have made the trip and after his weekend I am convinced that I am getting worse rather than better with being able to understand the tactic and find my rhythm quicker. Even though I won my first 2 matches 3-0, I was never totally comfortable. And that came shining through in the final against Windsor’s pro Graeme Williams. In the end, all Graeme had to do was keep the ball within the boundaries of the red lines. He was guaranteed I was able to take care of the rest. If you can’t keep the ball out of the middle, or the tin, you can’t win. I accommodated Graeme perfectly. I lost 3-1 in the final, did not deserve to win. He was clearly the better player here.

Peter Logan copied me pretty much in every way. In the 50+ division, he also won his first 2 matches 3-0 and then lost 3-1 in the final. Speaking to him afterwards, it appeared that his “hit-the-ball-to-the-T” ploy worked for him about as much as it worked for me - not at all. Alan Howard was bounced out of the 60+ division early on too, and he very much struggled with his local opponent who served lobs that missed hitting the ceiling by an inch every time, then would die on the back wall. Even I was jealous of those serves. Alan’s length for the match was worse than Pete’s and mine!

Justin Winkelman lost his second round in the C draw, and probably played the best from all of us. His opponent was tough, but Justin made him earn the victory. Josh Slominski was also in the C draw and won his first 2 matches before going down 3-0 in the quarter final to Dan Petoran of Windsor. Dan is big fellow, which makes it tougher to get in front of him on the narrow courts. He also hits it rather hard which made controlling a tight length more difficult. Josh also battled like the rest of us to be consistent enough in order to put Dan under more pressure. It proved to be very easy this weekend to spray the ball, miss-hit the ball, hit the 2 inch lower tin, and relentlessly crowd oneself.

It’s hardly an excuse. Our opponents were on the same court as us, and they adapted better. Despite all that, we’ll be doing it again next year in the never ending pursuit of figuring out how to play squash on courts designed for smurfs.

Ray Lindsay demonstrating the "Haka". 
Socially, this is one of the best tournaments around. While there weren’t any stand-out moments during the weekend that could be called legendary, the most entertaining segment came during the Saturday night dinner. It is a tradition that New Zealand native and Cleveland pro Ray Lindsay perform the “Haka” dance in front of the crowd, standing on a table with his shirt off. Before his ritual, Ray insisted that fellow pros Scott Denne and Drew Williams tell a joke each for the audience. Scott wasted no time an immediately rolled off a couple of rip-snorters leaving the non-conservatives in hysterics and the more conservative amongst us wishing they could un-hear what they just heard. Drew then strolled up to the microphone and in 3 lines managed to make Scott’s jokes sound like a Sunday morning sermon. Once everyone regained their senses, Ray did his thing, belted out his war dance and then we all left for the party until the wee hours of the morning.

A huge thank you to the Toledo Club for their always top class hospitality, especially their pro John Seidel who for some reason allows us to come back year after year. Looking forward to 2015!

Friday, March 7, 2014

WINKY-DINKS CHARGE INTO SECOND PLACE

Boasters League final round~~

There wasn’t much chance of any of the top six teams losing their play-off spot to any of the bottom three. The real only interest of round 9 was which team was going to end up second on the ladder and thus secure a first round finals pass. “Foss Nation” held that precarious position and headed into the last week with a slim 3 point cushion over “Winky-Dinks”. In the end, it was a non-event. “Winky-Dinks” did what they do best – accumulate bonus points. The picked up 11 of them – just as many points as what “Foss Nation” picked up in total. Add on the 7 matches they also played in which they won 4 of them, and the “Winky-Dinks” earned the bye quite easily.

Butter Nutz” did not play the last round but picked up 19 points anyway over the week through make-up matches and their top billing for the finals is more than deserved. On the other end of the scale, “The Kampai Warriors” avoided the wooden spoon – barely – by jumping out of the cellar for the first time since round 4 and handing that unsavory award to “Busting Rails”.

Even though court usage is at an all time high, league play for the second half of the season felt like an all time low. Not quite, but almost:
  • ·         63% of matches were played. It’s 11% lower than the first half. It actually surprised me that it is the same percentage of matches played as the second half of last season. It felt like less.
  • ·         Round 1 had the most matches completed with 78%. Round 9 had the least with 33%.
  • ·         Butter Nutz” played the most matches – 75%. “Winky-Dinks” played 73%. Go figure the rankings…
  • ·         Busting Rails” played 52% of their matches. Once again, the standings reflect it.
  • ·         Winky-Dinks” were again king of the bonus points with 82. That’s 14 more than the next best “Butter Nutz”.
  • ·         The Kampai Warriors” only picked up 37 bonus points. That means only an average of 30% of their team turned up weekly.
  • ·         9 players picked up all bonus points. In the first half, there were 18.
  • ·         15 players played all 8 matches. That’s down from 27 in the first half. “Butter Nutz” had 5 of them. The “Wardogs” were the only team without a player that completed all of their matches.
  • ·         No one played all of their matches and went through undefeated.
  • ·         Bob Rogers picked up most points for the second half with 27. Exactly the same as the first half!
  • ·         Jon Diewald (“Busting Rails”) scored 18% of his team’s total all by himself.
  • ·         “Butter Nutz” scored the most points in any one round with 36 in round 7.
  • ·         “Paddy’s Dropshots” scored the least amount of points in any one round with 6 in round 9.
  • ·         The team that finished last in the first half scored 157 points. They would have made the play-offs with that total in the second half.
  • ·         For the worst stat of the half, 5 players didn’t score any points at all. No matches, no bonus points. Ugh.
The first round of the finals presents us with a repeat of round 9 match-ups. Although by the amount of matches that were playe, it won’t feel like déjà vu for too many. “Vivio’s” v “Wardogs” had a score line of 11-16 with less than half the matches completed, and “Paddy’s Dropshots” v “Foss Nation” played even less and ended up with a score of 6 to 11. Let’s hops a few more matches can be completed next week, huh?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

HOUSE OF WINDSOR


Windsor Tournament - Mar 27-29
Hello chaps. I hope you are sitting tightly and sipping your earl grey and nibbling on your scones. Let me have a wee chinwag with you. In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our jolly history - (or not) - I send to every household of my dearest squash peoples, both the east-siders and the rest, this dreadful message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself.
For the second time this season we are in a piffle. Over and over again we have practiced and practiced our skills, tried to find a easier way to prove ourselves against our fellow comrades and those cheeky fellows who are across the frozen river. But it has been utter nonsense. Codswallop! We have been forced into a barney. For we have been called upon, with our squash racquets, to meet the challenge of a beloved friend which, if it they were to prevail, would be rather unfair to any civilized order in our utopian DAC world.
The Windsorites are quite potty. Silly muppets they are. Now I know it’s everyone’s cup of tea, that in the selfish pursuit of squash power, popping over the border for a little tickle is just what the ruddy doctor ordered! This is no time to chuck a wobbly or get your knickers in a twist! Don’t be a daft twit! You’ll have a cracking good time. And far more than this - the lads and lasses of the squash world would be kept in the bondage of social perfection, and all hopes of the security of squash sports-world domination and liberty among nations will be upheld.
This is the ultimate issue which confronts us. If you fancy a jolly good scrum, for the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge.
It is to this high purpose that I now call my DAC people at home and across the snow-ravaged land, who will make our cause their own. I ask them to stand calm, firm, and united in this dodgy time of a kerfuffle. Stiff upper lip, I say! The task will be hard, you may get knackered. Frankly, I’d be gobsmacked if you didn’t meet the ordeal head on! There may be dark days ahead, and squash can no longer be confined to the DAC walls. Not to worry if you find yourself in a sticky wicket or a titchy bit squiffy, but we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to commanding the ‘T’. If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then, with relentless practice, we shall prevail.
So, have a squizz at the poster, and send in your interest to their squash pro - Graeme Williams. Graeme is a jolly fine chap if ever there was one.
Well then. Cheerio, toddle off, get on your bike, Bob’s yer uncle, and may the best of the Yankee Doodle Dandies be with you. That’s the spirit!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

GAPS WIDEN


Boasters League round 8~~

Barring a miracle, the top six teams are poised to advance to the finals. “Butter Nutz” have all but secured top billing despite the fact that they sit out the final round next week. It is highly unlikely that either “Foss Nation” or “Winky-Dinks” will make up the almost 40 point difference by the deadline of March 6. What those two teams should be doing instead is concentrating on ending up second on the ladder which would give them a first round bye for the play-offs. The next 7 days will be rather important for them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, once again the last three teams have fallen even further behind. Now the gap between the last play-off spot (6th) and 7th is 22 points. Two weeks ago it was just 1. “The Kampai Warriors” have picked up only 25 points during that time. Compare that to “Butter Nutz’s” 65 and it’s easy to see where the problem lies. Another telling statistic is that for round 8 (so far), “Butter Nutz” scored more overall points than the last three teams combined and the “Winky-Dinks” picked up more bonus points than those teams together as well. Not good.

There weren’t too many matches completed last night – so I don’t have many to choose from for major highlights. That being said, standouts for the evening: Julia Dillon (“The Kampai Warriors”) scored her second win of the season taking out “Winky-DinksPaul Gormley 2-1; Mike LoVasco (“Paddy’s Dropshots”) somehow managed to reach up high enough to nullify Jerry Rock’s (“Butter Nutz”) lobs to take a 2-1 victory; Cathy Lysack (“Butter Nutz”) was just a little too steady in the end for Patrick Petz (“Paddy’s Dropshots”) for her 2-1 win; and John Parnell (“Mongoose”) picked up his 3rd win of the half with a tough 2-1 win over Jim Miller (“Wardogs”).

With one week to go, the main story line it appears is who will end up second on the standings. I’m hopeful that maybe one of the lower teams can make a last gasp push but I am skeptical to say the least that that will happen. The scores have to be in by March 6. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

TIME FOR SOME TWO-ON-TWO ACTION


Doubles Club Championships - Starts March 17

Often, it’s better that things came in pairs. Shoes for example. There is no much point buying just one. Knife and Fork. How would you carve up that steak without both of those utensils? Laurel and Hardy. Would one be just as hilarious without the other? How popular would Wimbledon really be without their strawberries and cream? Batman and Robin. Can you imagine how would Batman be able to fight crime in Gotham City without his totally useless, “holy-Toledo-I-have-no-special-powers” sidekick...? (Okay, the movies actually proved that one to be true!).

Additionally, it will be awfully difficult to play the 2014 DAC Doubles Club Championships without some type of back-up. And think, when (if) you win you have someone to celebrate with, someone to raise that glass of bubbly to toast the victory, someone to reminisce with years later about the sacrifices you had to make to win... and of course someone to dump all the blame on if you lose!

There are 3 categories to choose from: A, B, and C. Take note, however, that we are all about fair competition at the DAC, and we want everybody in the right category. So, here are some guidelines of what to watch for when choosing your partner:

   An ‘A’ player will under no circumstances be allowed in the C draw regardless of their partner.
   A ‘B’ player partnered up with a ‘C’ player will be entered in the B draw.
   An ‘A’ player partnered up with a ‘B’ player will be placed in the A draw.
   I reserve the right to determine which category your team belongs in.

We are getting more and more players involved in the doubles, but it will be important to secure your partner quickly. Here are some more points to consider if you are looking at playing:

   Enter with a partner. In other words do not ‘reserve’ a spot in the draw. There isn’t much point doing that anyway, there is no limit to the amount of teams allowed.
   All matches will be best of 5 games to 15. There is no tie break to be played, At 14-all, all games play a sudden death rally to 15. There will be no consolation draw.
   Each match will have a deadline for completion. Failure to play the match by the deadline may result in a forfeit for those involved. The tournament must be kept moving along and we cannot wait for those who procrastinate.
   If you are going away for a significant amount of time during the month of the event, do not enter. The schedule for the tournament will not be made around your travel plans.
   Be flexible, be accommodating with your schedule. Everybody is busy, Organizing doubles matches can be frustrating at the best of times when dealing with four calendars at once. Limiting your availability to “I can only play on Monday’s at 5.30am” is not overly helpful.
   Be fair with the let calls. Safety first. Benefit of the doubt should be given. On the other hand, do not ask for lets if you would not have reached the ball anyway. Common sense prevails.

Registration deadline is March 11. All the finals will be scheduled to be played on April 16. We hope all finalists can adjust their schedules accordingly. Simply e-mail me your entry!

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