Thursday, October 16, 2014

BATTLING. BOISTEROUS. BOASTERS.



Boasters League round 3~

Wednesday league nights have almost turned into a carnival atmosphere lately. It has been wonderful to see the activity, the courts never empty, the keg never left alone, the social gatherings loud and enthusiastic. It is what the Boasters is all about.

So far for round three, 31 matches have been played. That’s actually not that many – less than half. All teams have the potential to make massive strides if they would simply get on court. That being said, teams are getting many make-up matches completed, which is keeping the standings reasonably tight.

Only 10 points separate 2nd from 6th, with “Butter Nutz” still occupying top spot. However, that will no doubt change by this time next week as “Butter Nutz” has the bye for round 4 and their 10 point buffer won’t be enough to hold the rest back unless they play plenty of missed matches. The three teams that have had the bye already have done a fairly decent job of keeping pace. Even though they take up the last three places on the standings, it’s a little misleading.

Some results worth a special mention… John Hanley (“Mongoose”) would be no doubt happy with his first win of the season and he’ll take the confidence booster after beating the previously undefeated Larry Lipa (“Vivio’s”) 2-1; Matt DiDio (“Butter Nutz”) picked up his second victory taking out Mike Petix (“Winky-Dinks”) 2-1; Jeff Gembis (“Space Geckos”) is slowly hitting his stride as he earns a tough win over Jim Stroh (“Nick at Night”) 2-1; James Van Dyke (“The Nicker Ballers”) overcame a slow start against Tom Fabbri (“Wardogs”) and righted the ship in games two and three for a tough and close 2-1 victory.

Extra special mention goes to JC Tibbitts (“Nick at Night”) who had to suffer through heavy trash talking from Colin Bayer (“Space Geckos”) only to serve up a 3-0 piece of humble pie back…! You gotta love the camaraderie!

It will be interesting to see where “Butter Nutz” lands on the ladder after their bye week. Will they hold on to a top 3 position? Top spot will be up for grabs… who will step up and take ownership?

Monday, October 13, 2014

A WARD WINNING PERFORMANCE



Blitz Tournament October 10 2014

For the first time in recorded history of the DAC, everybody turned up on time for the start of an event. At 2 minutes to 5pm, we had all competitors ready to go. Racquet in hand, laces tied, beer in the other hand… oh, hang on… dang! We were one player short. The current 2-time reigning Blitz Tournament champion, Sante Fratarcangeli, was running late. And we were so close to making history!

But, as they say in show business, “the show must go on”, so we started without him. The 20 players were split up into 4 groups of 5. A couple of new players in the mix made the handicapping a little tricky. Actually, it made it pure guess work. As it turned out, I was only off by a smidge in the end, which I’ll take as a success even though the affected party(s) wouldn’t. The ultimate goal is to have every match end up with a 15-14 score, proving my handicap correct. We had a handful.

Julie, Ian, Justin and Jon
Group 1 had three 15-14 results. The first match of the evening started beautifully with Mike Counsman and JC Tibbitts going at it. JC started off with 10 points and at the business end of the contest had 2 game balls at 14-13. However, he literally handed the win to Mike as he tinned 2 drop shots that had a very good chance of being winners if they were up. Mike’s second match was against new member Becket Marum. Becket’s handicap was also 10, and admittedly it was a complete stab in the dark - I was hoping he would stand up to the task. And he did. Even though he is new, Becket is picking up the game quickly. Scrappy, but a hustler, he pick-pocketed enough points to take the game to a sudden death rally. Mike still pulled it out 15-14, another nervous win.

Jon Dengel scored the other 15-14 victory in the group, this one over Chip McDaniel. Chip had to give up 9 to start the game, and the two players had some very nice exchanges. A couple of nasty unforced errors from Chip ended up being the difference. When the final match of the group went on, Jon had to play Mike. If Mike won, he would sweep the group. Jon needed to win to force a 3-way tie. The 13 point handicap was more than enough for Jon. Three rallies later, he walked off the 15-1 winner.

With 3 players tied with 3 wins each, and only 2 players able to move on to the knock-out phase, straws were drawn to see who advanced. Jon, who dominated Mike on the court, is terrible at pulling straws. He lost out.

Group 2 would also have three 15-14 results. All of them to the same player. And, he won the all as well! Paul Ward did this the hard way, taking Mike Rock (9 point handicap), Bret Williams (8) and Paul Fershee (12) to the brink of the upset only to yank it viciously away. Apparently, Paul (Ward) likes to live on the edge. The other three players would end up with 2 wins apiece, helped out by the withdrawal of Alan Howard who tweaked his hamstring in his first match. It was a merry-go-round of results with Paul (Fershee) beating Bret who beat Mike who beat Paul (F). Again, straws would have to be drawn to see who from the three could advance to the finals round. It must be something in the name, because joining Paul Ward would be Paul Fershee!

Fashionista Sante Fratarcangeli.
Group 3. Only one 15-14 score to mention here and that would be between Julie Vande Vusse and Ian Edwards. Julie had 4 points to start, Ian had 4 beers to start, and the pair couldn’t have been better matched. The game could have begun 0-0, there wasn’t any clear dominating player. Julie ended up with the win today, but Ian quickly found solace at the keg. He was also a winner. Sweeping this group was the late comer Sante Fratarcangeli (current 2-time reigning Blitz Tournament champion). Splendid in his all white spandex suit with red shorts, and the splash of bright yellow on his shoes to complete the ensemble, Sante (current 2-time reigning Blitz Tournament champion) had to make up for lost time and powered his way through the group winning all of the games. They were close though, three of them were 15-13, the other 15-12. Sante (current 2-time reigning Blitz Tournament champion) was looking for the 3-peat. The second player from the group to advance would again be decided by Lady Luck. Three players were tied for second with 2 wins each. Mark Monaghan (who in Sante’s (current 2-time reigning Blitz Tournament champion) match had three full body dives and one between the legs miracle shot out of the back right corner), Julie Vande Vusse and Ian Edwards. The better straw-drawer on this occasion would be Mark.

Group 4. Another two 15-14 results came from this group. Bob Rogers gave up 8 points to Steve Murphy which was just enough for Bob to win the sudden death 14-all point, and the second one actually went to Steve who squeaked out the do-or-die rally against Esther Thomas who had a 7 point handicap going in.  Bob would end up winning all 4 of his matches, two of them 15-12. And for the 4th time in a row, we would have to draw from the now worn-out straws to find the second finalist. Steve, Justin Winkelman and Mike McCuish all had 2 wins each. Another carousel of victories between the players: Steve beats Justin who beats Mike who beats Steve… Fortune favored the McCuish for this one!

Fortune did not favor the McCuish for the first finals match. His 5 point head start was not enough to overcome the power volley of JC Tibbitts who took him 15-10 and was building his momentum more and more with every game. Would it be up to Sante (current 2-time reigning Blitz Tournament champion) to stop him? Ummm…. No. Sante (current 2-time reigning Blitz Tournament champion) would be not have a chance to make it 3 in a row as the 12 points he gave up to Paul Fershee was just a little too much. Sante (current 2-time reigning Blitz Tournament champion) got close though, but Paul took it 15-13. Jumping on court with JC, Paul’s 8 points was no match. JC was on a roll and wasn’t going to give Paul any gifts, he wasn’t interested in playing more rallies than he had to. It was 15-10 and JC moved on to the final.
Paul Ward and JC Tibbitts

On the other half of the finals draw, a battle of acrobats, Bob Rogers bounced off a couple more walls than Mark Monaghan did to take that game 15-12. Bob’s next round was against Paul Ward (who, in his match, ran down too many balls for Mike Counsman, helped also with the 4 point head start). Bob took on Paul with a 6 point lead, both players pleading their case to change the handicap in their favor. I wasn’t budging, and the two went hard. Both renowned for running, it wasn’t smooth sailing for either, but the consistency of Paul would be the telling factor. 15-12.

Two tired players for the final. I handed JC 8 points to start the game, wanting to put a little extra pressure on Paul. But the effort by JC leading up to this point proved to be fatal. He hit the wall. Hard. In fact, I think it knocked him over. In hindsight, I should have given JC 13 points, which would have been ludicrous. All Paul had to do was keep the rally going and he did 15 of 16 times. He took the final 15-9. Paul Ward takes his second Blitz Tournament title – his first way back in March 2009. In the 3rd / 4th play-off, Bob Rogers edged out Paul Fershee 15-13.

It was a great evening. Not sure if the keg ended up dead or not, but a huge effort was made to do so. Thank you to all for such a smooth running event!





Thursday, October 9, 2014

BUSY. BUSTLING. BOASTERS.



Boasters League round 2~~

Nothing like the endless sound of squash balls thwacking against the wall for hours on end to ease the mind. It was great to see the activity level last night, players lining up to get on court, lining up watching the matches and lining up to grab a beer!

Just about every team is doing well in the bonus point department so far, people are turning up in numbers. Still, even with the amount of play, there are still many matches to be completed for the first two rounds. “Butter Nutz” have extended their lead atop the standing to 10 points over “Space Geckos” and “Vivio’s”, but it is still too early to get overly excited about that.  The other teams are not that far back… hopefully everyone can keep up with Sante’s crew.

There were many matches to choose from that could be highlighted. The ones that raised my bushy eye-brows the most were… Ryan Bendzinski (“Butter Nutz”) taking 2 out of 3 games from Fred Fordon (“Space Geckos”). Ryan politely left me a message on my voice mail about the win expressing how tough a match it was! Chris Tipton (“Mongoose”) having to come back twice in 2 of the games against Nick Petcoff (“Nick at Night”) for his 2-1 victory, leaving Nick pondering all of the missed opportunities. Alan Howard (“The Nicker Ballers”) running himself and Shail Arora (“Foss Nation”) to exhaustion (which is tough to do with Shail!) as he was relieved with his 2-1 win; and Josh Slominski (“Space Geckos”) avenging a recent loss to Jordan Ellis (“Butter Nutz”) with a no doubt satisfying 2-1 triumph.

Liz McClure. Perfect form.
I will take this opportunity to mention that up to date the highest point getter in the entire league goes to none other than Liz McClure of the “Butter Nutz”. She is the only player to turn up both weeks, win 3-0, and attend the referee clinic that was held at the end of September. I am sure Sante is very proud.

Looking ahead to week 3, “Foss Nation” need to get their act together a little as they endure the ‘bye’ week. Currently 7th on the standings they are in real danger of slipping way off the radar as I’m sure the 8th and 9th teams will overtake easily unless make up matches are done. So play, play, play!

Monday, October 6, 2014

TIMES OF LONDON



Nash Cup - September 26-28

The matches were tough. Competitors were determined to give it their all. Emotions ran high not just with the players, but through the enthusiastic on-lookers as well. Thrills of victory were equally met with the agonies of defeat. As the tournament went on, it was clear that ball control was becoming more of an issue. Contestants were now relying on luck rather than skill, it was becoming harder to focus, stand up, how far could they push themselves before the imminent collapse? Minutes turned into... longer minutes... the field dwindled and in a shock result, most of us couldn’t really believe who was the lone survivor...

... but enough about the beer pong.

The real reason behind London’s Nash Cup is the squash. I forget how many years I have played this event, the novelty doesn’t seem to wear off. It does, without a doubt, get tougher every year to compete. I only had 2 matches for the weekend, and it still took me almost 3 days to get rid of the muscle soreness. Soreness, it seems, that appears in parts of my body that it never used to. I can blame most of that pain on my finals opponent, Bruce Burrowes. Bruce is Jamaican, his accent thick and rich. If you haven’t met him, you picture a stereotypical Rastafarian in your head, but Bruce is not stereotypical. Nor is his squash.

However, like many other Jamaicans, he can run fast. That’s not good news for a 43 year old. The insolence of actually running down my “winners” is unreservedly disrespectful. Keeping me on court so long, utterly cruel. But handing me a 14-12 in the 5th victory... now that was exquisite. In all seriousness, I got away with one. Nothing more than experience dropped me (literally) over the line, Bruce ran me ragged.

One of the perks of playing London is being able to watch the professionals. The Friday evening featured two men’s semi finals. Luckily, I do not make my living as a clairvoyant. I would be destitute if that was the case. Last year’s winner, Joe Lee from England (world number 34) was my favorite heading into the event and  he was up against his countryman Eddie Charlton (world number 51). The first two games were rather one sided - in Eddie’s favor. It looked like it was going to be a 3-0 win to the underdog, but the third was a complete reversal as Joe rolled through it 11-3. With all the momentum going into the 4th, Joe appeared to have steadied the ship, but he rolled his ankle 2 rallies in and was forced to retire.

The second semi had unseeded German Jens Schoor (world rank 69) against second seed Karim Ali Fathi from Pakistan (world rank 48). This contest was a lot closer even though the word on the street was that the Pakistani was going to win 3-0. Jens battled from 2 games to 1 down and with plenty of guts and determination pinched the 5 game 11-8.

The third match on the Friday was the women’s pro final. Egyptian Kanzy El Defrawi (world number 61) certainly went in as favorite. She only dropped 12 points combined in her first 2 rounds, and won the semi 3-0 as well. She was facing off with Canadian Hollie Naughton (ranked 71) who had a tougher time reaching the final, her second match a tight 5-setter. Even though the girls are ranked just 10 places apart, the squash didn’t reflect it. On this particular day, El Defrawi was clearly dominate in all aspects of the game. Naughton looked a little impatient and too often forced the issue only to continuously rattle the tin. The 3-0 took less than 30 minutes.

Jens Schoor. In the zone!
The men’s final on Saturday will be remembered not for the length of time it took, or the excitement, or the closeness - because it wasn’t - but for the remarkable performance of Jens Schoor. Based on the two semis, I had thought Eddie would take the title either 3-0 or 3-1. Again, no pay day for “Mick the Predictor”. What a horrible clairvoyant I am. Jens was sublime. Jens was jumping out of his skin. Jens couldn’t have hit an error even if he wanted to. Jens took poor Eddie to task and cleaned his clock 3-0 in just over 30 minutes. Jens was also overly ecstatic in his victory - he deserved to be.

As I say often enough, the only disappointing aspect of the weekend was that no other DAC representative joined me. You are missing out. Opportunities like these don’t come up often and it surprises me no one takes advantage. It’s an easy drive, a wonderfully social club, much sought after tough squash, invaluable experience, and not a budget destroyer.

Lastly, endless thanks needs to be handed out to the London Squash Club for hosting - Rob Doherty, you went above and beyond; Tom Panabaker, I appreciate your generosity; Ron Henry, I owe you a gatorade amongst a couple other drinks!; and all the wonderful members too many to mention... except for Shrini, you permanent advertisement for whitening toothpaste, one simply cannot be not happy to see you. And to the man that makes it all possible - the one who puts it all together, sponsors it, promotes it, plays in it, emcee’s it. The one and only 2014 Beer Pong champion... Jay Nash!

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