Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SERVING UP THE RIGHT STUFF



Summer League final~~

I remember when I was young and in Australia, I used to have a weekly practice match with one of my team mates. For years it was a Thursday evening ritual. He was the perfect training partner since he despised losing and was one of the gutsiest squash players I have ever met. Even when the match – on paper – meant nothing. To us, it meant everything.

It was also Groundhog Day. No matter how I played, how hard I tried, how desperate I ran the ball down, how far ahead I was, without fail, week after week, I lost in 5. Every. Single. Time. He was like the Rocky Balboa that just never gave up and refused to go down.

Then, one day, I played him in a final of a real tournament. It would be our first real encounter – on paper. He was very eager to remind me of all our practice matches, all of his ‘impossible’ comebacks from 0-2 down, his death defying 10-9 in the 5th wins…. (yes, back in those days we played to 9!). He didn’t need to remind me of course – I remembered them quite vividly. I still remember them to this day. I also remember getting cramps in my legs in the 3rd game of that match and thinking that this time we weren’t going to go 5 games at all. I beat him 3-0 instead. Our practice matches were never quite the same after that.

Point being is that through all that time of losing to this guy, he couldn’t win when it actually mattered. Performing in do or die situations is an art in itself. Winning without pressure is… easy. Winning with consequences hanging over your head is not. I bring up this little memory because the result of the summer league finals were very much unlike the scores of when these two teams met less than a month ago in a non-finals atmosphere.

Example 1: In round 6, Paul Fershee (“Serves You Right” – SYR) beat Sean Kendall (“Technically Delinquent” – TD) 3-0. Their finals match was played early and I happened to talk a little to Sean just before the match started and he was worried that he was going to receive another spanking. Paul had only lost 2 matches all season, and Sean had only won 2. But, it meant zippo as Sean stepped up and no one was more surprised than himself as he took the 2-1 victory.

Example 2: Sante Fratarcangeli (TD) beat Jeff Gembis (SYR) 2-1 in round 6. As I’ve mentioned before in earlier articles, Jeff has slowly been getting his groove back over the last few weeks. Still, beating Sante is never an easy task. Every now and then, the inconsistency hurts him and with a little more patience and confidence, Jeff took better advantage this time around to reverse the score line and walk off with the 2-1 victory.

Example 3: Mike Rock (SYR). Just one week ago he lost to Ted Morris 1-2. Ted was subbing in this week for the absent Brian Schrage (TD) who had the excuse that he was getting married or something. I’m failing to understand how a wedding is more important than a squash match, I’ll have to sit Brian down and straighten his priorities out when he gets back from his honeymoon. Anyway, Mike put all the negative recollections aside and came out on top this week winning 2-1.

Josh Slominski and Bob Rogers
Example 4: Jay Bonahoom (TD) had a lesson earlier in the day and the first thing he asked me was to teach him how to beat Shail Arora (SYR). After losing to Shail 1-2 in round 6, he wasn’t sure how to tackle Shail’s never ending running game. I gave him a couple of basic tips, but I think the main explanation of the big turnaround had nothing to do with me, rather Jay’s new Grays racquet! Like a man possessed, and wielding his new magic wand, Jay rolled to a 3-0 win.

Example 5: Bob Rogers (TD) has a similar style to that of Shail – run every ball down like the fate of the universe depended on it, and then run some more. While you’re at it, bounce of the walls. Bob can be a rather thorny customer to deal with and one needs to display a lot of patience when on the court with him. He beat Josh Slominski (SYR) 2-1 in round 6. This time, however, Josh showed a little more staying power. There were still some ‘forced’ unforced errors (trying to do too much) but they were outweighed with the simpler concept of moving the ball safely around the court and not pushing the issue. Josh was rewarded with the 2-1 victory. (The universe is currently on shaky ground…)

Tom Healy and Alan Howard
Example 6: Alan Howard’s (SYR) weapon of choice is a supercharged, full blooded, belt the ball through the front wall and all the way to home plate in Comerica Park, kill shot. When he connects, it’s surprising the ball doesn’t embed itself in the front wall. Sometimes, that tactic works against him since if it happens to come back Alan doesn’t have a lot of time to recover! Tom Healy (TD) managed to harness that power in round 6 and beat Alan 2-1. In the closest match of the final, Tom couldn’t quite repeat that feat. He was unlucky, though as Alan squeezed a 3-0 win 15-13; 15-14; 15-14. Occasionally when the ball comes onto your strings like a cannonball, control it is a difficult prospect.
 
Two other matches also finished with a different score line than what they did in round 6 – but the winner’s didn’t change. Tom Pierce (SYR) took all 3 games from Jim Miller (he won 2-1 a month ago) and Mike Cooney (TD) did the same to Chato Hill (SYR). The remaining two matches weren’t played.

It was a fitting and deserved win for the “Serves You Right” squad. They finished on top of the ladder, and actually were placed as such from round 2 onwards. It was a complete season and the 24-17 final score proved they were the best team this summer. Congratulations, fellas!

Now is the best time of the year to work on your game – the leagues start up in October and even though that sounds like a lifetime away, it’s only 10 weeks. So, get on the practice court, play your box ladder matches, get those lessons booked in, and be ready to kick butt!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SUMMER SEMI SLUGFEST



Summer League semi-finals~~

Serves You Right v Point of No Return

It was close – just like it was in round 2 when these teams squared off. Back then, “Serves You Right” edged out the win by 2 points only, and this time the winning team got through by only five.

For the first time all season, “Serves You Right” were beaten on bonus points. “Point of No Return” collected 9 of them, one more than their opponents.  Serves You Right” also had a sub stepping in for one of their most reliable players. Colin Bayer hadn’t lost a match all season either, but unfortunately could not play this week. With these two setbacks, could “Point of No Return” take advantage?

The evening started out well for “Serves You Right”. Jeff Gembis is getting more solid as the summer weeks progress and was too much for the scampering Dane Fossee with a 3-0 win. It was the first time these two had played against each other, I’m sure Dane will be gunning to play him again soon. “Serves You Right” continued on strongly as Josh Slominski took revenge on the round 2 result where he fell to Brian Bartes 2-1. A scrambling affair, Josh proved to be a little steadier this time around and pulled out a valuable 3-0 victory.

The news wasn’t all bad for “Point of No Return”. Tom Bejin scored 3 important points for them after taking Chato Hill for a tour de court; Josh Gershonowicz better hope he doesn’t have to stand in front of Judge Murphy anytime soon as he walked away with the 2-1 triumph; and Andrew Walawender stepped up from the previous week where he lost to Jim Smietana 2-1 and reversed the result this time around. (Jim was subbing for the absent Colin Bayer.)

However, as soon as “Point of No Return” would crawl back within a couple of points, “Serves You Right” would surge ahead again. Shail Arora came off the court bent over and heaving in gallons of oxygen, looking like he had just been slapped around by John Mann. But contrary to how it appeared, Shail had taken all 3 games. I guess amid the agony of exhaustion, I missed Shail’s sigh of relief! Paul Fershee then outplayed Peter Fromm to snatch all 3 games from him as well.

 When I received news of Ted Morris’s 2-1 victory for “Point of no Return” over Mike Rock (and according to Ted, I missed the ‘match-of-the-century’!) with one match left to play, “Serves You Right” were too far ahead to be caught. They had managed to overcome their obstacles and earn their way to the final next week. The last match was still completed – Jerry Rock lobbed and dropped his way to a 2-1 win over Alan Howard to only leave “Point of no Return” 5 points behind. Final score: 26-21.

Lob-Otomies v Technically Delinquent

This contest was even closer. This literally came down to the final match. Winner takes all. We’ll look at how we reached that point in the first place…

Technically Delinquent” won against this team in round 5 but not all the matches were played. Bonus points would not be a factor here since both teams picked up 8 of them. The result would be decided on court. Sante Fratarcangeli gave them a good start with a hard fought, tight 2-1 win over Paul Huth and Bob Rogers complimented that with a solid 3-0 win of his own over Tom Fabbri. Bob’s match looked a little like Shail’s because when the two players walked off the court, Bob appeared the worse for wear. But I suppose that is how Bob always looks after playing squash!

Jay Bonahoom was the next to pick up a win for “Technically Delinquent” as he sent Jeff Jardine packing 3-0. Following suit, John Perkins dominated his opponent and put another 3 points on the board for his team. But the wins were starting to come in for the “Lob-Otomies” as well. Mike McCuish got the ball rolling with a 3-0 victory over Bert Donovan and not far behind him was Andy Petcoff also ripping off 3 consecutive games against Brian Schrage. Chris Tipton inched them even closer with a tough 2-1 win over Jim Miller, and after Kevin Prather’s 3-0 win, the two teams were tied 20 points apiece.

With one match reaming, all the pressure landed squarely on the two remaining players. “Technically Delinquent” was relying on Tom Healy and “Lob-Otomies” had their hopes lying all over Paul Flanagan. According to the match records, these two have only played each other in league or ladder 4 times. Paul has won 3 of those matches, including the last 2 meetings which were a 2-1 result. On paper, Paul would be slight favorite - but it really could go either way. I’m not sure either Tom or Paul were aware how much their result meant. I was not witness to the contest – they had organized the show down at a time that I crawl myself out from under the bed sheets cursing at my alarm clock.

No doubt, this epic battle eclipsed the Morris v Rock ‘match of the century’. The result was forwarded to me quietly and humbly. Healy -2 ; Flanagan – 1. With that win, “Technically Delinquent” gets through by the narrowest of margins, 22-21.

Gazing into my crystal ball, the final should be a bruising encounter. The teams played each other in round 6 and “Serves You Right” won 18-16. That day, both teams picked up the same amount of bonus points, and of the 8 matches completed, both teams won 4. Seven on those matches were 2-1. My crystal ball just went hazy. It failed to tell me who is going to win.

Monday, July 14, 2014

READY… SET… SPRINT!



Race Against the Clock Tournament – August 8

Shortening contests can be a great equalizer. Squash is generally a marathon wrapped around a series of small bursts, enveloped in a mental quagmire of continuous stress. Over the course of a 5 set match, the stronger player will typically end up on top. But what would happen if the extended time factor was removed?

I wonder how much more exciting soccer would be if matches were only 10 minutes long. Teams would be on the attack non-stop. It would remove the mind-numbing boringness of backwards passing amongst themselves simply to play ‘keepings-off” with the opposition. There would probably be more scoring too. I may even watch it. (Ha!) Would Usain Bolt be the fastest man on the planet if the 100m was reduced to 30 meters? How would baseball be played if teams only had 1 inning to score? What if the ‘Tour de France’ was shrunk to the ‘Tour de Liechtenstein’…? Silly questions, no doubt, but makes one wonder a little.

When a player of say a 3.5 standard plays against a player of a 4.0 level (for example), commonly the game scenario is one where the 3.5 player will keep up for a good portion of each game only to fade away at the ‘business’ end of it as he gets worn down through fitness and consistency. Would the result be different if the ‘business’ end of the game wasn’t necessary?

Let’s find out. Each match for this tournament will only be a few minutes long. The length of which will vary between 3 and 7 minutes. Your task is to win as many points as possible within the time limit assigned. So, you will not have time to wear down your opponent. Instead you will have to rely on your racquet skill to get you by. Take more risks; run a little harder… are you a better squash sprinter?? If, at the end of the time limit, the players are tied, a sudden death point will be played.

Players may be handicapped according to their level. Speaking of which, we’ll have a keg at hand for you to handicap yourself if you so choose! We will only be using the 2 courts downstairs for this one, and the format will be dependent on how many entrants we receive. A minimum of 16 players is required to run it. Matches start at 5pm, it shouldn’t take too long.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

LOB-OTOMIES CLAIM SECOND



Summer league final round~~

It didn’t take terribly much. Last week, the “Lob-Otomies” were sitting 6th and 8 points back of the last play-off spot. Now – as we look ahead to the semi final knock-out round next week - they find themselves as the second seed. Mainly due to the 30 points they picked up over the last week of play, including a handful of make-up matches (great effort people!) and the 8 matches they completed for the final round as well. What also helped the “Lob-Otomies” was the complete inactivity of the other teams. (Even though they were tied with "Technically Delinquent", they accumulated more bonus points.)

Drop Dead Gorgeous” must have dropped dead completely. Third last week with, they did pick up some points through make-up matches (6), but only scored 1 solitary point for the final round. Now, they find themselves done for the season. The “Nick-Knacks” were almost just as absent. They scored 2 points and are also on the outside looking in. “Point of No Return” can count themselves lucky. Their 4 points was just enough to hold onto the 4th and final play-off spot.

Statistics. How does this Summer League season look on paper? Where did teams succeed, where did they fail? Let’s see what the numbers tell us….

  • ·         A total of 65% of matches were done for the season. That’s down from last year’s total of 71% and 11% lower than the record set in 2012.
  • ·         Serves You Right” played a league best 80% of their matches. They played at least 7 of 10 matches every round.
  • ·         Surprisingly, the “Nick-Knacks” played the least amount of matches – 50%. “Coordination Zero” played 51% of their matches.
  • ·         Coordination Zero” also only won 36% of the matches they did play. The lowest of any team.
  • ·         Nick-Knacks” had the highest winning percentage of any team by a wide margin. They won 71% of matches. The next best team had 54%.
  • ·         Nick-Knacks” also had the lowest percentage of 3-0 losses with 14%. If only they played more…
  • ·         Serves you Right” broke 2 records: Most overall points in a summer league (136) and most bonus points collected (47). Impressive.
  • ·         Coordination Zero” collected the least amount of bonus points with 19. Not so impressive.
  • ·         Colin Bayer (“Serves You Right”) scored the most points of any player with 22. He did not lose any matches although he did not play them all – he missed one.
  • ·         Only 5 players picked up all 7 bonus points. Three of them came from “Serves You Right”.
  • ·         10 players did not pick up any bonus points at all. None of them came from “Serves You Right”.
  • ·         8 players completed all 7 matches. None of them went through undefeated.
  • ·         Drop Dead Gorgeous” was the only team that did not have a player complete all 7 matches.

Looking onto the semi-final match-ups, we have top seeded “Serves You Right” versus “Point of No Return”. These 2 teams played each other in round 2 and it was a very close 21-19 score line just leaning in “Serves You Right” favor. 9 of 10 matches were completed. This promises to be a tight contest, and too close to call to predict a winner.

The other semi has “Lob-Otomies” against “Technically Delinquent”. These teams squared off in round 5, with “Technically Delinquent” taking the honors 14-8 in a low scoring affair. Only 6 matches were completed and both teams picked up the same amount of bonus points that week, so on paper it would seem “Technically Delinquent” has the sight advantage. But that’s why we play the game… right, Brazil?

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