Thursday, January 11, 2018

BETTER SHOWING FOR WEEK 2



Boasters League round 2~~

Yes, it was a busier night in the court than week 1, but still not where we need to be. Plenty of squash to go around, but a significant chunk of it was pick-up games rather than scheduled league matches. Overall, more points were picked up this week as compared to last week, but that wasn’t particularly difficult to do considering last week people were still very much in vacation mode.

For round 2, Over Served outperformed the rest picking up 36 points and slightly increasing their lead to 7 points over Butter Nutz.  Mongoose – who sat out week 1 - were next in line with 31 points and have already overtaken Foss Nation on the standings. It is early in the season, so I wouldn’t read too much into that, only 8 points separate 5th through 9th, but falling behind the eight ball so soon generally does not end well.

Vivio’s understandably were the team to drop the most this week – 4 places to 7th – but they had the bye. They still picked up 10 points in makeup matches from week 1, and in reality are in a pretty decent position. It’s the teams that are just a couple of points above them, namely Nicker Ballers, Wardogs, and even Paddy’s Dropshots that need to be careful. Their bye week is yet to come.

Emphasizing some personal results for the evening… Colin Bayer (Over Served) was bitterly disappointed with his 2-1 win over Zac MacVoy (Foss Nation). He can’t believe he dropped a point let alone a game. Zac I am sure was equally dissatisfied with his 1-2 loss, especially since his brother Ryan has beaten Colin sometime in the past.

Brian Ellison (Nicker Ballers) on the other hand, was actually rather chuffed with his 2-1 victory over Sandy Selinger (Mongoose). Being on the losing side, Sandy was - as expected - a tad disgruntled considering that although losing 2 games he ended up with more overall points than Brian.

Chris Moyer (Nicker Ballers) appeared perfectly accepting of the fact that he was beaten fair and square by the ever-hustling Ian Edwards (Mongoose) 2-1. Chris’ praise for Ian went so far as to mention he wished he was more like him… Now, just to be clear, I am sure Chris was talking about Ian’s court coverage ability. At least I hope he was.

What will week 3 throw at us? (Probably more snow…) Nicker Ballers sit the week out, Mongoose and Vivio’s go at it, and as active as both teams are they could really help each other out. Can Foss Nation pull themselves out of the gutter? Can Colin Bayer win 33-0? Will the Detroit Lions hire a head coach who knows what they are talking about? Will it even matter? Stay tuned for the answers to these questions and more, same Bat-Channel, same Bat-Time…

Monday, January 8, 2018

EXCITING FARRIS CUP FINISH



Farris Cup 2018

Greatest wins of all time in sports are generally synonymous with last second heroics. Buzzer beaters in basketball, last play touchdowns in football, overtime goals in hockey, walk-off home runs in baseball… and of course in terms for squash and the Farris Cup, last match valiance, stepping up under the daunting pressure of win or send your entire team home.

The Birmingham Athletic Club hosted the 14th edition of the Farris Cup, a now established and most highly regarded event between the two clubs. As usual, we were treated with open arms and welcomed as if we were part of their membership. Of course, that didn’t stop us from wanting to kick their behinds and having me drag the awkwardly big trophy back to our court area cabinet, making its visit to the BAC halls as brief as possible.

My pre-event, soothsayer thoughts of this year’s outcome was one of uncertainty. Some matches I was fairly confident of the result, some were complete unknowns as I didn’t recognize the names, and some were certainly up for grabs. Most importantly - and I believe I speak for most of us - is that no matter which club wins, the score line is competitive. No one wants a one sided clobbering. We got what we wanted.

Gus Ploss and Brian Salkowski
Our quest started off in an encouraging fashion. John Rogers was simply too steady and quick for his counterpart to take all 3 games giving us the perfect start to the day. Gus Ploss was initially not as smooth, however. Recently coming back from a long term injury, Gus needed a game to find his feet a little. But he started to find his groove shortly thereafter, and was able to recognize his open court opportunities more regularly. As confidence grew, each game become a fraction easier and the 3-1 win was in the bag. The BAC, though, did pull one back early. Brad Steel tackled our Blake Ellis and although Blake has been playing well recently, he just wasn’t fit enough to outlast Brad’s consistency and endless good length. Blake got within reach in a couple of the games but Brad never looked too ruffled or worried. 3-0 BAC.

Bob Dodge and David Pontes
Our good form continued into the next round of matches. Han Peng had a nervous start to his campaign, considering this was the first time - ever - he had played squash outside the DAC! His opponent looked like he worked out fairly regularly and as it turned out he was a fitness trainer. Han was in for a hard time, especially since the jitters got the better of him in the first game and he hit some uncharacteristic wild unforced errors. He did calm down for the second thankfully and started to extend the rallies, finding the middle of the strings and worked himself back into contention. But it was a slog. In the end, Han proved the stronger of the two and walked off with a shirt drenched 3-1victory. Add on David Pontes’ 3-1 score and suddenly the DAC pushed ahead with a 4-1 lead.

That was as large as it was going to get.

Claude Mencotti is 65 years old, but you wouldn’t call him old. He certainly doesn’t play like he is as John Mann can attest to. No matter what John did, how hard he ran or hit it, Claude was lapping it up giving John a free tour of all four corners of court 2. As John was playing fetch, one court over, Mike Parker held a steadier hand for the first two games, squeaking them out by just a couple of points. That was enough to mentally ravage his opponent as the third became a train wreck for the BAC lad. Mike was 10-0 up before giving up the point and missing out on the bagel.

Our 3 match lead was currently still intact.

Let’s divert our attention for a moment to the doubles. On paper, our A team were the underdog. The BAC’s Jon Uffelman and Peter Schmidt are very experienced and quite frankly, very good at this game. Peter Logan and Robin Basil had an arduous mission ahead of them. And they almost pulled off the unlikely upset. They lost the first 2 games 15-14, won the third before succumbing in the 4th. It easily could have been ours. And we also could have had the next doubles result! John Dunwoody and Bob Burton made life difficult for themselves early giving up the first to games to Joe O’Connor and Nick Post. It is a monumental task at any level to come back from a 2-0 deficit, you give up any margin of error. John and Bob got their act together, however. It wasn’t quick, but it doesn’t have to be. They clawed their way back into the contest to even it up a 2 games apiece pushing the pressure squarely back onto Joe and Nick. But the BAC team responded in the 5th and proved to be a little more stubborn taking the last game 15-12.

The third and final doubles of the match went on, and we’ll get back to that in a minute. It was more meaningful that what all four players would realize.

Our lead was slowly eroding away. Mark Gregory gave us a little breathing room with his 3-0 win over Ryan MacVoy, but losses to Chris Van Tol (all 3 games were decided by 2 points), Andy Adamo, Robin Basil and James Van Dyke and the DAC were blindsided with a Bomb Cyclone. The tide had suddenly turned.

We were now trailing the BAC 7 matches to 8. Two results to come in. We had to win them both.

Jed Elley with the Farris Cup
Appropriately, both clubs played their Aces for the final singles match of the day. The respective club champions went head to head. Seth Rogers v Jed Elley. Seth is remarkably awkward to play, retrieves some of the most incredible balls and is as resolute gutsy and as they come. Jed had a specific game plan going in and he was a little wayward with that game plan in the first game finding himself 10-7 game ball down. The turning point could be traced back to this rally where Seth called for a ‘let’ and was wanting a stroke. I understand he wanted a stroke - he had game ball after all - but the correct call of ‘let’ was played. Maybe it hurt Seth psyche, maybe it didn’t, but Jed picked off the lead to snatch the first game away. I think the mental victory was bigger than the lead on the score board. Jed then went on to execute his game plan better in the second and third. And Seth worked hard as Jed moved him around the court, never giving up, never letting go. He at no time made it easy for Jed, but on this day it was Jed who was certainly the better player. Not by much, but just enough. 3-0 DAC.

8 matches each. It was all down to the final doubles match.

Jason Currie and JC Tibbitts
As Jed was trying to catch his breath, JC Tibbitts and Jason Currie were just completing their first game win against Jack Parks and Max Surnow. Obviously the start we needed and very helpful considering the players were keenly aware that the fate of the Farris Cup was now weighing squarely on their shoulders. All eyes on the match, JC and Jason got off to a strong start in the second game, but gave it up in ugly fashion with some poor unforced errors allowing the BAC team to get the score back to 13-all. Luck can definitely play a role at this stage of the game, but we didn’t really need it since our boys pulled their socks up and shrugged off the previous few lousy points and slotted a couple of committed winners to finish off the game and grab the 2-0 lead. One more game to go, once again JC and Jason started out with a convincing mentality and created a worrying lead for their opponents. This time, they held firm and did not allow any momentum change to materialize and won the third game comfortably.
 
And with that, the DAC would retain the title! 9 matches to 8. Wow.

It was our day. What a great effort from our team especially since it was played at the BAC. It is only the 3rd time we have won on their turf, the first time since 2010. Overall we now hold an 8 Farris Cup Titles to 6 advantage. A huge thank you to the BAC for their wonderful hospitality and sportsmanship and we look forward to defending the Cup next year!




Thursday, January 4, 2018

WARMING UP FOR THE SECOND HALF



Boasters League round 1~~

As I expected, it was an “easing into” the second half of the boasters league season. That being said, a fairly decent amount of matches were completed – if you weren’t on the Wardogs or Foss Nation who managed only 2 completed scores out of the 17 scheduled… (!). Otherwise it was an unremarkable attendance, maybe many of you were stuck indoors still putting on your hat, gloves, scarves, jackets, long-johns, balaclavas, winter boots, snow shoes, snow pants, wool socks, vests, another jacket…

Early league leaders are Over Served, helped by picking up 15 of 17 bonus points. However, Paddy’s Dropshots who are 5th are only 5 points behind. So it means relatively little right now, I’m sure the 7th and 8th ranked teams will pick themselves up. Just need to be careful not to fall behind too far too early. The catch-up game is generally a poor tactic for success.

There was a sizable amount of rearranging after the first half. Eleven players have been replaced, which is more than usual and that made the shuffling of players a touch more difficult. As you know my goal is to make every match as competitive as possible, so if you all could end every match you play 15-14 in the 3rd - that would be terrific. Thanks.

I don’t know if any of the scores were that tight yesterday, but we came close. Comeback of the evening must go to Vivio’s captain Rich Stimson who crawled his way back from a 6-12 3rd game deficit against Al Iafrate (Nicker Ballers) for a 15-13, 2 games to 1 win. Jerry Rock (Over Served) performed the impossible by managing to lob over the gentle giant Greg Baker (Butter Nutz) just often enough for a 2-1 win. I was surprised that Scott Beals wasn’t watching taking notes…

Other “mentionables” in spirited 2-1 score-lines: Jordan Dean (Vivio’s) over Anthony Kalogeridis (Nicker Ballers); Mark ‘watch-me-dive’ Monaghan (Winky-Dinks) leaving a wide-eyed Brian ‘I-can’t believe you dove for that’ Schrage (Paddy’s Dropshots) flatfooted and aghast no injuries were sustained and just happy no ambulance was needed; and Rob Hawkins (Over Served) pleased with getting away with a victory over Joe Leto (Butter Nutz) who then immediately booked in for some more lessons. (Thanks, Rob!)

So we’re up and running, you want to make sure that you do not fall behind on your matches. It is our busiest time of year for the courts, so get pro-active.

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