Monday, September 18, 2017


Cross Border Challenge - September 16, 2017

The one thing that I didn’t see much of this Saturday was the abundance of the Stars and Stripes, our players enveloping themselves in their patriotic colors as if the Old Glory had vomited all over them. There was the odd spattering of the red, white and blue, but nothing like we had a few years ago when a large percentage of the team actually purchased specific uniforms that were beyond reproach. It was beautiful. While our gear didn’t scream “U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!”, our racquets did.

A healthy crew of 24 DAC members were matched up against their Windsor counterparts - who, by the way, also lacked an appreciable amount of their national pride. Where were their faithful “Maple Leafs…?” - and at 2pm sharp matches were underway.

In probably the fastest recorded result in Cross Border history, before the players on court 7 had even warmed the ball up to match playing standard, Chris Laenen was standing next to me, beer in hand, reporting his 3-0 win. Well, that was a good start for us, although I did feel a little sympathy for his opponent…

… a quick side note here. Mis-matches are inevitable in a competition such as this (think “Farris Cup”!). I work together with Windsor’s head pro Graeme Williams and we try our hardest to make all the matches as even as possible. Unfortunately, it’s not possible. We do get it wrong on occasion. We had 21 matches played this day. I would prefer that one club win all 21 matches, but have every one of them go the full 5-set distance, than have an 11-10 match result but all scores being a 3-0 whitewash. I apologize to those few who were affected, but don’t be discouraged and we hope to see you back again…!

Josh Gershonowicz took a little more time than Chris, but he took all three games to hand us our second victory of the day. Then it was Ian Edwards’ turn, but his voyage to the finishing line was a whole lot harder. His opponent put up plenty of resistance but Ian held firm in the 5th to take the 3-2. Scott Beals was next in line and I thank him for stepping in last minute to replace Nacho de la Torre Libre who was called up for an out of state grappling bout somewhere down south. Scott’s opponent was also a last minute replacement and was up for double duty. Steve Allen had to go back-to-back so he really didn’t want to spend too much time on court with Scott and was pleased he got away with the 3-0 win before having to tackle Zac MacVoy immediately afterwards.

It was the closest match of the day, and a doozy. Looking at the protagonists, one would discern that Steve was the runner, Zac would need to be the shot maker. But Zac is remarkably mobile for a big dude, he impresses me every time he starts motoring around the court. I also hold my breath hoping he doesn’t run into (through) the glass back wall, and I also keep those two paddles nest to the trophy cabinet amped up just in case… Deep into the 5th game, getting into the business end of the tie-break, it was Steve who looked like the player in charge and Zac was simply trying to hang on. And Zac hung on for a while, saving a couple of match balls, but never actually getting a match ball of his own. Steve pulled out the 13-11 in the 5th win!

In the round of 2.45pm singles matches (which included Steve and Zac), the Windsor team stepped up and took three of the four results. Our lone victor was Mike Zukas. At this stage, the two clubs had split the singles results 4-4. So what about the 2 doubles matches up to that point?

We split them too. Shail Arora and Bruce Shaw were shaky at best, and struggled to find any consistency against the experienced husband and wife team of Janice and Herb Funkenhauser. Janice and Herb took full advantage and all three games. The other doubles match was a lot tighter, although it wasn’t exactly an epic encounter. John Dunwoody and Vikram Chopra started off their campaign like Shail and Bruce - all over the map. Mistakes and mis-hits seemed to be the norm for the first 2 games before the pair got their bearings on the proper track. The next three games went their way, a 3-2 win that they will be pleased just to get away with.

5 matches apiece.

There were 11 matches left, and it was at this point the DAC seemed to think enough was enough, time to bury this bad boy. The next round of matches all fell our way. Han Peng must have sweat out half his body weight after his 11-9 in the 5th win against a veteran, very British gentleman with an accent more fit for the Queen, who has been playing squash longer than I have. JC Tibbitts had to deal with another Funkenhauser (Ron) who spent a great deal of his time sprawled across the court floor as he continuously dived for ball after ball. Spectacular to watch, top-notch entertainment to say the least, but not a winning strategy. JC won 3-1. Ryan MacVoy kept to the simple patient tactic of good length before utilizing the short court well. A very nice 3-0 win for him.

Steve Brown also put up a commendable performance. The first game loss was due to forcing the ball too short too soon, so he changed that mentality for the next three games and was able to use those soft hands of his more effectively. A great 3-1 victory, celebrated with a cool energy drink… umm, I mean a scotch.

Donald Trump was wrong. He said once that he would win so much, we would get bored with winning. Winning never gets boring. Piling on the pain, we quickly put the day out of reach. Brian Ellison, Sante Fratarcangeli, David Zack, all won 3-0. The third doubles of the day - Chato Hill / Steve Murphy - walked off with a 3-1 triumph as well.

There were 2 matches to complete, but we had the 13-6 unassailable lead. That doesn’t meant the last two matches weren’t fiercely competed. Of course, that goes without saying when Paul Gebrael is involved. “Fierce” and “competition” are indiscernible in his case - an important quality for any squash player. Ryan Covell had the task of taming him and he did a pretty good job in the first game. Although I did fear a little for my life when I unwisely gave my opinion on a ‘let’ call / tin, that may have poked the bear a bit too much. Paul came out in the second game, started serving the ball with every intent of trying to make our front wall collapse, and increased the pressure on Ryan significantly. Paul took the next 3 games, and thankfully no humans were harmed in the process. I don’t mean to give Paul a hard time - he was the perfect sportsman, the match was played with no controversy all.

The final contest of the day was another 5-setter. Paul Ward hasn’t played a lot over the summer, but the rust didn’t appear to show that much. Doug Fields is an awkward leftie, effective with low hard angles, and can scurry around the court rather well. As the 5th game was under way, I felt that Paul held the upper hand with the comparative fitness levels and he did get off to the quicker start. There is nothing worse, I find, than to have a bad start in a 5th game. Catch-up when you are tired is a desperation situation and that - more times than not - doesn’t end well. And it didn’t for Doug. Paul maintained the healthy lead and took the match. We ended up a 14 match to 7 win.

Now, if was I paying attention a little more, I would have made a bigger deal that this was the 20th Cross Border Challenge between the 2 clubs. After our victory today, the overall score stands at DAC - 9, Windsor - 11. The next one is - for now - scheduled for April in Windsor, (if our calendars allow it). The trophy stays in our cabinet. Looks like a good home for it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


So Labor Day came and went. And suddenly, when we weren’t looking, the season crept up behind us, took a huge wind-up and drop-kicked us squarely in the gluteus maximus, the exact same muscles that will be screaming ruthlessly at many of you after the first time you venture back on the court.

The ones who will not be suffering through that pain will be the ones that kept their squash running all the way over the summer via the singles or doubles leagues. It was, undeniably, an excellent summer in terms of numbers, so I thought I would break down the stats a little and share with everyone what happened. Maybe it will encourage more players to join next summer as well…

Firstly, the singles league – or, the “Merry-Go-Round-Robin”. I really like this format as you can play as many matches as you please whenever you please, they all count, and you can play the same opponent over and over and over again. It ran continuously for 16 weeks, and was made up of 100 members (10 teams with 10 players each). Players earned individual points within their own team for each match they played based on the result – so they were competing against their own team-mates – and each team was competing against the other teams to see which one played the most matches overall.

  • A total of 502 matches were reported. That’s outstanding. Last season (this is the second time we have run this format), we had 443 matches. For you non-mathematicians out there, that is 59 more matches overall. 
  • Team 8 played 122 matches. 24% of the overall total. 
  • Team 5 played the least amount of matches with 23. Strangely, Team 5 also played the least amount of matches last summer. 
  • 6 players did not play any matches. For me, that is the most disappointing stat of all. I had a waitlist of players who could not get in the league because it was full… 
  • Paul Gormley (Team 8) was a man on a mission. He scored by far the most points of any player in the league with 230. The next best achiever had 167 – Jon Diewald also from Team 8. Third best? Steve Smihal from Team 8 with 144. 
  • Paul Gormley and Jon Diewald played each other 21 times. Jon won 12, Paul 9. 
  • Sticking with Paul here, he is the only player in the league that managed to play each of his team mates at least once. He played 67 matches overall. 
  • No Team completed a full round obviously. (All ten players played each other at least once). The most any team played in one round was 24 matches (out of a maximum of 45) and three teams did that: Team 8 (surprise!), Team 2 and Team 10.
Moving onto the summer Doubles League. We had 47 registrations this year – same as 2016 – spread over the 4 levels of play. We are all aware that the biggest issue we have with the doubles is the amount of subs we usually require week in week out. Rearranging matches is not an option, so late cancellations are particularly problematic, especially in the summer. That being said, I think we did a pretty good job anyway…

  • Of the 64 total arranged matches for the season, only 4 of them did not get played. Two of them were because we couldn’t find a sub and 2 of them were because of no-call-no-shows. 
  • The Monday A group played all their matches. But they did require a lot of subs. 41% of the players were subbed out for the season. Twice was the match played with all 4 players being subs. Of the 20 arranged matches, only 2 were played without a sub. 
  • The Tuesday B group were better with their required subs. Two of their 22 arranged matches did not get played. 7 matches did not require any subs. Subs overall were need only 25% of the time. Only 5 of the completed matches ended up 3-0. Not bad! 
  • Wednesday Open – 2 of the 11 matches didn’t require a sub. Two no-call-no-shows. 38% of the arranged players were subbed out. Only 2 matches were 3-0. 
  • Wednesday C group – By far the most committed of the levels! All matches were played, of the 11 matches, 4 didn’t need any subs. Only 25% of the time was a sub needed. Again, only 2 matches were 3-0.

The doubles does appear to be getting more competitive, and it’s still an uphill battle to increase the amount of players when we only have 1 court to work with. But, slowly, it’s growing. There is still room in the fall doubles season for the Thursdays C league (5-7pm) and it’s a great place to start if you are looking at learning the game and getting involved – just e-mail me if you are interested in joining!

Congratulations to all the individual winners in the summer leagues – you can see who excelled on the pin-board outside court 8. Now, get back on court!

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