Thursday, April 21, 2011


Club Championships 2011

Doubles C~~
Lately, there does seem to be more interest in the doubles. Certainly a terrific trend since more competition will only improve the standard. The Doubles C Club Championship draw had 10 teams enter this year, many new faces, and of the 9 matches played, only 2 of them ended up 3-0 which shows how close the contests were.

New kids on the block Sante Fratarcangeli and Jason Trombley paired up without even having played a match before. A daunting task to say the least, but when Jason injured his ankle during the Blitz Tournament in March a replacement needed to be found. Drew Creamer - who does have doubles experience - then stepped in. This proved to be valuable. Sante and Drew pulled out an upset 3-2 win over Bob Bendzinski and Mark Monaghan. Their prize? A match with the top seeded Mike Petix and Paul Flanagan. A second upset was not on the cards as they lost 3-0. Mike and Paul then went on to win their semi final 3-0 as well.

Another first time entrant into the club championship was Harold Kuhn and Mike Ryan. Harold and Mike are not new to the game, but most people in the draw didn’t know them. Early mornings in the week – 6am early that is – you may find them playing a match which is why I had their opponents asking me where they came from. Tom McCarthy and Joe Schaden found out they could hit a good ball too as they fell victim 3-1 in the first round. Harold and Mike were looking formidable and a good possibility of reaching the final but fell short in the semi finals where they lost to last year’s doubles C finalists Joe Moran and Ken Katz 3-1.

Naturally Joe and Ken were attempting to get one step further this year. However Mike and Paul were not exactly pushovers. Certainly being a younger team as well (no offence to Ken and Joe!) made it all the more difficult so tactfully, they had to be consistent and precise. Once again, though, they were pipped at the post. Going down fighting, they lost 3-1 – just like in 2010. Well done to Mike Petix and Paul Flanagan!

Doubles B~~
For the second year in a row the Ryan Bendzinski and Rich Stimson versus John Dunwoody and Chris Terry match-up would decide the final. Back in 2009, Ryan and Rich shocked just about everybody when they won the B draw (beating Al Hibbert and Kevin Parsons 15-11 in the 5th in the final) because no one really considered them a danger. They proved it wasn't a lucky run and also reached the final in 2010 against John and Chris but went down 18-13 in the 5th. Would 2011 be just as close? Before we get to the result, we’ll quickly look at how the two pairs reached the final in the first place. [Pictured right: Rich Stimson, Ryan Bendzinski, John Dunwoody, Chris Terry]

Only 7 teams entered the B draw. Rich and Ryan were given top seeds and had the bye first round so only had to win one match to reach the final. In that match, they played the Shumaker brothers – Peter and Tom. It was a tight, intense affair. The 4 games were all pretty close and Rich and Ryan just happened to end up on the correct side of 3 of them.

John and Chris were given the second seed despite winning last year. This was mainly due to the fact that both of them had been injured for a significant period over the season and were just getting back to match fitness. Despite that, they managed to beat their round 1 opponents 3-0 before tackling last year’s doubles C winners Anthony Fracchia and Andy Housey in the semis. Anthony and Andy put up a good performance but couldn’t quite be consistent enough. John and Chris won 3-1.

True to predictions, the final was close. Very close. John and Chris jumped to an early advantage winning the first two games and for a while it looked as if a comfortable victory was in the bag. But it is easy to relax when you are cruising and lose all the momentum that got you there in the first place. And that’s exactly what happened. Rich and Ryan came storming back to even the score a 2 games apiece and for a third straight year the B final would go to 5. Apart from age, body shape, and everything else you could think of, nothing separated the two teams. All the way to 15-all and one sudden-death point to decide the winners. It was Rich Stimson’s thick frame (his racquet frame that is) that caught the edge of the ball in the final rally to shank a winner just above the tin and end John’s and Chris’ dreams and hopes. 16-15 in the 5th! Well done to Rich and Ryan!

Doubles A~~
For the third year in a row, the Doubles A final had the same protagonists. Peter Logan and John Birgbauer won the event in 2009 in 5 games over Kirk Haggarty and Mike Eugenio, and then lost the final in 2010 in 4 games to the same team. Both pairs had little trouble getting this far, although Peter and John did drop one game in the first round to George Kordas and Eric Green. Edition 2011 had all the markings of a great battle… [pictured right: Peter Logan, John Birgbauer, Mike Eugenio, Kirk Haggarty]

The most surprising thing about the result was not who won because either team stood a great chance to do so, but the score line. 3-0. At least two of the games were close enough to go to the tie-breaker with the other one being all one-way traffic, however I would have thought the games would have been shared around a little. Regrettably for Mike and Kirk, their opponents were in a stingy mood and showed no desire to divide up the spoils. John and Peter took all 3 games and once again will have their names etched for all eternity on the DAC Champions board. Congratulations, fellas!

Monday, April 18, 2011


It didn’t take long for this competition – The McQueenie Cup – to develop a rivalry. It all started back in September of 2009 when the first running of the event was held and the DAC won all the matches against each club, but peculiarly lost the Cup to Toledo anyway. From then on, the claims of a “shallow” victory reverberate every now again through the squash court halls but the fact remains that the victorious team unchangeably engraved onto Cup is not ours. We have since been determined to knock Toledo from their pedestal.

The second running of the McQueenie was held in Chicago in the handsome building of the University Club of Chicago who recently unveiled their new court centre that looks over Lake Michigan from 11 floors up. Impressive is an understatement, and the 4 pristine singles courts and 1 doubles court are a delight to play on. Because of the controversy in the previous event’s scoring, the format was changed for 2011. Each club could place a maximum of two representatives in each of the four draws (A, B, C and D). With 9 players in each draw, each position would be played out (first to ninth) and depending on where each player finished, they would score points for their respective club. The totals would then be added up to determine the winner. In case of a tie, games won would be the decider. [Pictured right - Paul Ward]

All eight members of the DAC team played on Friday evening. Four of our players claimed quick 3-0 victories, Ryan Bendzinski in the C draw (4.0) took down his man 3-1 and John Rakolta in the A draw (5.0) had a scare before finally getting by 3-2. Our only two casualties were Paul Ward in the C draw (4.0) who went down 3-1 and Mark Gregory in the B draw (4.5) who lost 3-0. Unfortunately, both of those losses were against Toledo guys…. Grrrr!

Naturally, the temptations of a Friday night on the town in Chicago were way too difficult to withstand. Sightseeing through the populated watering holes and observing the local wildlife kept most of captivated until well past my bedtime. We didn’t, but should have followed Patrick Petz’ example when he pretended to be too tired to soldier on as he eye-lids were losing their battle to gravity and he called it an early night. All we could do is shake our heads at him as we gently placed him in a cab. The night was still young in our eyes.

Even though matches on Saturday morning started at a friendly 9.40am with John Rakolta up to bat against the lone representative from Milwaukee / Madison, Wael Saber, I was a little skittish to see how our boys would cope. John managed to squeak through prevailing 3-1 but it was nip and tuck the whole way. Our next 3 matches we weren’t so lucky. Eric Green (B draw) – who for some bizarre reason was consistently missing one sock – lost his match 3-0 although he can take solace in the fact that his opponent ended up winning that category. After that match Eric also asked to consult the dictionary to see if his on court experience was equating to what he was thinking. He found the word under ‘s-o’ and also discovered he was correct. Eric went on to finish in third place winning his 3rd / 4th play-off in 5 tough sets. [Pictured left - Eric Green, Patrick Petz and Ryan Bendzinksi]

In the C division, Ryan Bendzinski also scored us a 3rd placed finish. In his play-off match he triumphed over Toledo’s Matt Osburn 11-9 in the 5th. Rich Stimson gave us our third 3rd place in the D draw beating Patrick Petz 3-1 in their match. Mark Gregory ended up 7th but can claim the longest game (not match) of the tournament. He lost in 3-1 in his second match, but the 4th game had the score line 19-17! His opponent was too tired to continue the event afterwards and pulled out of the 5th / 6th play-off. Paul Ward took 6th position as he went down 3-1 in his final match.

The A draw turned out to be – in both semi finals - a DAC versus Toledo scenario. If we were to claim the McQueenie Cup from them, here was our perfect opportunity. Peter Logan played first against Drew Snell was looking strong after taking the first 2 games. But Drew came back well for the next two as he ripped the momentum away to tie it up and then jump to a 7-3 lead in the 5th. And there it unraveled. It was last point Peter lost and he rolled off the next 8 rallies to snatch a very important win for the DAC. The other semi had John Rakolta [pictured right] as the underdog against Andy Effler. If John could win, the Cup would be ours. But it was a huge task. John, however, played the almost perfect tactical game plan as he floated good length and then pushed his backhand drop centimeter perfect above the tin frustrating his opponent to almost tears. The miracle win was not to be as Andy escaped with a 3-2 win and feeling no doubt a huge sense of relief!

As it came down to the final 2 matches of the tournament - A and C division final - the running tallies were calculated. For all of our energy that was focused on beating Toledo, we had completely forgotten - and not really considered - the University Club of Chicago (UCC) to be any threat. But if the UCC player was to win the C draw, and Peter Logan was to win the A draw, there would be a 3-way tie for first place! Would it be once again that games won would be the determining factor for the Cup? This possible nightmare would end up being (thankfully) avoided although not to our favor. The UCC player lost which eliminated them, but then so did Peter Logan which eliminated us. Andy played excellent squash in the final as he found his touch and length and virtually removed all of his unforced errors that haunted him when he played John. There wasn’t much Peter could do as he fell 3-0.

The final team scores:
1. Toledo – 136
2. University Club of Chicago – 132
3. DAC – 128
4. Union League Club of Chicago – 56
5. University of Washington D.C. – 48 (3 players only)
6. Milwaukee – 12 (1 player only)

Saturday night was another delightful evening spent with all the friends we had made as we hopped around the downtown area for another few hours. I am extremely proud of our team and the mutual support they showed each other on and off the court. Something we can definitely build on for the future. Talk for next year’s event may have it in Denver but if that doesn’t happen, there is a good possibility it will be back at the DAC.

Yes, we finished 3rd in the end, but it was a very exciting finish to a superb weekend. And yes, once again Toledo took home the hardware. They won it fair and square, outplayed us (and everyone) and absolutely deserve the credit. So even though Toledo can gloat, flaunt off their victory, walk around with a swagger and sense of entitlement, we at the DAC can take to heart that at least we don’t have to live there.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Ever wondered what you look like when on court? Capturing priceless moments in time - especially under pressure situations - makes for mesmerizing viewing. How Mark got himself into this position is baffling, but nonetheless entertaining. Click on the photo below, then answer the question. This is…

A) Mark Monaghan’s new “break-dance-squash” move
B) Squash on ice
C) The famous, but rarely used “rolling-on-your-back-over-the-shoulder-blind-backhand-volley-drop-nick” shot.
D) Yoga on the squash court
E) Mark Monaghan on the end of a full body dive for the ball
F) Why Mark has a pulled groin
G) Mark’s audition tape to “So You Think You Can Dance?”
H) Not how the human body should bend
I) Not a sight for sore eyes… or any eyes for that matter
J) A forward double-twist somersault serve in the pike position

Answer: E) Desperation is caught on camera as Mark sacrifices his body just to keep the ball in play. His full length dive successfully let him retrieve the ball only for his opponent to put the next shot away for a winner. We give him an ‘A’ for effort, a ‘B’ for execution, a ‘D’ for artistic impression, and with a degree of difficulty of 3.7, an overall score of 8.1 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Sadly, the end of the winter season is nigh. Although nothing please me more than seeing my driveway free of snow, knowing that the courts will soon fall silent from the ‘thwack!” of the squash ball is a little distressing. But wait! All is not lost! The coming of the summer also means… Summer League! Yippee!

While many of you will be yearning to hit the golf course and spend 4-5 hours searching for a white ball in the long grass, I am sure the frustration that builds from that will only have you hankering to belt around the squishy black one. Plus, your body will thank you when you actually sweat from an increased heart rate and not from the hot temperatures!

The Summer League consists of 8 teams. I would like a minimum of 64 players. All standards welcome. It will be run exactly like the winter league except that it will be scheduled for Monday nights rather than Wednesdays. Bonus points will still be on offer, but there will not be a keg. Still, it is highly encouraged that you play on Monday nights for the camaraderie. You do need to be a Blackballer to play. The league will be 7 weeks of regular season, then 2 weeks of finals. The top 4 teams will advance. It is scheduled to start on May 16 and end on July 25.

I will be putting the teams together. Team orders will be based on your previous league results, box ladder results, club championship results and if you happen not to have any of that, on guessing!

So get your registration in early. The deadline to do so is May 6 (or until full). Anyone signing up after capacity has been reached will be placed down as a sub. If I receive a lot more than 64 players, I will definitely consider expanding it. It is one sure way to guarantee at least one match week. A match that I organize for you! What could be easier than that?

Monday, April 4, 2011


If you looked up “genuine” in the dictionary, you may find a photo of this fellow. Genuinely nice, genuinely friendly, genuinely kind hearted, he is also a very smooth looking squash player that appears to ‘float’ around the court. You would probably find his picture in the dictionary next to “calmness” too as never have I seen or heard him get his feathers ruffled.


The Squash Joint (TSJ): “You played squash in college which is unusual for a DAC member. Which college did you play for, how was the coaching, and did you really enjoy the experience?”

I did, it was a great experience. I played at St. Lawrence University. It is a small school in upstate New York, about 2 hours north of Syracuse. Like most people from the midwest, I had no idea what squash was until I showed up at the first practice. It was a new program, and still a club sport my first year, so they basically just needed a few extra people to make up a team. The following year it became a varsity sport and I was able to learn enough the first year to stay on the team. I was lucky to have Sasha Cooke as my coach for the first 3 years, he played hardball professionally in the 80's, and from what I understand was ranked as high as 14 in the world. It was like getting a lesson from you 5 days a week for 5-6 months out of the year. I can't imagine how much that would cost me now?

TSJ: “Give us your take on college squash and the complete domination of Trinity who just won their 13th National title in a row. While it is fantastic that the Trinity record brings recognition to the sport, is it a fair playing field?”

As you obviously know, college squash is very small sport in terms of the number of teams. I think there are currently about 60-70 teams in the country, but there is a big difference between the top 10-15 teams and everyone else, and then there is Trinity who are basically in a league by themselves. I have no idea whether or not everything they do is legal ( I have heard some rumors), but Trinity has done a great job recruiting around the world. When I played it was rare for them to have a U.S. born player on their team. We played their B team my senior year and I think we might have won 2 games out of 12 matches. It might not be fair for everyone else, because there are generally only a couple of teams who can even think about competing with them, but I don't see anything wrong with what they are doing. They have a great program, and it sets a benchmark for everyone else to try to reach.

TSJ: “You are by nature a pretty placid guy. (As far as I can see!) Do you think this negatively affects your squash game? Should you be more aggressive?”

Yeah I think it does at times, but it depends on who I am playing. Sometimes there is such a friendly atmosphere at the DAC it makes it hard to go out and try to crush someone like you would at a tournament, but generally once I know someone fairly well that doesn't bother me anymore. Once we are friends I have no problem trying to beat you 3-0. Remember that the next time we play Pontes! You are going down!

TSJ: “I break into your house, raid your fridge and turn on the TV. Which beer do I find, what channel is the TV tuned into and which movie do I find in the DVD player?”

Hmmm, well right now I think there are some Bells Brown Ale, but there are only 3 left, so try not to drink them all. You are probably going to have to fight my roomate for the remote, because there is a good chance he will be watching TV there already, and I think he secretly likes to watch Who's The Boss re-runs when I am not home, so you might be subjected to watching that. As far as movies go, the most recent one I have seen is the Social Network.

TSJ: “If I gave you front row seats to any sporting event in the world, which one would you choose?”

Can you get me inside the ropes of the final pairing on Sunday at the Masters or the US Open? I would love to follow around the leaders of any of the major tournaments for a full round. Normally you are lucky to catch a glimpse of them as they are walking by, golf is a tough sport to watch in person, so if you can get me inside the ropes I will take that. Otherwise, any World Cup match.

TSJ: “In your professional life, you are a florist. What exactly do you do and how did you get into the business? Don’t be afraid to give yourself a shameless plug here”

It is a family business. My grandfather started it in 1946. I never had any aspirations of being involved when I was growing up, but I have always had a great relationship with my parents and I spent a fair amount of time away from home during college and right after, that I thought it would be fun to get involved with them when I got back. There are so many things that go into keeping it running every day and every year. I try to get involved with as much of it as I can, but my main focus is on marketing, our website, and taking care of all the intangibles that are never ending. Basically, I kind of have to create my own niche and figure out what my parents are either not good at, or don't have time to do themselves.

Ok, here is my plug: The name of our shop is Conner Park Florist. We have 2 shops on the eastside, but deliver everywhere in Metro Detroit. I am not sure when this will be published, but if it is in April, then everyone should remember their secretary on April 27th!

TSJ: “I know that you volunteer regularly to help out with the “Racquet Up Detroit” urban squash program. What has been the most satisfying experience to date with working with the kids?”

Yeah, it has been a great experience. Probably the coolest thing I have noticed was just last week. The kids typically spend half of their 3 hours in the classroom and the other half on the squash courts. They have always been excited to play squash, but it was really great to see them so excited about being in the classroom, which was a lot different from when they started out. It is a really cool program. I would not be surprised if you see a couple of these kids playing for some of the top college teams in about 6 or 7 years.

TSJ: “Who is your all time favorite squash player, current or past?”

I would probably have to go with Jonathon Powers...Sorry Mick.

TSJ: “What was your favorite ‘Seinfeld’ episode?”

Hmmm. That is a tough one. It would have to be either the Soup Nazi, or the one where Kramer drives all the empty bottles to Michigan to get the deposit. I don't know what you would call that one?

TSJ: “What is the worst pick up line you have actually used on a girl and what happened?"

Hah. (I am laughing at myself here). I wish I could give you an interesting story, but I am not really into cheesy pick up lines, and I am not very good at making up stories. The best advice I have ever received is to keep it simple, if you ask, usually they will say yes. Just as long as you keep your target within reach.

TSJ: “What has been the best thing about joining the DAC?”

Well, I think it goes without saying the opportunity to meet so many great people is one of the best parts of belonging to the DAC, but after that I would have to say the men's locker room, and if we ever get more than 2 squash courts on the first floor than that will be my favorite part of the DAC.

TSJ: “For the final question, we delve deep into your psyche… Who is that one celebrity that you like and look up to but are a little embarrassed to normally admit it? Don’t be shy now…”

Well if you had asked me a couple years ago I would have said Tiger Woods, but that might not be the best choice these days?...Actually, maybe he could help me with my pick up lines.

So the next time you need a flower arrangement, don’t hesitate to give Andy a call. We thank him for his time in answering all the questions, and don’t be afraid to ask him for a game of squash – I am sure he would be more than happy to oblige. He currently plays in the number 3 position in the Boasters League and isn’t to be underestimated. Watch out for his forehand drop!

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