Thursday, May 10, 2012


The times they are a-changin’. At least they did this year in the 2012 DAC Singles Club Championships. Of the 7 categories, we had 6 first time winners. Including the Open which we’ll get to shortly. Registration was up on 2011, and we stopped the practice of letting members play in two categories – pick one and concentrate on that. Consequently, it was more competitive with more 5-setters being played. So without further ado, here are the names of those squash players that have suddenly tattooed a target on their foreheads…

2.5 – Wink, wink, nudge, nudge…
Justin Winkelman and Tom MacFarlane
Finally, Justin Winkelman can be satisfied with being able to play consistently in every match of a tournament. He has always been capable of winning this category, but this is the first time he has even gotten past the second round. He only dropped 1 game in his first three matches– to Frank Giglio in the semi – and I’m sure he was at least a little nervous finding himself in unfamiliar territory: the final. His opponent surprised me somewhat.

I had predicted Ted Mabley would be tough to beat and I was right – unfortunately for him it was in his first match. Newcomer Elliot Shafer sent him packing in 5 tough games. Inconsistency and inexperience then got the best of Elliot as he went down 3-1 to the in-form Niko Ahee in the next round. Alas, Niko couldn’t keep it up either and took a 3-0 beat-down from Tom MacFarlane who quietly (and unanticipated) had now made his way to meet Justin in the final. I couldn’t get to see their match, so I am presuming it was full of exciting, grueling rallies, a contest for the ages. Justin prevailed 3-1 and is probably even more nervous now that he has to step up to the 3.0 next season.

3.0 – Sante Claus has come to town…
Actually, it’s not “Claus” but “Fratarcangeli”. “Claus” fits better into the song… My gut feeling on this one was confirmed – Sante Fratarcangeli would step it up and win. However, on paper the 3.0 was anyone’s for the taking. Josh Slominski was a good pick too coming off his DAC Classic win earlier in February, David Pontes was a threat, Tom Fabbri, Mike Ottaway was my dark horse, Shail Arora… the list went on. Six results in this category went the 3-2 distance with Tom Fabbri owning two of them – a 13-11 in the 5th win over Jeff Jardine and a 14-12 in the 5th win over John Conway in the very next round. However, the semis and final were all 3-0 whitewashes. Sante took care of Tom in his semi, whereas David Pontes did the same against Josh Slominski in the other. Riding on high confidence and recent good form, Sante was not going to be denied and cleaned David up in the final. He is already making strides in the 3.5.

3.5 – First Asterix and Obelix, and now Michaelpetix
Mike Petix and Matt DiDio
Timing is everything. You need to play well when it counts. You also need the ball to bounce your way now and then and pure dumb luck has to help you through. Mike Petix can be thankful for both scenarios. The ‘luck’ came in the semi final against Paul Van Tol. Paul had won his first 2 matches 3-2 and found himself in his third nail biter in as many matches against Mike. Once any score reaches overtime in the 5th game, fortune can play a huge part. A fluky nick, an ill-timed unforced error… Mike closed his eyes and when he opened them had won the game 13-11. And was in the final. There, he was matched up against Matt DiDio. Matt played well to reach  this far, dropping only the one game to Joe Bobzin in the quarter final, and was feeling strong and positive to tackle Mike. Until he started the match. It could have been Mike’s style, the importance of the match, nerves, the atmosphere of the event, but whatever the cause, Matt picked a poor moment to lose rhythm. Not taking anything away from Mike – he played better and deserved the 3-0 victory!

4.0 – Marv-Ellis Blake
A disappointingly small field of 4 players entered the 4.0 bracket. A round robin was organized with the top two players to fight it out for the final. Blake Ellis lost his first match to Chris Van Tol 3-1 and afterwards told me that if both of them were to get to the final, he would reverse that result. As fate would have it, both of them did reach the final and Blake’s premonition was closer to being fulfilled. It was by all accounts an excellent match – the two were pretty evenly matched and they moved each other around the court well. Both of them were huffing and puffing rather heavily. Ultimately, Blake grabbed the 3-1 win – just as his Nostradamus-esque calculation predicted.

4.5 – Warding off infection
This final is yet to be played. Paul Ward fell ill during the finals week and could not front up against Robin Basil. The two have agreed to battle it out once Paul is on his feet again. Robin wasn’t too upset as he could concentrate on his Racquetball Open final which he won in 8 minutes… give or take…

5.0 – Green Day
Nothing like winning the hard way. Eric Green either doesn’t want to, or simply can’t, win 3-0. But he wins – which is what counts. Maybe it’s so he doesn’t feel as guilty drinking that post-match beer(s)? With 3-1 victories over Paul Doherty and Matt Jarboe to reach the final, standing formidably in his way to the title was return-from-the-void Mike Counsman making his wonderful DAC comeback. Mike won the 5.0 waaay back in 2005 and was runner-up in 2006. Mike somehow scraped his way through his first match over Anthony Fracchia 3-2 – a result I’m sure Anthony is still wondering how he lost. Certainly not on fitness. Then a solid 3-0 win over Chuck Hamill was followed up by taking out Ryan Bendzinski 3-1 in the semi. It’s easy to underestimate Mike – just look at him. But he hits a mean ball and can move astonishingly well for a big man (stopping could be an issue). Against Eric, Mike blasted his way to a 2-0 lead, pausing only to catch his breath and refill his beer. Eric then did what Eric does. Run. And run. And he had to in order to keep himself in contention. The longer the match went, the more Mike was having it slip away and eventually Eric completed the comeback to take the 5th game 11-6.

Open – The end of Logan’s run
And Kirk Haggarty’s. Peter Logan and Kirk Haggarty have continuously shared this title since 2004. In fact, between the pair, they have won all but 6 times since 1989. Meet the new kid on the block: Pablo Buitron. The baby-faced Ecuadorian is one of the nicest fellows you will ever meet, and is a wonderfully smooth player to boot. He joined the DAC squash family in March this year – perfect timing to enter the Club Championships. Pablo reached the final comfortably enough beating our other new foreign addition – South African Jed Elley. (Ha! We are starting to look like the Trinity College team!) Jed is also a very fine player and is one who could threaten for title in the coming years. Peter reached the final beating John Rakolta 3-1 who is also inching closer to that top spot. (Kirk Haggarty didn’t play this year due to injury.) A special treat was in hand for the membership as we invited and welcomed 2-time World Champion David Palmer to referee the match. Standing about 1 foot taller than either of the two finalists, I was pretty confident that arguing with the referee would be kept to a minimum. Pablo took the first game 11-7 after creating an early lead that he never gave up. Peter came out more determined in the second game, less afraid to rally it out and it paid off as he established a 9-5 lead. But in the rush to end the game, he started to shoot too early, going for winners that weren’t quite there and he squandered the advantage. Pablo managed to take the game into a tie-break where he came out on top 13-11. A tough mental blow for Peter who instead of tying it 1 game apiece was now in a 2 game hole. The third game had a similar story line to the first, Pablo having his nose in front all the way and winning it 11-8. Even though it was a 3-0 result, the quality was the best final we have had in years.  
Peter Logan, Pablo Buitron and David Palmer.
So has a new era begun? Will Kirk Haggarty be able to get back on the singles court and compete again? Can Peter Logan defy the ages stay the number one contender? Will John Rakolta keep improving to level where he can pressure for the title? Who will win “Dancing with the Stars”? And where did that rabbit in my back garden come from? Yes, exciting squash times are ahead of us.

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