Thursday, March 21, 2013


2013 Doubles A Club Championship

I am not against tradition and I admire the efforts to attempt to restore some of that tradition to the doubles club championships by having the title matches (squash and handball) played on the night of the 3rd Blackballer dividend. However, by doing so it hurt numbers. We had 8 teams vying history last year and with the increase in play we have experienced over the last 12 months – including doubles – one would come to the conclusion that we should have received just as many if not more this year. We didn’t. We only had 5. Forcing an earlier start and fixing the final date in stone caused some players not be able to compete.

Conversely, on the other side of that coin, attendance for the 3rd dividend was healthy as many members came down to watch the finals, enjoy the food and drinks and appreciate the atmosphere created when the court area is full. Which is a huge part of what is all about. The combination of the competitive nature of the sport(s) and the camaraderie surrounding will ensure its infinite survival. It’s a symbiotic relationship. I doubt one can endure without the other. The trick is to blend both in equal parts.

The lighter draw didn’t stop the final from being very competitive. Peter Logan paired up with Jed Elley this year (his regular partner John Birgbauer was a victim of scheduling). Jed is new to the doubles court but has picked it up rapidly, helped by his smooth technique and swift court movement. Peter and Jed won their first match 3-0 over Mike Counsman and John Dunwoody to reach the final.

2012 champions Kirk Haggarty and Mike Eugenio played their pre-final match against the newly formed, young up-and-coming team of George Kordas and John Rakolta. George and John had a pretty successful DAC Classic in the B doubles - although they lost the semi 17-16 in the 5th in that event - but they impressed and surprised a lot of people at their stubbornness and unanticipated effectiveness. Not that I expected they would, but it wouldn’t have shocked terribly much me if the Kordas / Rakolta dynamic duo pulled an upset win out of the bag against Kirk and Mike. They didn’t, but they did snag a game and made the reigning title holders sweat a little. My guess is that if George and John keep practicing, they’ll be more than just a minor threat next year.  

Jed Elley, Peter Logan, Mike Eugenio, Kirk Haggarty

It was an interesting final. I can’t sit here and tell you it was a quality of squash that will have people talking for years to come. An enthralling game more because of the closeness of it rather than the caliber, it was 75 minutes of ball-cracking doubles (they did break one ball!) with both teams just as determined to win almost to the point that they were terrified to play attacking angles that could have ended many rallies earlier. It’s certainly easier to be the Monday morning quarterback and watching the game from outside the court, we can all say “why didn’t they play that shot” or “couldn’t they see that opening” but we don’t have the ball flying at us at breakneck speed. The players played their backsides off. We cannot ask for more than that.

And back and forth they went. To me, Kirk and Mike always looked like they were in the driver’s seat with Peter and Jed having to play catch-up and just trying to hang on. The Logan / Elley team rely a lot more on speed than on power. Haggarty / Eugenio were content to use brutal force. As we all have experienced, it is easy to get sucked into our opponents pace. If a player smashes the ball at you as hard as they can, it is almost natural to try to belt the thing back at them. Like a macho I-can-hit-it-harder-than-you battle. No one was going to win that war with Mike. Nevertheless, all too often, Peter and Jed tried to. When the long hard-hitting furious rallies were happening, Haggerty / Eugenio were mostly coming out on top. As soon as the Logan / Elley team started softening it up with drops and moving the ball around the four corners more effectively, the match would turn in their favor. Of course, you try and hit a controlled drop short when the ball is coming onto to your strings at light speed. Not an easy task. The teams swapped results for the first 3 games: 15-11; 11-15; 15-11. Kirk and Mike took games one and three. The tail end of the forth was the most exciting portion of the match. Tie-break situation and desperation squash brings all the spectators to the edge of their seats and the player’s nerves into question. Every shot grows with importance, every error all the more critical. Logan / Elley took the game 17-15 - not won on a blasting winner, but on a good paced, tight rail that stuck to the forehand wall that Mike wasn't able to scrape off. Good placement…

Cue the 5th and final game. And cue Kirk’s legs. Up until this point, Kirk had been wearing track pants. But it was the business end of the match, and some serious shorts were in order. The weight loss was a refreshing boost. Kirk picked up his movement in the 5th game, and slotted a few excellent winners to give Mike and himself a nice buffer as they crept ever closer to the end. It was too much of a gap for Peter and Jed to close and Kirk and Mike took the 5th 15-9.

It was one of the most competitive, spirited finals we have had in recent times. Great crowd to boot. Hopefully we can receive more teams in the A draw next year and include some key players that were missing this year: John Birgbauer; Pablo BuitrĂ³n; Eric Green; newcomer Jamie Shea… Thrilling times to look forward to!

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