Singles Club Championships 2014~~
This year proved that there are no easy matches. The trend continues with increased participation and this year’s Club Championships were no different. The lower categories did make up most of the numbers, but as you will see, the competitiveness across the board is increasing too. Championship night was one of the biggest ever at the DAC, and the finals matched the occasion. This event pretty much signifies the end to the 2013-2014 season, but of course I don’t like to rest on such laurels. The summer league starts in a week with 80 players, the ladder is still 140 strong, and court usage for the year is (again) on a record pace. So let’s see who ended this season with a *BANG*…!
2.5 – John-the-Mann-Can!
For the first time in 10 years, I had to make a new spreadsheet to accommodate the entries! I have templates for an 8, a 16, and a 32 draw, but not for anything larger. With 34 players in the 2.5, I had to tweak the file a little, and if it continues to grow, I’ll need bigger paper! Ah, the problems I have to deal with!
With so many matches being played, obviously there were a number of very close contests. Terry Lang and Niko Ahee get the honor for playing the longest one. Their second round match went 13-11 in the 5th, with Terry crawling off the court feeling slightly less exhausted due to the win than what Niko did. Other 5-set mentionables go to Steve Murphy knocking off the hard-hitting Tad Lippincott, and Mike McCuish fending off the scrambling Tom Bejin. The four quarter finalists were not surprising to me. In the bottom half, Josh Gershonowicz was up against JC Tibbitts. It was a tough one to predict as I have had lessons with both of them, and either one was capable of beating the other. It would come down to consistency on the day. Although Josh won the first game, he later said he was never fully comfortable. Now much of that has to do with the pressure your opponent puts you under, and JC kept up that pressure up well for the next three games to keep Josh off balance. JC took the match 3-1.
The other semi final had John Mann versus Rob Biskup. John has been playing better recently; he runs hard and has the ‘never-say-die’ attitude. A little messy on the technique (come and see me, John!) but he makes up for it with his legs. I didn’t know much of anything about Rob’s game. He is a member of the BAC as well and plays most of his squash out there but it was great to see him play and support our event! I couldn’t predict the outcome of this match at all, simply because of the unknown squash abilities of Rob… I had never seen him play before! John scored a 3-0 win to advance to the final, Rob’s e-mail to me modestly pointed out that John was just too good.
The final on paper would be tight. The last 2 times the pair played, John had won 3-2. Based on those close wins, he probably also had the mental edge over JC. Once again, the two had another tough match and once again, a 3-0 result wasn’t on the cards. This time, the match went 4 games, and in such situations recently, the John Mann hustle and bustle is a daunting task to overcome.. In fact, looking at his results over the past couple of months, John has won 12 straight matches and only 4 of those were 3-0. The last time he lost? In February - against… JC! Lucky 13 was shining brightly this day as John took the final 3-1. JC accepted the defeat with no excuses, only praise for his opponent: “He just outplayed me.”
3.0 – Currie in a Flurry!
Like Rob Biskup, Jason Currie is (or was), an unknown entity as well. I knew he played regularly but he is an early morning bird that graces the court well before my slumbering body peeks out from under the bed sheets. I had never even met the guy before finals night. However, I knew he was good enough to win the category. As were a handful of others. Sean Moran being one of them. Always highly competitive, Sean hits hard and uses his angles at surprising times. The Sean v Jason final would be tough. Plenty of 3-1 and 3-2 results through this bracket, neither finalist reached that far without at least some difficulty. Jason scraped passed the awkward styling of Mike Ottaway in a close 5-setter in the semi, and Sean had to overcome a 0-2 deficit against Dino DeMare in the quarter final.
The final was a battle of the ball-beaters. Two power players, Sean with the angles, Jason with the legs. After Sean took the first game, Jason began to wear him down. Steadier, and better use of length, Jason stretched out the rallies to Sean’s discomfort and the unforced errors started to appear. Even though Sean refused to quit, he couldn’t keep up with the pace and Jason finished him off with a 3-1 victory.
3.5 – Scott has the Shot!
This was the one category that was hardest to seed. There were multiple possibilities of who could have won this thing. James Van Dyke, Cathy Lysack, Jay Poplawski, Josh Slominski, Brian Bartes, Tom Fabbri, Bob Rogers… plus a handful of others. And they weren’t even listed in the top 4 seeds! I had Paul Van Tol at the top of the draw but he was bounced out in the first round by Scott Langenburg 12-10 in the 5th. I then had Al Iafrate as the second seed, and he decided to copy Paul and lost his first match as well 12-10 in the 5th – to Mike LoVasco. My 4th seed lost in 5 first round too, and I was starting think I really needed to change my seeding procedures! Saving me at least a little face was Tom MacEachern – as third seed he won all the way through to the final.
Upsets galore splattered this division. One of the dark horses I thought could do some damage was Brian Bartes. He has been pushing some of the 4.0 players to 5 games in the box ladder recently and if on form could prove a tough opponent. But up steps Josh Slominski and carves his way to a 3-0 win over him. That was after Josh edged out Greg Baker in round 1, 11-8 in the 5th. Josh’s run was stopped by Scott Langenburg 3-1, who then in the semi final picked up another 3-1 win over Jay Poplawski. Scott’s final’s opponent - Tom MacEachern – beat Mike LoVasco 3-1 in their semi.
|Tom MacEachern and Scott Langenburg|
The final was a tale of 2 halves. Tom dominated the first half as he stormed to a 2 games to love lead and a healthy 4 point lead in the 3rd. It looked like Scott was done. But, as we recently witnessed, Scott is a rather cool customer under pressure. And not just squash pressure. I cannot go any further without mentioning the heroic actions of Scott just 3 days prior as he applied emergency care right outside court 8 to a fellow squash player who had suddenly collapsed. Scott is a doctor, and jumped immediately into action. The ‘patient’ did not have a pulse. A few heart massages later and a zap from the defibrillator literally bought the member ‘back to life’. An extremely scary moment for all of us watching. The patient will be fine. The whole incident genuinely puts everything into perspective, doesn’t it? Still, Scott had a final to win. Cool as can be, he slowly, surely, launched his comeback. Tom lost his rhythm and timing and seemed rattled that his game was no longer being as effective. Steady Scott picked up the 3rd and 4th games and then ran away comfortably with the 5th to win the 3.5 title!
4.0 – Sante Does it Again!
I really have to admit, Sante absolutely deserves the win. This is his third title in a row. No – not in the same division – he has stepped up every year. From the 3.0 two years ago, he won the 3.5 last year, and now the 4.0 in 2014. Sante works hard on his game. He makes the extra effort to practice with higher level players, and that hard work is paying off. I have done “Challenge the Pro” with him a couple of times and his exertion levels are second to none. But, like every other category this year, his win was no cake walk. I also do not want to undermine the efforts of his opponents. Everyone goes flat out and busts a gut to win whenever they are on court.
|Chris Van Tol and Sante Fratarcangeli|
Sante was very close not to even get out of the first round. He escaped with a 14-12 in the 5th win over the wily Greg Rivard, a player who has a very strong stroke and can produce a winner with that power unexpectedly. In the semi, Blake Ellis pushed him all the way, but Sante ended up the 3-1 victor. On the other side of the draw, Chris Van Tol was the man to beat. Chris and Sante have played numerous times and their matches regularly go the full distance. Chris, like Sante, covers the court quickly but can let himself down now and then with a slight lack of consistency. Sante took the first 2 games of the final before Chris could reverse the momentum. He snatched a long third game and had Sante on the ropes. The fourth was neck and neck until Sante managed to pull off the final few exchanges to complete the 3-1 win!
4.5 – Baker the Shaker
The smallest of the draws this year, only 5 competitors took up the challenge. Three of the four matches went to five though. The most “controversial” result was between Phil Pitters and Scott Adlhoch in round 1. These two play each other all the time, and in fact played the 4.0 final last year. That match saw Scott roll with the 3-0 win. Since these two are best buddies, and they know each other’s game inside out, they really push the boundaries. Extended matches are common and here they didn’t have enough court time to determine a proper winner. In true husband-wife fashion, both insisted the other move on. Of course, only one can do so, and Phil ended up winning the little ‘spat’ and pushed Scott into the next round against Paul Ward.
Good thing for Scott too, since he managed to beat Paul 3-2. Waiting for him in the final was Brien Baker. Brien boasted his way to a 3-2 victory over John Roarty in his semi final, and in the only 3-0 result of the bracket, he beat Scott in the final. And again, my seeding was way off. I had Paul and John as the top two seeds and both lost in 5 first up. But, the competitiveness is preferable. Brien will now need to step it up to the 5.0 level where I am sure he could be dangerous. If – that is – he decides to rail it more often than boast!
5.0 – Covell Answers the Bell
I am always happy to welcome new squash players to the DAC family. Ryan Covell joined recently and is already a strong player – something we couldn’t have enough of. He reached the final relatively comfortably with two 3-0 wins and there would have to deal with Anthony Fracchia. Believe it not, it was just 3 years ago that Anthony was playing (and winning) the 3.5 title, so his improvement has been steady and rapid. He will be stepping up to the open in 2015.
The first game of the final, Anthony asserted control. Conventional squash, patient, good length, he moved the ball around well and caught Ryan napping. He took the game and it looked like he was in form to take the next two as well. But Ryan had other ideas. His background is racquetball – so he can hit the ball hard and low, and knows all the angles which he started to throw at Anthony at will. Conventionalism went out the window. As did Anthony’s rhythm and timing. Ryan’s unorthodox play threw Anthony into disarray and he could not regain his tempo. Ryan took the next three games without too much distress. He will also be mixing it up in the open next season and I’m sure he and Anthony will play more often. I’m sure their matches will be a lot tougher too!
5.5 – Jed by a Thread
You gotta hand it to Peter Logan. I know he doesn’t like to be labeled as such, but he is a veteran. Somehow, though, he manages every year to maintain that level of play where he is a very real threat to get another little plaque on the championship board bearing his name. You just have to tip your hat.
Peter won his first round against Andrew Pitters. Andrew is not a veteran, in fact he looks like a junior (which he isn’t). He is also highly unpredictable. He can play like a champ, and then like a chump in the same rally. I am not trying to be insulting here – I have mentioned this to Andrew before. He knows it. Great potential – he needs to learn to control it! And for a couple of games he did. He managed to win one game against Peter, and he was very close to getting a second. Peter was pleasantly surprised at how well Andrew can play. Peter won 3-1. Andrew should take the motivation from that to know he is capable. Hopefully he builds on it. Peter then went on to reach the final.
His opponent would be Jed Elley. Jed won his two matches 3-0, and was slight favorite to win the final over Peter. Jed has great strokes and can move around the court quite smoothly, his enemy is the tin. He seems to find it a little too often, and a lot of that can be attributed to trying to play the wrong shot at the wrong time. In other words, lack of patience.
We were treated to an amazing final. The start was a little scrappy as both players were just feeling each other up (don’t go there…) and trying to get their timing right. A lot over hitting the length and a little loose, neither player could really settle down terribly well and a couple of small momentum swings had them tied at 7-all. From there, Jed seemed to assert himself fractionally more and pulled out the next 4 rallies to take game 1.
Any momentum Jed had was immediately lost at the start of game 2. Peter ran to a 5-0 lead, but decided to let Jed back in. Why not, huh? May as well keep it interesting. Jed pegged the difference back and actually held 10-9 game ball. Conversion meant a 2-0 lead and probably a 3-0 win. But he couldn’t do it, and Peter snatched game two 12-10.
Same score for game 3. Once again, it was Jed who initially had the chance to win the game with a 10-7 lead. He could not take any of the 3 chances, and Peter managed to take the game to a tie break again. But this time, Jed was able to convert on the 4th game ball and won it 12-10.
The fourth game had Jed skip to a not overly comfortable 6-3 lead. He was 5 points from victory and maybe he started to think about it a little too much. From that moment, he only won two more rallies for the game as Peter started to get the mojo going, and with his best squash of the match, he ripped the game away from Jed 11-8.
That mojo continued on at the start of the 5th. Quickly, Peter established a 4-1 lead. Jed looked frustrated and tight. However, after evening it up at 4-all, he could relax a little and then the two players went at it like Balboa and Mr. ‘T’ in Rocky III exchanging punches, point for point, neither man backing off. 8-all. 9-all. 10-all. We were all on the edge of our seats. Could Peter pull off the (unlikely) victory, or would Jed grab his first DAC title? The answer came relatively swiftly. A drop unforced error gave Jed his first match ball, and with it, he served it just right to handcuff Peter on the back wall enough where he couldn’t find the angle. Match 12-10 in the 5th. Great stuff guys - ! Congratulations to our new DAC Champion – Jed Elley!
|New DAC Club Champion - Jed Elley - and finalist Peter Logan|
So there you have it. A great night capped off with our closest final ever. Don’t make yourself a stranger over the next few months, there will still be plenty of squash played over the summer. You better keep up!