I remember when I was young and in Australia, I used to have a weekly practice match with one of my team mates. For years it was a Thursday evening ritual. He was the perfect training partner since he despised losing and was one of the gutsiest squash players I have ever met. Even when the match – on paper – meant nothing. To us, it meant everything.
It was also Groundhog Day. No matter how I played, how hard I tried, how desperate I ran the ball down, how far ahead I was, without fail, week after week, I lost in 5. Every. Single. Time. He was like the Rocky Balboa that just never gave up and refused to go down.
Then, one day, I played him in a final of a real tournament. It would be our first real encounter – on paper. He was very eager to remind me of all our practice matches, all of his ‘impossible’ comebacks from 0-2 down, his death defying 10-9 in the 5th wins…. (yes, back in those days we played to 9!). He didn’t need to remind me of course – I remembered them quite vividly. I still remember them to this day. I also remember getting cramps in my legs in the 3rd game of that match and thinking that this time we weren’t going to go 5 games at all. I beat him 3-0 instead. Our practice matches were never quite the same after that.
Point being is that through all that time of losing to this guy, he couldn’t win when it actually mattered. Performing in do or die situations is an art in itself. Winning without pressure is… easy. Winning with consequences hanging over your head is not. I bring up this little memory because the result of the summer league finals were very much unlike the scores of when these two teams met less than a month ago in a non-finals atmosphere.
Example 1: In round 6, Paul Fershee (“Serves You Right” – SYR) beat Sean Kendall (“Technically Delinquent” – TD) 3-0. Their finals match was played early and I happened to talk a little to Sean just before the match started and he was worried that he was going to receive another spanking. Paul had only lost 2 matches all season, and Sean had only won 2. But, it meant zippo as Sean stepped up and no one was more surprised than himself as he took the 2-1 victory.
Example 2: Sante Fratarcangeli (TD) beat Jeff Gembis (SYR) 2-1 in round 6. As I’ve mentioned before in earlier articles, Jeff has slowly been getting his groove back over the last few weeks. Still, beating Sante is never an easy task. Every now and then, the inconsistency hurts him and with a little more patience and confidence, Jeff took better advantage this time around to reverse the score line and walk off with the 2-1 victory.
Example 3: Mike Rock (SYR). Just one week ago he lost to Ted Morris 1-2. Ted was subbing in this week for the absent Brian Schrage (TD) who had the excuse that he was getting married or something. I’m failing to understand how a wedding is more important than a squash match, I’ll have to sit Brian down and straighten his priorities out when he gets back from his honeymoon. Anyway, Mike put all the negative recollections aside and came out on top this week winning 2-1.
|Josh Slominski and Bob Rogers|
Example 4: Jay Bonahoom (TD) had a lesson earlier in the day and the first thing he asked me was to teach him how to beat Shail Arora (SYR). After losing to Shail 1-2 in round 6, he wasn’t sure how to tackle Shail’s never ending running game. I gave him a couple of basic tips, but I think the main explanation of the big turnaround had nothing to do with me, rather Jay’s new Grays racquet! Like a man possessed, and wielding his new magic wand, Jay rolled to a 3-0 win.
Example 5: Bob Rogers (TD) has a similar style to that of Shail – run every ball down like the fate of the universe depended on it, and then run some more. While you’re at it, bounce of the walls. Bob can be a rather thorny customer to deal with and one needs to display a lot of patience when on the court with him. He beat Josh Slominski (SYR) 2-1 in round 6. This time, however, Josh showed a little more staying power. There were still some ‘forced’ unforced errors (trying to do too much) but they were outweighed with the simpler concept of moving the ball safely around the court and not pushing the issue. Josh was rewarded with the 2-1 victory. (The universe is currently on shaky ground…)
|Tom Healy and Alan Howard|
Example 6: Alan Howard’s (SYR) weapon of choice is a supercharged, full blooded, belt the ball through the front wall and all the way to home plate in Comerica Park, kill shot. When he connects, it’s surprising the ball doesn’t embed itself in the front wall. Sometimes, that tactic works against him since if it happens to come back Alan doesn’t have a lot of time to recover! Tom Healy (TD) managed to harness that power in round 6 and beat Alan 2-1. In the closest match of the final, Tom couldn’t quite repeat that feat. He was unlucky, though as Alan squeezed a 3-0 win 15-13; 15-14; 15-14. Occasionally when the ball comes onto your strings like a cannonball, control it is a difficult prospect.
Two other matches also finished with a different score line than what they did in round 6 – but the winner’s didn’t change. Tom Pierce (SYR) took all 3 games from Jim Miller (he won 2-1 a month ago) and Mike Cooney (TD) did the same to Chato Hill (SYR). The remaining two matches weren’t played.
It was a fitting and deserved win for the “Serves You Right” squad. They finished on top of the ladder, and actually were placed as such from round 2 onwards. It was a complete season and the 24-17 final score proved they were the best team this summer. Congratulations, fellas!