Monday, April 14, 2014


Cross Border Challenge - April 12

A record 28 matches for the 15th Cross Border Challenge was an excellent way to welcome in the summer months as we approach the end of the season... and wait for the snow due on Tuesday! I mean, why not have at least one more snow fall to remind us what a wonderfully frigid winter we’ve had and not to get too comfortable. Mother Nature is mean old b...

A number of firsts were attached to this record breaking day as well: 1. We emptied the keg. Surprising as that may sound since we empty a lot of kegs, this is actually the first keg we’ve destroyed at a Cross Border. It’s what happens with 60 plus people I guess. 2. We won all 4 doubles matches. Either we are getting better, or they are getting worse. Either way, going 4 for 4 is miraculous. 3. Mike Counsman didn’t have one beer all day. Haha haha! Sorry, couldn’t write that with straight face! 4. Team uniforms were ordered - sort of. You can see from the photo what a few of the DAC players donned for the day. Brave? Yep. Could be a good tradition to start... let’s get patriotic!

Need I say more?
It appeared nothing could stop the Canadians on this particular day. Not even the American Border Police as they stopped, searched, probed, scrutinized, poked, jabbed, and explored all cavities, creases, and compartments of their... belongings. Who knows what they were looking for but eventually they allowed them to continue on to the DAC with their balls and racquets in tact to take out the embarrassing episode on our players.

The inflicting pain started immediately. Niko Ahee and John Mann both couldn’t get anything going, struggling to keep up with the pace and length of their opponents, and they rolled over 3-0.  Dave Devine went a little better and admitted he performed well but his opponent - Ty Stacyszyn - simply outplayed him and he went down 3-1. Our lone victor in the first round of singles matches came at the hands of Mike LoVasco who did it tough to scrape through in 5 sets over Adam Pole.

The second round of singles matches were not something the DAC wants to remember. If goose eggs were a currency, we’d be able to afford a new court center after Saturday. Made of gold. All four of our lads came off the court chewing on sour donuts, big fat zeros splattered the DAC score line. The Canuck tsunami was hitting us hard.

A better spread of results followed however as we tried to climb out of the wet, slippery crater we had found ourselves in. Matt DiDio and Dane Fossee returned the 3-0 favor making quick work of their opponents and at that juncture, we were still within reach of Windsor down 7 matches to 5. (Including the 2 doubles victories we had chalked up). And we were very close to tying it up. Unfortunately, the next 2 results fell onto Windsor’s side - both tight 3-2 wins. One of our almost-wins was Sante Fratarcangeli, who I of course have to mention based solely on outfit alone. If points were awarded on appearance, we either should have won in a landslide or be disqualified immediately depending on which side of the fashion sense you lie. It was so wrong, it was right. Only Sante could pull it off.

We were now 9 matches to 6 down after our third doubles victory. Still in the hunt, especially with 13 matches yet to play. Derek Aguirre pulled another one back with a comprehensive 3-0 drumming over an opponent he lost to in 5 games at the Cross Border a year ago. It was gearing up to be an exciting finish... and then... POP!

Craig Guthrie and Peter Logan.
Two giants of the Michigan
Squash world.
The DAC bubble burst. After we had picked up the fourth and final doubles match, it was the last sweet taste of victory we would receive for the afternoon. Windsor decided to assault us from every angle and the abuse didn’t let up. At least we weren’t bageled in all the matches, so the chastising in many cases was slow as well. Dino DeMare almost begged for the defibrillator after his 3-2 loss, lucky for him the keg still had some beer left and that seemed to do the trick just as well (if not better). The losses kept on piling up and it wasn’t long before retaining the Cross Border title was out of our reach.

The final match of the day had Peter Logan play his long time buddy Craig Guthrie. It was a great match to finish with; these two have a long history of going back and forth. Peter especially likes playing Craig since he is one of the very few opponents that is actually shorter than him that isn’t a junior! Some fantastic rallies, great court coverage, delicate touch, both players used all four corners well. Craig, however, ended up being the steadier in the 5th game, his length slightly more consistent, and amidst the chant of ‘one more game’, he walked off the 3-2 winner.

When we were able regain our senses from the clobbering we just endured and shake off the twinkling stars floating above our heads, I humbly handed over the trophy. The 20-8 final score was rather conclusive to say the least. They deserved it. Our winning streak of 4 Cross Border victories was broken, but we all had a great day. We’ll be back at it to start a new streak in September - another winning streak, that is.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Canadian Nationals Doubles~~

That was certainly a new experience for me. I am not a doubles player. In Australia, hardball doubles does not exist, nor does it exist (as far as I know) in Europe. I had never even seen it before moving to North America. After 12 plus years here, I understand (more or less) the tactic of the game, recognize that it isn’t quite like singles, and the technique required to be an effective player is a little different. Unfortunately, after 37 years of pure singles, adapting to what was needed proved to be somewhat challenging. My forehand crosscourt roll drop shot wasn’t quite as effective here…

My partner was Rob Doherty from London, Ontario. You may recognize the name since he is a regular at our DAC Classic. A very good left-waller, he has been bugging me for quite a while now to play a doubles tournament with him, and the Canadian Nationals just happened to land on a convenient weekend so thought I’d take the plunge and head to Toronto for the 40+ category with him and see what all the fuss was about. Why not initiate myself with one of the toughest tournaments out there?

The event was hosted by the Granite Club. It’s a massive (beautiful) facility that has 2 doubles courts side by side with a reasonable amount of space for viewing, both from behind the glass back wall and from a mezzanine level. But with over 250 entries for the event, a total of 8 clubs were needed to accommodate the amount of matches. We regrettably did not get to play at the Granite Club, we would have had to have won our first match for that pleasure, and as you can now tell, we did not.

Our rude awakening came at the hands of Chris Deratny and Patrick Ryding. Patrick is the head squash pro at the Toronto Cricket Club – another behemoth of a club with 2 doubles courts and 5 singles. (They are also starting construction of a third doubles court plus another 1 or 2 singles…) Chris and Patrick are doubles experts, were probably strong enough to actually play the Open category rather than the 40+. Chris played the left wall and hit the ball from cannon I’m sure he had hidden under his shirt. Patrick didn’t display the same power, but that didn’t stop him from being just as dangerous with his racquet. Visibly, I was not prepared for what came our way. The two moved around the court smoothly and had little trouble finding the right angles at the right time, taking full advantage of our (my) poor court positioning. On the positive side, Rob and I improved every game against them, and the third was a respectable 15-13 loss, we even had the lead 11-10 at one point. We were not expected to win that match, but overall we were happy with how we performed. On to the consolation draw.

Our first cons match was at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RCYC). They only house 1 doubles court (poor people!) and 5 singles, and admittedly it wasn’t as pristine as the other 2 clubs we’d seen so far. No complaints, of course, but I would have liked the steam room to be working after the match we endured! Rob and I started off like a bull out of the gate. We gained a healthy first game lead and closed it out comfortably. The second game was the reverse. We struggled to keep the ball out of the tin, and our opponents hustled well. Andrew, their left-waller, ran down some balls into the back corner that we thought were 100% winners. Their persistence paid off for them. The ‘real’ battle started in the third. Small momentum runs for both teams, but neither of us could actually establish or assert certain dominance. At 14-all, a Rob Doherty boast winner snagged us the game and the 2-1 lead. The fourth was virtually another snap shot of the third. Back and forth we went – again to 14-all. This time, a Mick Joint boast tin handed them the game to even it up at 2 games apiece. In my (pathetic) defense, if the boast didn’t hit the tin, it would have given us the match. I learnt over the weekend that you simply have to go for your shots. If the angle is open – just hit the darn thing. The fifth game had the same drama – and the same score line. Once again it was 14-all, and once again it was Rob to the rescue with a backhand boast winner for the match! By now, after 2 matches of doubles, my body was getting rather achy.

The cons final saw us back at the Cricket Club. Our opponents didn’t have the power to blast us off the court, and for a lot of the match, they played a basic defensive approach of lobbing soft length and waiting patiently for an opening to slot the angle. That tactic worked as well. Rob and I again fell into to trap of trying a little too hard and too early, and we found the tin all too often. Frustration kicked in when we found ourselves 2-0 down. We knew we could beat these guys. We started to pick it up in the third and fourth – started to find the right angles, moved up the court a little better, started counter dropping a lot of their short attacks. It seemed to unsettle them a little as they too began to catch the dreaded ‘tin’ disease. Taking it to a 5th game, we played tightly to about 9-all and then we got a solid run for a 14-11 match point score. We butchered the first two opportunities, but good ol’ reliable Rob set the record straight with the winner for a 15-13 in the 5th victory! So we ended up winning the consolation – a satisfying result and one we thought we could achieve.

My general thoughts of the event were by and large positive. Everyone we met was extremely friendly and social. It was that portion of the weekend that made the trip worth it. Because I didn’t think the tournament was great value for money. For an entry fee of $175 per person (so that’s $350 per team), I expected more than the one function, 3 drink tickets, and the bath robe entry gift. I realize we are spoilt at the DAC for our Classic, but I have played other Nationals before with a better bang for your buck. A not that it is all that important, but we didn’t receive anything for winning the cons draw either. It’s the small things…

I was surprisingly sore as well. I knew (and expected) my shoulder to be in a lot of pain – it was – but I didn’t expect that pain to extend all the way through my stomach muscles and hips. I guess all that extras effort one provides to crack the ball as hard as you can – very often on overhead volleys – takes its toll. It didn’t help that I dove for a ball on the third rally of the first match and scraped my knee (plus, I missed the shot, so it was a useless dive on top of it!), managed to smack my own ankle with my racquet in the second match and then thwack my own calf in the third! If one’s body is one’s temple, then mine was a pile of decrepit ruins!

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I had a great weekend – winning the cons draw certainly helped that – but just hanging out meeting people and experiencing the doubles the way it should be played was a fantastic learning experience. Toronto must be one of the biggest communities of doubles players in the world (if not the biggest) – there was no better place to host it.

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