Blitz Tournament March 13, 2015
The sign of a successful handicap is the sniveling that it creates from both players. One thinks it’s way too high, the other no where near enough. They plead their cases from current form, to past results, injuries, how many beers they have drunk... If I were to take all that into consideration when making the schedule, it would drive me to the nut house... “now, based on 3 and half beers, a slightly sore knee, the fact that he hasn’t played well the past few days... and his opponent is on fire has only had 2 beers but weighs 30 pounds less and is injury free...” To save all the nuisance, all you need to know is that I am easily bribed. Money talks, people!
That being said, I’m extending an apology to Griffin Wagner who I grossly overestimated when dishing out the points. Sure, his money is as green as anyone else’s, but I truly did get this one wrong. At least it’s encouraged him to book in some lessons. At last. (Method to my complete madness.)
Group 1. It has become an expectation that Sante Fratarcangeli works himself through the early stages of each tournament and we see him feature strongly in the finals. However, this time it started off differently. Becket Marum was his first opponent and with the 10 point lead to start held off Sante - barely - to sneak the 15-13 win. Surely Sante would bounce back in his next match against Ashley Thibobeau... Nope. Ashley decided that the best way to beat Sante was to let him get to 14 and play a sudden-death rally. Nothing like putting undue pressure on your opponent. Ashley survived 15-14 and suddenly Sante was 0 for 2. Becket on the other hand relished under the tension of close encounters, beating Ashley 15-13 and Dino Ricci 15-14. His clean sweep of the group had him in the finals. Joining him there was Ashley as she took 3 games from the lads. Sante did end up with 2 wins in the end, but it wasn’t enough.
Group 2. The finalist of the October Blitz Tournament, JC Tibbitts, was attempting to go one place further. He started off brilliantly against Andy Adamo as his 7 point head start was - although warranted - unnecessary. He blasted Andy of the court with a 15-6 victory. An important score as it turned out for later in the tournament. JC went on to win 3 matches in the group, one of them being a 15-14 against Paul Fershee, and earned his way to the knock-out round. The second player to move on from the group would be picked by chance. Ian Edwards started his campaign with an almost upset over Josh Slominski, the two had some compelling rallies, Josh playing a little too tentative at times, and Ian just missed out on the final rally losing 15-14. He made up for it against Paul Fershee in dramatic fashion. Paul headed into the game leading by 8 and had Ian by the short and curlies at 14-7. As hard as Paul pushed himself, Ian matched it and managed to save himself from elimination (for now) taking the game 15-14. Three players ended up on 2 wins each only one could advance. Drawing straws, Andy Adamo lucked out.
Group 3. Can anyone stop the human squash-cannon in Bret Williams? He probably hits it harder than I do, and it is a formidable weapon against lower lever opponents. Having the ball bounce around the back corners with pace is a very difficult prospect to deal with, and adding in the variation that he can hit it low and short as well, his rapid rise through the squash ranks these past few months is understandable (and impressive). Bret blasted his way through the group taking all 3 games, the closest being a 15-14 over Paul Gormley. The player to advance with Bret was decided on the final match of the group. Both Jason Trombley and Andrew Walawender had picked up 1 win each, and the victor between the two would guarantee safe passage. Andrew started off with 6 points handicap, but it wasn’t quite enough. Jason took the close result 15-12 and could breathe a sigh of relief as he moved on.
Group 4. Arguably the toughest of the four groups, it was also the one group that failed to produce a 15-14 score line. Phooey. It did produce three 15-13 scores, with Dane Fossee being on the receiving end of two of them. In fact, Dane - who was touted as the strongest player on his group - only managed to take 1 of his 4 games. Colin Bayer is another player that has been improving swiftly. He is deceptively quick around the court and can also crack the ball rather solidly. Colin won his first three games against the guys in his group before self-destructing in the last game against Julie Vande Vusse 6-15. Was it the female influence, Colin?? We would have to draw straws again here as three players ended up with 3 wins apiece. Since only 2 players can advance, this time, the one drawing the short straw would be excluded. Justin Winkelman was too much of a gentleman and let the other 2 players draw first and through process of elimination was left with the rough end of the pineapple (so to speak!) and was he quickly off to re-fill his beer cup. Getting through was Julie and Colin.
The Finals. I asked before who could stop Bret Williams? The answer on this occasion was Andy Adamo. I let these guys play straight up (no handicap) as they have played each other twice in box ladder before with Andy taking both matches 3-2. The “hoodoo” continued for Bret as Andy won the game 15-9. Colin Bayer’s run ended in riveting fashion against Becket Marum. Always fun to watch Colin bulldoze himself from corner to corner, no ball ever too far away not to run for. Becket had a 7 point handicap which was, by the narrowest of margins, adequate. A 15-14 win for Becket had him playing Andy in the semi.
Another nail-biting encounter, Andy had to give Becket 10 points head start. Once again, I’m allowed to pat myself on the back as the game came down to another sudden-death rally. Both Becket sand Andy are pretty cool customers, their feathers don’t seem to ruffle terribly much, and Andy calmly swiped the rally for a 15-14 win and a spot in the final.
On the bottom half of the knock-out draw, JC Tibbitts had to be very careful against Ashley Thibodeau, who walked on holding a 12 point advantage. With scarcely any room for error, JC wasn’t about to let Ashley off the hook. Strong and safe length was the recipe of success, JC walked off winning 15-13. Jason Trombley recently lost to Julie Vande Vusse in the box ladders. So based on that result, these two played from 0-0. I can hardly give a handicap to a player that had won their last match, can I? Julie thought I should, and maybe she was a right in hindsight. I must have used the same crystal ball that I was looking into when I did Griffin’s handicaps... I better get a refund on that one. Jason won 15-9, not so bad, but a 3 or 4 point handicap would have made it a little more fascinating.
The semi final was close. Jason started with 8, JC started in a similar fashion as he did with Ashley. Trying his best to eradicate any unforced errors, JC closed the gap at a steady pace. But Jason wasn’t going down without a fight and some nice winners put a sense of panic into JC as the game drew a close. However, JC scraped up the final 2 rallies and took it 15-13.
The final was a rematch of the group match: Andy Adamo v JC Tibbitts. Based on JC’s convincing victory, I lowered his handicap from 7 to 6. I was tempted to lower it even further, but I somehow doubted Andy would be as generous this time around. His tactic of letting JC hammer him first match, getting into the knock-out round with a 33% chance of drawing the right straw, and beating Becket 15-14 in the semi final, paid off. Brilliant strategy. But JC picked up his game and played very well indeed. It wasn’t easy for Andy, JC made it tough and pushed him in the rallies. However, Andy got the victory 15-12 and secured his first Blitz Tournament victory! For 3rd place, Becket beat Jason 15-8.You will notice that there aren’t any photos of the event in the article. That is because my camera is on the fritz - I have no idea what happened - and I am yet to replace it. So, I managed to find a pic on line that depicts our group of tournament players that it is almost indistinguishable from the real thing...