Blitz Tournament October 9, 2015
The first squash event in our sparkly new court center had 23 participants vying for the Blitz Tournament honors. It’s one of my favorite formats since it gives the underdog, not only an opportunity to step on court with many stronger players, but a decent chance to beat them as well. The handicapping does place that added pressure on to the higher ranked player, especially when the lower ranked player is only a couple of points away from victory and they try that much harder. All it takes is one unforced error... a lucky frame... or bounce... The exciting part is watching the points unfold, desperation at its finest, the crowd cheering all the way for the underdog!
|Haytham Hermiz and Mark Montgomery|
There were two 4 match winners in group 2 as well. Peter Birgbauer squeaked through, two of his matches went to the sudden death 14-all play-off point, with a mixed result. The win was against the other 4 match winner of the group - Jon Dengel, the loss was to Colin Bayer. Colin ended up with 3 wins, he’ll be ruing the 15-13 loss to Maggie Durant, a tough match-up where he only had to give 3 points handicap, the one that got away could have placed him the next round.
|Jon Dengel and Peter Birgbauer|
An even closer group 4, we also had to leave it to the Squash Gods to see who would be able to compete in the knock-out round. This time, 3 players would be contending for the 1 play-off spot. Ian Edwards did not have to worry about that, he won 4 of 5 games to take top billing in the group, taking care of business rather comfortably and not having to stress over the straws. There was only one 15-14 result in this group, Paul Fershee’s magnificent effort over Dane Fossee. Most memorable, and You Tube worthy, was Paul’s sprint into the back forehand corner, no-look-no-recovery-over-the-shoulder-forehand-boast for a winner that left Dane stunned, the crowd agape, and Paul utterly clueless to what just happened. The dark horse of the group was Paul Gormley. After pleading mercy for friendly handicaps, I completely ignored that, and instead decided that crucifying him in his match-ups would be more beneficial for his squash! Paul stepped up to the plate. He took 3 wins and put himself into contention to advance with 2 others - Dane Fossee and JC Tibbitts. Paul’s reward for his efforts was noticed by the higher powers and he drew the correct straw to move on.
And his fortune didn’t end there. Taking a 12 point head start into his quarter-final against Cathy Lysack, Paul nervously and sporadically made his way to 14. A true gentleman, though, he allowed Cathy to also reach 14 before closing her out to take the victory, no one more surprised than Paul himself. Another 15-14 result in the quarter-final had Sante a little shaky over Jon Dengel. Jon made Sante a little edgy, this could very easily could have fallen Jon’s way. But in true Sante fashion, he overcame the pressure and pushed through.
Tom MacEachern also advanced to the semifinal with a 15-7 win against Peter Birbauer. Tom took a 6 point lead into the game, but never let Peter get settled. He jumped on the accelerator early, pressured Peter with his short game and in the end showed the handicap wasn’t necessary on this occasion. Ian Edwards mirrored Tom’s effort in his match with Josh Slominski. Ian had a 7 point head start, and Josh looked a little tentative giving up so much. A few timid shots, twitchy swings, and the 7 points turned into 11 quickly. Ian didn’t let Josh get any momentum back and took the game 15-7.
The big boys proved themselves in the semifinals. Tom stepped on with Paul Gormley 12 points in the hole and took no chances. Just don’t make a mistake. Hit solidly. And he did. One error only, the rest was clockwork. It was the way a stronger player should perform against the underdog. Tom moved onto the final 15-13.
|Sante Fratarcangeli and Tom MacEachern|
Sante repeated the same tactic with Ian. The 9 point handicap did not phase the 2-time Blitz Tournament champion, and Sante took care of business. Ian is a hustler, and he still made Sante work harder than he wanted to for the victory, but the 15-11 score in the end was rather emphatic.
To me, the final was the most interesting of all the matches of the evening. Tom walked on with a 4 point handicap. To be honest, I was debating with myself to make the handicap 6 or 7, but Tom was playing well so I went against my gut feeling. Normally that’s a bad idea, but it turned out just right. The game started off as I expected - good rallies with Sante winning roughly 2 out of every 3. He caught Tom half way through the game at 7-7, and that’s when I was kicking myself thinking I should have gone with my original handicap. But then it turned around. Tom stepped it up and took the game to Sante. The extra pressure seemed to blow the wind out of Sante’s sails, and try as he might, Sante could not regain the dominance. Tom would take his first Blitz Tournament title, winning the final 15-13.
|Ian Edwards and Paul Gormley|
In the 3rd and 4th play-off, Paul started off with 11 points over Ian and this time would not let this one slip away. A great effort by Paul, he took the game 15-12, earned himself a spot on the podium!