Blitz Tournament – March 11
And it could have been even bigger if everybody who registered actually turned up! But, 28 players for a Blitz Tournament is the most we have ever had, and it really does make a difference when more people are hanging out cheering on the underdog! It was a delightful atmosphere, and the tone of the mood was set early when Sante turned up in a black onesie, a fashion statement that could not have been more hideous. I unfortunately do not have a photo of it, but it will be hard for Sante to top that effort!
The handicapping for this event can be somewhat challenging but for the most part I think the majority of them were acceptable. We had 23 games that ended up within 1 or 2 points (15-13 or 15-14), and it is rather captivating to see how the players react to such pressure situations. The stronger player will either be overly cautious, terrified of the “what-ifs” or then they start to pound the ball as hard as possible hoping pace alone will be the key. The underdog, smelling victory and imaging the parade they’d receive after getting an upset, starts to run and retrieve like never before, lifting their game beyond what they thought was possible. A fascinating dynamic, did the cream rise to the top?
|Jordan Dean and Sante|
The players were split into 8 groups of 4. Yes, yes, I know that equals 32 and not 28, but the no-shows are to blame for that. The best match in Group 1 came from Sante Fratarcangeli – who sadly did not actually play in the onesie – and Jordan Dean. Jordan started with 13 points and quickly scored within a few rallies to give himself more than a handful of game balls. With no room for error, Sante dug in his heels and made sure of each shot. Steadiness would be the key. Jordan did his best to stop the momentum thinking if he couldn’t beat him playing squash, he may as well just take him out. The squash ball to the face – just under the eye (thankful for the eye-guards!) shocked Sante – and the crowd. Obviously it was a complete accident, and now almost blinded in one eye, Sante “Cyclops” Fratarcangeli refused to quit. He swept the table, escaping with a 15-14 win and a bag of ice.
Group 2 was probably the most competitive of the 8. Three 15-14 results and a 15-13 score, the order of the players could have easily been very different. Newcomer David de la Torre has virtually zero squash experience, and relied on his racquetball knowledge to battle each point. It wasn’t his lucky day as he was the victim of two of the 15-14 results (and the 15-13 score as well!) but he does get an ‘A’ for effort! He also should get a skin graft or two and learn that diving on a squash court generally ends poorly.
Group 3’s closest match was Tom MacEachern and Mike Parker. Mike can be a little awkward to play as he does love to use the angles and boast, and it took Tom a while to wrap his head around it. Mike had an 8 point head start, and almost pulled off the upset, but fell 1 point short going down 14-15.
|Josh Slominski shamed by Ashley Thibodeau!|
There were two 15-14 scores in group 4, but the most impressive performance of this bunch came from Ashley Thibodeau. Yes, she had a 13 point lead on Josh Slominski, but Josh took the ‘overly cautious’ route with her and was a casualty of being ‘too precise’. Ashley, won 2 of the 5 rallies they played and walked off a 15-3 winner! Ah, the beauty of the Blitz! Ashley’s luck ran out though, she lost 15-14 and 15-13 in her next two matches. Josh redeemed himself and won both of his other games to advance to the knock-out round anyway.
Adam Longo in group 5 did have all the luck as the two 15-14 scores in this bracket both fell his way. His sudden-death win over Andrew Walawender – also the final match of the group – avoided the top 3 place getters having to draw straws to see who would be playing in the next stage of the event. If Andrew had won that final rally, together with Adam and Jason Currie, they would all have scored 2 wins. But it wasn’t to be and Andrew found solace right next to the keg.
Another very competitive group (6), we didn’t have any 15-14 scores, but there were three 15-13 results and a couple of 15-12’s. A huge welcome back to Liz (McClure) Fratarcangeli who has been out of action for months with back issues, (and now being married to Sante, many other issues as well!) it’s terrific to see her on court again. Plus, she picked up a couple of wins, as did 2 others in the group which did force the first drawing of straws. Only 2 of the 3 players can advance to the next round. Alas, Liz needs to work on her straw drawing abilities, she copped the short one. Mike Rock and Dane Fossee benefitted.
Group 7 was most affected by the no-shows. Two of those missing in action were supposed to be in this group. The math left was pretty simple. The two remaining players were guaranteed to advance. JC Tibbitts and Jerry Rock played their game, clearly the best game the group presented. And also the worst… JC won 15-13.
Group 8 was the only one where each player won at least 1 game. Paul Gormley tried to bribe me for favorable handicaps, but I wasn’t having any of it. He owed me that $50 anyway… It was pure coincidence that Paul then won against his two toughest opponents in Colin Bayer and John Mann, and earned his way through to the finals. Colin was the other finalist from this group, he beat up on Julie VandeVusse 15-13, which was not a very gentlemanly thing to do, and then beat up on John Mann 15-8 which is perfectly acceptable.
So the knock-out final had an intriguing variety of playing levels. I won’t go through each of the 15 matches, but there were many close results – only two of them came down to the sudden-death rally though, the winner of this tournament could have been anybody. (Paul Gormley did not win… $50 only gets one so far…)
Dane Fossee probably had the toughest run. He needs to work on his fitness anyway, so his first match was against Josh Slominski, no handicap at all was required here. Some great squash between the two, and Dane who could still run enough pulled it out 15-10. Next up for him was Tom MacEachern, and once again the game would start from scratch. Another grueling encounter, Tom was controlling many of the points moving the tiring Dane all over the place. However, on more than just a couple of occasions, Dane’s length would be his savior and he found the nick deep on the side wall much to Tom’s frustration. Scraping through 15-13, Dane would have an even tougher time against his semifinalist opponent – Jason Currie. To rub salt into the Dane’s wound, the game started – again – at 0-0. And Jason was fresher, something not exactly needed since he can run all day and night anyway. It was evident that Dane had hit the wall, Jason did not show any mercy. It was a 15-6 unsympathetic pounding.
On the other half of the draw, Sante was the man with the target on his back. He survived his first 2 matches, not willing to let either opponent get anywhere close to game-ball. His biggest challenge was then against Mike Rock who quietly dispatched Paul Dwaihy in the previous round with consummate ease, needing absolutely no part of his 7 point handicap and in fact probably could have given some points up instead. Mike walked on with Sante with 10 points, and by the time he reached 14, Sante was close behind with 12. Sadly for Mike, he couldn’t convert either of the 3 game balls, although he must be commended for the effort, I never thought Mike could run so fast or lunge so deep. Sante got away with a 15-14 win.
|Dane Fossee and Mike Rock|
Mike’s fortune did not improve in the 3rd / 4th playoff either. Against Dane – and with an 8 point lead – he did go a couple of points better than when they played in the group earlier that evening with the same handicap, Mike again had 3 game balls to close it out. Dane was near collapse by this stage, but managed to keep the ball above the tin just long enough to steal the game 15-14.
|Sante and Jason Currie|
The Sante F v Jason Currie final did not come down to the wire as we all had hoped it would. Jason started with 7 points, and I imagined with his retrieval ability he may draw a number of errors from Sante purely by extending the rallies. Could Sante stay steady enough? In short – yes. When Sante puts his head down, he can be very consistent and it was Jason who struggled to avoid the tin on many occasions. The shorter rallies helped Sante, and Jason may have been starting to slow down just a little as the pressure mounted. Sante picked him off 15-11. For the third time, we can all stand up and applaud Sante – he takes the Blitz crown again, adding to his wins back in October 2013 and March 2104. I have to be harsher on his handicaps…