Monday, May 8, 2017


2017 DAC Singles Club Championships

May the 4th be with you.” Our club championship night just happened to fall on ‘Star Wars’ day, where fanatics of the saga literally cannot contain themselves. As it so happens, and unless you were not present at the dinner, it was also my birthday and I have to endure that b’day wish countless times every year. I actually liked the Star Wars movie, but Yoda and his Jedi brethren are starting to turn me towards the Dark Side. If Jabba the Hut was any indication, it looks like their parties are more fun anyway.

Like a broken record, as I seem to mention this every year, once again we had our highest court usage in a season. You’ve all heard the saying that more is not necessarily better, but in this case, more is definitely better! We need to keep filling them in order to increase them. And you are all doing a great job – let’s keep that up! The Club Championships signify the end of the 2016-2017 season, let’s see who wielded their light-sabre the best:

2.5 – Han Goes Solo
As usual, this is the biggest draw of the championships, so going by that number, the toughest to win, right? There were a number of tight contests through the bracket, and it was pleasing to see a couple of younger guys reaching the semifinals.

Jack Bernard was one of them, and maybe he was a little underestimated as one of the possible winners of this title. Looking over his results history dating back to September 2016, he had only lost one match in the boasters and ladders combined. A stat that had gone completely unnoticed, which is why I was rather startled to see him take out Julie Vande Vusse in the second round 3-2. Jack’s run was stopped by another quiet achiever – Han Peng – but not without resistance going down 3-1. It was only Jack’s second loss for the season, and it will be interesting to see where he’ll be this time next year.

Han Peng and Gus Ploss
The other “young gun” to reach the semifinal was Jordan Dean. Like Jack, Jordan has also improved steadily over the past season and his win / loss record is likewise healthy. Jordan battled through two 5 setters to reach the semis, where he then went down to the audacious Gus Ploss in 4 tough games.

The Peng-Ploss final was a tail of two styles. Han, who is young, quick and fit, and Gus… who is not. Umm, I mean, experienced, quick tongued, and has good touch. Both players started off a little tentatively in the first game, but the rallies were what I expected: Gus working the corners and Han running it down. Nevertheless, Han knew the longer the rallies took, the better off he would be and he did make that extra effort to cover Gus’ short balls. Han also didn’t hit too many enforced errors which at any level is a huge plus. It was too much pressure for Gus to handle and Han took all three games, a credit to him since he has been working hard on his game.

3.0 – Adam’s Swan Song?
What better way for Adam Pabarcus to say goodbye to the DAC than with a club championship title? Yes, we are unfortunate lose Adam this summer as he and his family move back to Minneapolis, but at least he will have the 3.0 trophy to display on his mantelpiece in his new home for prosperity and fond memories. It also means I need a replacement for him for the 2018 Farris Cup team… I doubt we’ll have a shortage of takers for that one.

David Pontes and Adam Pabarcus
Adam won the final over David Pontes in 4 games, but both players had to get through some very stiff competition to get that far in the first place. Adam started off his campaign with a 3-0 win before having to deal with top seed Mike Ottaway, a slightly unorthodox player, but quite the determined competitor. This was one of a handful of matches in the 3.0 that could have ended up either way, and of course we could have easily witnessed a completely different final. This 3-2 win was Adam’s turn.

David Pontes had two close encounters to deal with. The ‘easier’ of the two was in the very first round against David Zack, but he got away with the 3-2 win. The bigger scare was in the quarter final. Brendan Walsh pushed him all the way and more. A 5-set groaner, nail-biting tie break, match-balls earned and saved and Dave poking his head up after all that carnage with a 14-12 win. He was probably still recovering from that match when he played the final!

A couple of other close results to mention: Michael Parker refusing to play less than 5 games per match just to get his money’s worth, firstly against Michael Craig and then against Michael Rock. He then beat Michael Fisher – but only 3-1 – before having to bow out of the event, probably because his next opponent wasn’t called ‘Michael’. And Dewey Steffen. Now, I am going to call Mr. Steffen out here a little. I refused to enter Dewey in the 2.5 category that he insisted on entering. Not to be critical, Dewey did truly believe he should have been playing in the 2.5, but I actually had more faith in him than he did in himself. Dewey won his first match against Michael Cooney (how many Michaels are there in this category??) before losing 11-9 in the 5th to Michael (!) Fisher. Dewey proved he belonged in the 3.0, and I’m sure he’s glad he played just that.

Just another quick shout out to Adam – congrats on your victory and best of luck with the weather in Minnesota!

3.5 – Justin Does Just Enough
I had a couple of ‘dark horses’ for this particular race. Firstly, John Rogers. One of many intermediate members that has taken to the game and has progressed rapidly. Of course, spending a lot of time on court helps, as does taking those lessons (hint, hint, nudge, nudge…). John is an athlete though his vastly superior soccer skills (compared to normal people), and can run all day and into next week if he needs to. Maybe we should nickname him Forrest Gump? He reached the semifinal here getting through the second seed John Perkins 3-0 which did surprise me a touch as I though Mr. Perkins was a solid candidate for the category as well. John Rogers’ 3.5 crusade ended against another ‘dark horse’ in Greg Allare.

Greg’s athletic background is rugby, and is built as such. A very “bulldoggish’ approach (and I mean that in the nicest possible way!), Greg is one tough cookie. If I were to bump into the wrong crowd in a dark alley at night I wouldn’t mind having Greg by my side. Of course I would scream like a 10 year old girl and run away, but I’m sure he could take care of himself. Greg has been in form leading up to this tournament and although he lost to John Rogers last time they played just 2 weeks prior, he reversed the result this time around to take the match 3-1.

Greg Allare and Justin Jacobs
His finals opponent did it the hardest way possible. Justin Jacobs has a knack of playing 5 games. He does this at the DAC Classic on a constant basis, surely just to annoy the organizer and push the match schedule way back. Seeded 3, Justin struggled to get past Sean Fossee in the first round winning 3-2, and almost then lost to Maggie Durant in the quarter final – again a 3-2 result – before having to thank the Squash Gods – who, as Squash Gods, probably weren’t listening anyway because they were at the bar drinking – for scraping by the skin of his menorah 13-11 in the 5th against Jay Poplawski.

An interesting final that on paper, I would have given Greg the slight edge based on current form. I wasn’t convinced of that though, Justin has proven to be a resilient customer at the best of times and was not to be underestimated. And he stepped up big time for the occasion. For some reason, he wasn’t interested in a 5-set marathon, and wasted no extra time putting Greg away 3-0 to take his first club champs title. Great effort, but now he has to step up to the 4.0!

4.0 – Gold Strike Van Dyke
Hands up who thought that James Van Dyke was going to win this event… I see one... hang on – James’ wife doesn’t count. To be fair, though, James has been playing well leading up to the club championships, and he has lost a decent amount of weight (It is an amazing difference when you don’t have to carry around that spare tire!), and he has been working with Corey regularly. All of that adds up to… 4 + 3… carry the 2... multiply by 7… good squash! It’s a pretty simple formula.

Not that James had an easy run to the final. His hardest opponent (or softest?) was his semifinal match again the “Big Mac” himself, Zac MacVoy. If you recall, Zac recorded one of the most memorable club championship final wins last year taking down his brother “Littler MacRyan in a 5-set tie breaking racquet-splintering encounter. Zac is no stranger to laying it all out on the court, and he pushed James and himself to the limit, begging for mercy along the way, ignoring the pain, the impending heart attack, the unyielding lust for a sandwich, only to go down in 5 brutal games.

James was to take on John Mann in the final. If you also recall, John won the 3.5 final last year (also in 5 games) and has also been displaying some very consistently decent squash the couple of months leading up to April. He had won 75% of his recorded matches so far in 2017, so he was heading into the final with confidence. He had also dropped only one game on his way to meet James, and that was to Marc Topacio in the semi.

I expected the final to be a little longer than what it was. After taking the obligatory pre-match photo, I then ‘raced’ upstairs to do the same for the matches being played there, stayed to watch the first game of Gus and Han, and by the time I got back down to the court area, John and James were already sitting on the couch. All credit to James on his one, he took control early and never let up. John could only react. It was a 3-0 well-earned victory!

4.5 – Chris Van Tol On a Roll
A decent sized draw for the 4.5 this year, dominated by mainly younger players working themselves up through the ranking. It was also a little controversial in the beginning when the bracket was released with the inclusion (and allowing) of Eric Green. And, understandably so when you consider Eric won the 5.0 division just 2 years ago and in 2012, and I did hear the grumblings. But Eric has not been playing much squash at all since then (work getting in the way of pleasure!) and I was confident I had made the right decision.

Mark Gregory proved me right. He beat Eric 3-1 in the second round and suddenly propelled himself to be the favorite to win the category. Not that I thought he couldn’t anyway, he was one of my ‘secret’ picks. Mark reached the final beating Jason Currie in the semi 3-1, more than thankful that it didn’t go to 5 games as he readily admitted he wouldn’t have been able to keep up if it did. Especially against a runner like Jason.

The other side of the draw was close in just about every match. JC Tibbitts scraped by the veteran Mike Eugenio in 5 games in round 2, Mike LoVasco beat Colin Bayer 3-1 before going down in 4 games to Chris Van Tol also in round 2. The JC v Chris semifinal was one to witness no doubt. One of the unfortunate drawbacks of running a tournament over a month and having the matches being self-scheduled is that we miss being able to watch some of the more memorable results. This was one of them. Beating each other senseless all match, it looked as if JC was going to advance as he held a 9-6 lead in the 5th game. However, Chris dug in his heels and refused to give up any more points and rolled off 5 in a row to pinch the match away, setting up another unforgettable match for the final.

And it was a match that should have been played downstairs (hindsight is always 20/20). From the reports I heard, it was arguably the match of the evening. The first 4 games all went to tie break, the fellas split the spoils to set up a 5th game. Regrettably for Mark, having the match stretch into that 5th set was one hurdle too many. Fitness would be his undoing, Chris controlled the 5th the whole way and took that game comfortably for a very impressive 4.5 triumph!

5.0 – Sweepstakes Blake
We were treated to another blockbuster final in this category. Top seeded Andy Adamo had little trouble repeating his 2016 feat of reaching the final before he ran into the Sante Fratarcangeli buzz saw (I had to get Sante’s name in here somehow!) and was looking at going one step better and finally winning the 5.0. Standing in his way would be Blake Ellis.

Blake is no stranger to competing in tough finals. Last year he fell over the finish line 11-8 in the 5th in the 4.5 final over Chris Van Tol, and he also beat Chris in 4 in the 4.0 final back in 2012. But he almost didn’t advance past his first match this year. Brien Baker almost eliminated him early as he stretched him to 5 games, an awkward customer with his wing span and desire to use the side walls before the front walls ad nauseam! Happy to get away with the victory, Blake then won his semi 3-0.

According to the records, Andy had his work cut out. He had played Blake 6 times before this final and had only won once. That was way back in October, and since then he had lost the next 2. But he could take a little comfort in the fact that only one of those losses was a sweep, so they mainly were close results and he certainly had a good chance to win here so long as he played consistent squash. Fitness would be a factor too no doubt.

Blake Ellis and Andy Adamo
The match went back and forth. Andy always appears composed, smooth technique, never panicky. But that can also be a negative as on occasion he doesn’t step up the attacking squash when the opportunity presents itself. Blake is a hustler and the longer the match progressed, the more it would lean to his favor. Or so one would think. When the 5th game came around, Andy seemed all but spent. A little flat footed, he had to slow the game down. It worked. Softer length, timely drops. Blake was left to keep on scrambling, hoping Andy would eventually run out of energy completely. A broken string to Blake’s racquet with just a few points to go looked like it broke Andy’s momentum more than it did Blake’s. Fitness does play a part at this stage of any match, but that being said, it really was anyone’s for the taking. One error, one miss-hit, one momentary lapse of attention can make the difference. Blake made one last major push, and with it took the 11-9 in the 5th win for his 3rd club championship title and left Andy pondering the what-ifs for the second straight year… already focusing on 2018!

5.5 – Return of the Jed-I
For the third straight year, Jed Elley and Vikram Chopra would be playing off for the DAC Club Championship title. In 2015, Jed stole the show and clean swept Vikram 3-0, and in 2016 Vikram would reap his revenge with a 3-1 win. So, for club championship finals between the two, the tally was 1 win apiece. Overall though, counting boasters league results, Vikram was holding a 3-2 advantage including the most recent match-up just 3 days before the final took place – a 2-1 boasters league win. Also, Jed won the title in 2014, but that was before Vikram came aboard.

Both players reached the final comfortably enough, Vikram dropping one game to Jamie Shea in the semi, Jed beating Robin Basil 3-0 in his semi, although 2 of those games were 11-9. Laying all the cards on the table, Vikram was carrying a lingering ankle injury into this match, but I’m not letting him off here allowing him to use this as an excuse. After all, he just beat Jed 72 hours prior. And, if you’re on court, you’re fair game.

This first game was a dominated by the South African. Every point Vikram won was counted by 2 or 3 of Jed’s. It was clear Jed was ready to go from the first rally, Vikram appeared he was still feeling his way, trying to get himself some rhythm. He really couldn’t get himself into the game and Jed quickly wrapped it up 11-5.

But the second game was the opposite story. Vikram came out firing, Jed was now on the defensive. Maybe he felt a little too comfortable from the first game, maybe overconfident now and Vikram would catch him flat-footed multiple times. Vikram’s quick racquet was too much to handle and just like in the first game, the momentum of the leading player was too great. Vikram 11-4.

But then… Poof! Another turnaround. Search parties were sent out to look for the real Vikram as the one who stepped on court for game 3 was a shadow of the one we had just witnessed in game 2. And of course, Jed took full advantage. He was now a rampaging South African, choc-o-bloc with confidence, could do no wrong. From 0-1 down in the third, Jed grabbed the next 10 points, winners flowed, head was up, he was already sniffing the victory.

Vikram Chopra and Jed Elley
Could Vikram mount another reversal? Almost. The closest game of the match, we were now enjoying the longer rallies, desperation, and nervousness starting to creep in. Point for point, the game was poised at 6-all before Jed ripped off the next 3 points and looked to have it in the bag, 2 points from victory. But not yet. A couple of unforced errors let Vikram back in and quickly it was back to 9-all. However, Jed recovered his composure, and with a couple of fine finishing rallies, took the game 11-9 and his 3rd DAC Club Champion title!

Our 2018 (singles) Farris Cup team stands before you. The BAC will need to put forward a strong team! It was an excellent evening of squash, terrific sportsmanship was displayed by all. This technically signifies the end of the season, but make sure you keep your game up over the summer. Leagues will be in full swing, as the ladders. That rust is always difficult to brush off come September otherwise!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


2017 Doubles Club Championships

Old winners. New winners. Mixed bag with the results this time around, I can’t say I was knocked speechless with this year’s doubles club champions - unlike the 2016 version when the Rakolta / KordasBlue Chips” (still can’t figure out that name) catapulted us all into bizarro world with their victory. Of course, there isn’t much that could top that, some of us out there that are still pinching ourselves wondering if we’ll ever wake up, no one more so than Jed Elley and Ryan Covell who were desperate not to relive that agony that was inflicted upon them…

Doubles C
A healthy draw with 13 teams. It’s also the draw with the widest difference of playing standards since there isn’t a lower category to play in. Beginners to the game have no choice but to start here, and in reality have very little chance of winning. I do remember years ago where we offered a Doubles D, but no one entered. As the amount of players that we have increase, it probably would be a good idea to try to add another level to the tournament again – it would make more parity, and (now) maybe encourage more newbies to have a crack.

That being said, it was no surprise that all the first round results came back as 3-0. It then started to get interesting for the quarter finals. Top seeded Dave Devine and Tom McCarthy had high hopes of a competitive run this year, considering they fell just a few points short of taking the C title in 2016 (in fact held a match ball in the final but couldn’t convert). However, once again, they would fall agonizingly short. This time it would be a 15-13 in the 5th loss to Marc Topacio and John Perkins, a frustrating result for Tom and Dave, no doubt, especially when they could see later on in the event that Marc and John got through their semifinal 3-0. The one that got away, maybe, but Dave and Tom will be back next year I’m sure, hungrier than ever and certainly would have learned from this one.

On the other side of the draw, the team to watch out for would be Sean Moran and Jim Stroh. I was a little weary having them in the C’s, this team had won this category before – way, way back in 2008. But, neither Sean nor Jim had played any competitive squash for a few years, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I believe it was the correct decision, even though they did win their first couple of matches comfortably 3-0. The final would be a different story, however.

Marc and John are not overly experienced at the doubles game, being a solid singles player does not always translate to the doubles court. And even though Jim and Sean have been M.I.A. for quite a while, no one can take experience away from you. So when the going gets tough, the knowledgeable step up and take control.

Marc and John’s tactic was to engage Sean as much as possible. And that worked for most of the match. But in the end it also burnt them. A tight, clean match, Marc and John were 4 points away from a 4 set victory, until Sean’s racquet came alive and he ripped a couple of superb forehand volley winners. The tide turned, momentum shifted and for anyone who has played doubles, it can be rather difficult to stop a run of points. Sean and Jim pinched the 4th and stayed on top to take the 5th as well. Marc and John undoubtedly felt like Tom and Dave after their match – the one that got away. But it was a great effort all around – congrats to Sean and Jim for their second C title!

Doubles B
This category was the one with probably more ‘upsets’ than the others. Not a huge draw, but the hardest of the three to predict the winner. Chris Van Tol and Matt DiDio went in as the ‘favorites’, based on the fact that they were last year’s bridesmaids. But neither Chris nor Matt have spent a lot of time on the doubles court since, which of course is not a great recipe for success. Just because that tactic worked for them 12 months ago…

Shail Arora, JC Tibbitts, John Mann, Joey Gaylord
It almost got them through this year too, but a 3-2 loss to John Roarty and Len MacEachern in the quarter-final would have them rethinking that strategy somewhat. Len and John would then be dealt with in 4 games in the semifinal by Joey Gaylord and Shail Arora. Joey and Shail in the final did surprise me to some extent, but on the other hand, both of them play a decent amount of doubles so it really shouldn’t be that much of a shock. Shail also won the Doubles C at the DAC Classic this year, no easy task!

The opposite side of the draw also had its fair share of drama. Colin and Chas Bayer teamed up and turned into what was a reasonably effective partnership. After a first round 3-0 win, I thought their campaign would be stopped abruptly against Dave Walker and Jason Currie. Dave and Jason have had a number of close matches in this tournament over the years, never quite getting over the hump. And they repeated that this year too. An epic encounter with the Bayer-Boys, Colin and Chas jimmied and jived their way to a 15-14 in the 5th victory, setting up a semifinal against JC Tibbitts and John Mann, a match that unquestionably involved a ridiculous amount of trash talking, wagering, and probably something humiliating for the losers. In the end, I’m sure Colin and Chas’ wallets felt a little lighter after their 3-1 loss and a few meals and drinks were involved.

The final – on paper anyway – looked like JC and John would be favorite. But, after a first game 15-14 loss, they must have been a little worried. Shaking it off, they stormed back in the second game, dominating the entire way for a 15-3 win. Then parity set in again. Another sudden death point to decide the game, this time it was JC and John walking off with the game under their belts and the all important 2-1 lead. It was enough to break the resistance from Shail and Joey. The 4th was more a one-sided affair with a 15-6 score, JC and John taking their first doubles B club championship title.

Doubles A
Was the Blue Chips victory of 2016 a once off fluke or would they again defy not just the odds, but all logic as well? John (JR) Rakolta and George Kordas started off their 2017 effort with a comfortable 3-0 win in the first round, setting up the much anticipated re-match of last year’s final against Jed Elley and Ryan Covell. JR and George certainly held the mental edge here, I’m not too sure that Jed and Ryan have ever gotten over their 3-1 defeat just a year ago, it seems a sore topic of conversation whenever the subject comes up and George has no problem reminding them of that as he points to his and JR’s name on the championship board....

Revenge is a sweet feeling in sports. Now the win for Jed and Ryan did not guarantee them the title, but the 3-1 victory certainly stopped the Blue Chips from their second one. With the monkey off their backs, they could now focus on final and the challenge they lay ahead of them: Peter Logan and Vikram Chopra.

Peter is no stranger to the doubles. He has been in the Doubles A final 9 times since 2007, winning 4 of them. Vikram on the other hand had yet to reach a final so this would be his maiden appearance, and having an experienced partner like Peter would be vital if they were to succeed.

Again, on paper, I was leaning towards a Peter / Vikram win. And as usual, my predictions on these things generally indicate the kiss of death. Sorry guys. Your fault for being ranked higher (at the time!). Kudos to Julie VandeVusse who was asked to live webcast the blockbuster event, your dedication to the sport is recognized and appreciated!

Jed and Ryan were on a mission taking the first game 15-9. A great confident start, but also they needed to be careful not to get ahead of themselves. I’m not saying they did, but Peter and Vikram stymied their momentum in the second game to come back for a 15-10 win to tie up the match 1 game each. The third game would be the decider.

Ryan Covell, Vikram Chopra, Peter Logan, Jed Elley

The psychological difference in walking on the court for the 4th game 2-1 up or 2-1 down can be significant, especially if the third game ended in dramatic fashion. Which it did here. The rally that really decided the match was at 14-all in the third. Ryan and Jed snatched that point, a huge emotional boost that carried over to the next game. It wasn’t all one way traffic that game, but being a lot closer to the finishing line than their opponents gave them the extra push they needed. Peter and Vikram kept it relatively tight but couldn’t close the small gap. 15-11 in the 4th, and we can crown our new DAC Doubles Champions: Jed Elley and Ryan Covell!

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