Post Gold Nationals and leading into Spring Break, is notoriously a quiet period for squash players in the US. The S2 crew – a.k.a the hardest workers in squash, had different ideas however. Whilst 30 kids played in P2P Event #6 back on home turf, 15 Scozzie’s made the trek up to CT’s capital – Trinity College (Hartford). The coaches believed it was because of their loyalty to Nova Nation (Villanova also played their 1st and 2nd round NCAA Championship games in Hartford over the weekend), but there was also a small squash tournament in action down the road. And when we say small, we mean the biggest and deepest Gold of the season. To put it in perspective, Anika played Gold Nationals last week and wasn’t even a top 8 seed here! It was going to be tough, but March is always a match play month on the Scozzie periodized calendar and we were ready and raring to go!
As hard as it gets…
Tom was playing in his first Gold since aging up and faced arguably the hardest draw in U19 history. His projected Friday after traveling all day would look like; R1 facing an unranked CSA player who played #1 all season for a top 25 school and if he won that, in R2, he would face a 5.5 rated player, also unseeded! Talk about brutal draws! But Tom is Tom and is the embodiment of a challenge embracer. He won R1 and heroically battled cramps in R2, but couldn’t quite complete the miracle which would have made a Friday for the history books. Tom’s first opponent then won 4 matches 3-0 in succession to reach the Consolation final, whilst his 2nd round opponent won 3 matches (dropping only 1 game) to reach the Main Draw Final! Tom played great all weekend and demonstrated significant improvement in his variety of shots, increased volleying and topped with some sublime shot making. He won 5 of 6 matches (all opponents bar 1 were 5.1+ rated) to win the Consolation. Games 3 and 4 in the final were extra special, as he defeated the same opponent twice in 3 days. Toms ready to take the U19’s by S2orm and the next Gold can’t come quick enough.
Quarter Finalists – Fabulous Five
Sameer, Neil, Anika, Colten and Riya all reached the quarter finals, meaning almost identical to last weekend at Golds, S2 had quarter finalists in every age division excluding U19’s (thanks to Toms draw!).
Sameer played the match of his life in R2, playing some of the best squash he’s ever played. Unfortunately in the quarters, he struggled to adapt to the Glass Court and lost in 4 games to the eventual finalist. In true Scozzie style, he bounced back stronger than ever to win back to back matches and seal 5th Place, alongside a nice Classic Plate Trophy.
Neil stole the show on Friday, with two consecutive heroic comebacks from the brink of defeat. In R1, he was 2-1 down and then found himself 2-0 down in R2. Neil thrives under pressure and he once again found his best squash at the perfect time and both matches he prevailed as the 3/2 victor. A huge achievement reaching the quarter finals, but Neil strived for more. Unfortunately at a crucial moment in the quarters, Neil took a racquet to the jaw, which required stitches. It was a tough way to end his run, but Mr Resilient once again came back less than 24 hours later to push Sameer in 4 close games in their Classic Plate semi final. Two huge wins to remember and some valuable points from a top 8 finish, Neil is edging ever closer to top 32 in the country.
Anika was the first female quarter finalists, upsetting a top 8 seed in a barn burner R2 match up. It was nip and tuck all the way through the 50 minute match, Anika led 1-0, then 1-1, then 2-1 Anika and then 2-2. All of a sudden it was 7-7 in the 5th and it was impossible to pick the winner. At that exact moment, Anika hit ‘Shot of the Tournament’, a genius body serve timed to perfection, caught her opponent totally off guard and hit her straight in the shin. That moment then sparked a burst of momentum in Anika’s favor and she steamrolled the next 3 points to seal the match 11-7 in the 5th and cause the big seeding upset! A huge win against a 4.0+ rated player, her first time ever beating her. The depth of this division in particular was ridiculous. Anika then had to face two more 4.0+ rated players as she battled to finish as high as possible. In the quarters, she had a game ball in Game 3 against the top seed, but couldn’t quite convert and then lost another crucial tie break in the Classic Plate semi, this time going down 3-1. Anika didn’t quite get the breaks on one or two crucial points against both, but can be content with her consistency of matching 4.0+ players and achieving her first ever top 8 Gold U15 finish. Bigger things ahead from this one!
Colten and Riya completed the Fabulous 5 by reaching the quarters in BU13 and GU11. Riya had a tremendous weekend and went on to reach the GU11 final, despite only recovering this month from a serious injury. It was highlighted by a comeback 3/1 win against the 2 seed in the semis to beat her initial seeding! Colten is just entering his up year at U13 and has a huge year ahead. He lost out 3/1 in both the Main Draw and Classic Plate, but gained valuable learning experiences against two tough opponents.
Just like the NCAA tournament which is currently running, upsets were happening left right and Centre and luckily several of our Scozzie’s were creating them!
Ronak caused the biggest upset in R2, coming from 2-0 down to beat someone ranked 0.25 higher.
Michelle lost in a New York semi final 3 weeks ago to the day and now had an opportunity to face the same opponent again and exact revenge! We studied the film, adapted tactics and Michelle went on there and delivered a masterpiece. Revenge was gained and a spot in the Plate 2 final was an added bonus!
Sean had his most successful Gold ever, as he reached the top 16 for the first time in the brutally strong U17 event. The two highlighting moments came with a huge Consolation win over player rated 0.22 higher and then at 11pm in Friday, he played some of his best squash ever in a late shift at Trinity!
Elliot overcame some terrible refereeing calls to have a huge comeback win on Saturday night against an opponent 0.11 higher. He was down 2-1 and saved several match balls, before playing a perfect game 5 to seal the upset win!
Ethan played the game of his life to win Game 2 11-4 against a 4.5. Now he just needs to implement that consistency to a level that can sustain a whole match!
Coach Lyall capped the weekend by sneaking in for the second half of the Villanova vs Purdue NCAA Final 32 showdown on Saturday night to hopefully bring Nova Nation some luck. Unfortunately his cheering and words of wisdom from the legendary Coach Wright didn’t work, as the defending champs suffered a blow out loss. Maybe we should have invited him to Trinity to speak to the S2 crew who could have offered some advice into how to perform in Hartford CT! A great weekend all round and now for some much deserved respite over Spring Break. Our camp kicks off at 11am tomorrow, so if you’re on home soil, we’ll see you then to let the hard work continue! If you’re enjoying the sunshine somewhere exotic, we’re extremely jealous and don’t want to hear about it!