Strong showing for squash

The men’s squash team captured an OUA silver medal last weekend while the women just missed the podium by falling to fourth in a tiebreaker

Women’s number one player Erin Roberts puts the ball back in play against a McMaster opponent.
Women’s number one player Erin Roberts puts the ball back in play against a McMaster opponent.

The spring season for Gaels athletics came to a close this weekend with the sound of rubber slamming against the ARC walls as Queen’s hosted the Squash OUA Championships. The home team enjoyed a solid weekend of play as the men’s team finished with 15 wins in 24 matches to secure a silver medal while the women finished with nine wins in 21 games to finish fourth.

The teams participating in the tournament were Queen’s, McMaster, Western, Toronto, Waterloo and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Each team, except for the women’s sides of UOIT and Waterloo, was composed of six players who played matches over Saturday and Sunday. The six players were divided by division and only played against opponents of the same level. A victory in a best of five match in any division was worth one point.

On the men’s side all six players played four games over the weekend, while on the women’s side divisions one, four and six played only three games because of a lack of players.

The men had excellent results upon opening the tournament, capturing nine of their 15 wins on Saturday. Their division one player, Alex Ford, and division four player, Erik Zufelt, kicked things off in the morning against McMaster and Waterloo respectively. Ford fell 1-3 in his first match against a tough opponent while Zufelt pulled out a dominant 3-0 sweep of his Waterloo competition.

The rest of the day went without much incident as the bottom three players, Zufelt, Matt Twiddy and Bob Noakes swept their matches. The top three, Ford, Amr Hamour and Aadam Tejpar each managed to split their two games to produce another three victories. By day’s end the team sat in second place with a 9-3 record, trailing only a Western team that had yet to drop a match.

Sunday wasn’t quite as productive for the Gaels as all six players finished 1-1 to give the team another six wins. The team had to face the dominant Mustangs, leading them to drop a match each. Nevertheless, the 15 points accumulated were enough for the Gaels to edge out the McMaster Marauders by two to take the OUA silver medal.

Considering that Western captured its 28th straight OUA title by finishing with a 24-0 record, the Gaels were content with their second place finish. Men’s head coach Eugene Zaremba said he was happy that the men played to their potential and was particularly impressed by the play of Ford.

“Alex had limited experience [coming into Queen’s], not nearly one of the better players in the junior ranks, he was fairly weak when he came,” he said. “The four years that he has been here he has improved tremendously; he got an all-star nomination [this year], bronze in the individuals.”

The 9-3 record by the bottom three players was also a major contributor to the team’s victory. Zaremba said the wins came as a result of the team’s parity.

“Typically what happens is that teams have a couple of good players and [then] the team drops off,” he said. “The Queen’s team is level, they are interchangeable. Three down to six are pretty close, when you have that kind of situation you are going to come through.”

The women’s team entered the tournament as the reigning OUA champions but struggled to accumulate enough points on Sunday for a podium finish. Like the men, the first day of matches was a good one for the women’s team as they won five of their 11 games to take a second place position going into the final day.

On Sunday, the team was only able to accumulate a total of four victories, one of which was a forfeited game. The nine wins moved them into a tie for third with McMaster. The Marauders held a 4-2 head-to-head record against the Gaels and secured the tie breaker, forcing the Gaels into fourth place.

The Gaels suffered from inexperience at the bottom of their team despite strong efforts from their top players. Division one player Erin Roberts finished the weekend with a 2-1 record for the individual silver medal. Her only loss was to the women’s most valuable player from Waterloo, Natasha Seth.

Division two player Heather Lamb also enjoyed a big weekend, finishing undefeated. Gaels number three, Caitlin Klein also had solid results finishing 2-2.

Women’s head coach Vic Sahai had only good things to say about his top three players. He said that Lamb was a particularly great role model for the younger athletes.

“Heather Lamb played brilliantly,” he said. “[She] is our number two, but [at] any other university she could play a number one position. She focuses, she concentrates, and she practices hard even though she is in medical school. She always shows up to practice and always shows up to tournaments.”

The team’s bottom three players, Gwyneth Ross, Alayna Bradd and Rebecca McTavish had more trouble in their matches, finishing with combined record of 1-9. Sahai said that the bottom three players simply lacked the experience to win.

“When we first started this whole season some of the girls at the lower end couldn’t even carry on a rally,” he said. “Now they’re competing with some great athletes.”

With no Western goliath equivalent in the women’s league, the Gaels may have a chance to return to the top of the podium next season. Sahai said that he looks forward to the future.

“The whole team will be coming back next year,” he said. “I am looking forward to next year. It looks very positive.”

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