Tuesday, 29 January 2013

February 2013 Selection Event Draw/Preview

EDIT Jan 30: 2 days before the tournament and changes to the draw. Hopefully this will be the last one! Francois Viens has pulled out of the tournament which doesn't change much other than some of the first round match ups but it is worth mentioning. The draw below is the amended version and I have also edited my reviews of first round match ups to reflect the new draw.

With the entry deadline past and the tournament approaching, I thought I'd take a bit of time to release the (unofficial) draw and give a brief preview of the tournament. Again, this is not the official draw, but it is based off of the current racquetball canada rankings and thus should be more or less what we see this upcoming weekend.

One of the most interesting aspects of this draw is the low attendance of top players (similar to the first selection event in Kelowna). With 4 of the top 8 players in Canada not attending (#2 Vincent Gagnon, #3 Kris Odegard, #6 James Landeryou and #7 Eric Desrochers), the draw again becomes very open and full of match ups we don't see that often. Unfortunately, the draw ends up looking very similar to what we saw in Kelowna so while these match ups aren't common, they are happening in back to back tournaments which may make things seem less interesting than they are. The contrast to Kelowna here is the size of the draw. With 23 entrants there is a full extra round (and in some cases 2 rounds) of play which not only ensures more racquetball for everyone, but additional opportunities for upsets. Speaking of upsets, let's take a look at the first round matches!

Top Half:
There will definitely be some hotly contested matches in this bracket. Samuel Murray and Francis Guillemette should both get by their first round opponents and set up what potentially thrilling second round matches with rising stars Kurtis Cullen and Coby Iwasaa. With the #8 and #9 seeds both receiving first round byes, the second round match between Hugo Laprise and aging veteran Troy Brooks also has barn burner possibilities and gives Laprise a chance to move into the quarter finals if he plays well. A great first round match up between youngsters Sami Harb and Sebastien Juteau rounds out the top half and will showcase not only the future of our sport but some exciting and energetic racquetball as well.While this writer believes the top seeds will still advance to the quarter finals, there are definitely some entertaining matches along the way, and several chances for upsets exist in the top half of the draw.

Bottom Half:
From the looks of things the bottom half of the draw will be somewhat more straightforward than the top, as most top seeds should advance without too much trouble. The first round matchup between Albertan junior Mitch Brayley and Quebec veteran Patrick Jauvin could be contentious though, and if nothing else, will provide an interesting contrast in game styles. In the second round, former national team member Corey Osbourne could give some trouble to 3rd seed Nathaniel Husulak if he can impose his style on Nate in that match, and youngsters Nicholas Bousquet and Tommy Murray could also prove to be a handful for their higher ranked (and more experienced opponents) Pedro Castro and Lee Connell.. I will watch the match between Patrick and Mitch with anticipation, looking forward to my match with whomever I face as I've never played Mitch, and it's been years since I've played Patrick. I believe I will be able to move onto the 3rd round though, barring any catastrophically poor play. So while there are less opportunities for upsets in the bottom half, there is still some entertaining racquetball to be had.

Disagree with any of my predictions? Who's your pick to win? Who will be the best match of the 1st/2nd round? Comment below!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Semi Finals

Apologies for the tardiness of these posts, the internet at our hotel was fairly suspect all weekend but now that I have a connection I'll put these last couple of posts up. I apologize for their brevity as I only was able to catch a couple of the matches due to having to play ourselves. Stupid playing always gets in the way of watching! Anyway here we go...

Semi Final #1: Quebec (1) vs. Manitoba (4)
Manitoba fielded a solid team to this tournament but as with PEI in the quarter finals, the Quebec squad was simply too strong. I wish I had caught more of this contest as I'm sure there would have been some great squash but the host province takes the first spot in the final on the back of a solid victory.

Semi Final #2: Alberta (2) vs. Ontario (3)

Tyler Hamilton d. Grayson Witcher (3-1)

A combination of great play from Witcher and a slow start from Hamilton allowed “Gray” to take the first game. After that though Hamilton settled in and you could tell it would only be a matter of time before Witcher ran out of steam. On the 17” tin, Hamilton’s drops were deadly and while his Albertan opponent would track many of them down in the second, the number dwindled in the 3rd and 4th games as Hamilton made them tighter while Gray tired. In the end, the Ontarian player simply controlled where play took place too well for the Albertan and would take the match in 4 games.

Dane Sharp d. Andrew Schnell (3-2)
In what was one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament, the #3 and #5 players in Canada did not disappoint the crowd awaiting their on-court contest. In a thrilling match that saw numerous lead changes, fantastic nicks, and unbelievable retrieving, a down-to-the-wire finish was a perfect way to have it happen. After splitting the first 2 games, Schnell would take the third with extremely consistent and disciplined play. Sharp seemed to be tiring and Schnell was taking advantage, moving him around the court and jumping on loose balls that Dane provided. Despite fatigue setting in Sharp regrouped in the fourth and it was excellent squash to start the game. A nick drop from Andrew, a fantastic counter drop from Dane; both players came out firing and it was something to see! They traded even points to 5-5 before Dane opened up a lead on the back of play that was obviously frustrating Andrew. The Albertan was controlling most of the play but to Dane's credit he dug deep and played a retrieval game until he got his opportunities and while they were few, to Andrew's frustration he was capitalizing on them. A marathon rally at 9-5 saw Schnell give Sharp a scenic tour of the court before a loose length provided a let opportunity. Schnell's frustration was visible at this point and 2 tins in the next 3 rallies illustrated this and give Dane the game and level the match at 2-2. In many ways the 5th game was a snapshot of the match. Schnell played extremely consistent, disciplined, and controlled the majority of the rallies. Sharp scrambled, scratched and clawed his way through to capitalize on the small number of opportunities he had to win rallies. It was extremely tight, but in the end Sharp frustrated Schnell by retrieving well and forced errors at key points. He would take the 5th tight and the match 3-2.

So after winning the first 2 matches Ontario upsets Alberta and moves onto the final to face Quebec! Should be an entertaining contest with some high quality squash.

In the consolation side, Nova Scotia defeated Saskatchewan 3-0 and Quebec #2 defeated PEI 3-0 so they will play for 5th on sunday and Saskatchewan and PEI will play for 7th.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Quarter Final Results

Things are rolling along in the tournament with the top 4 seeds advancing to the semi finals. This will set up what promises to be an extremely tough and entertaining matchup between #2 Alberta and #3 Ontario. Before we get to that though, let's quickly go through the quarter final match ups...

Quebec (1) d. PEI (9)
After upsetting the 8th seeded New Brunswick squad, PEI found themselves in a tough position against the top seeded Quebec team. They would force some lengthly rallies by retrieving a lot of balls but ultimately the host team was simply too skilled and would take the contest 3-0.

Manitoba (4) d. Quebec #2 (5)
I unfortunately didn't get a chance to watch much of this contest, but Manitoba had slightly more depth on their team which allowed them to edge out the host province's second team 2-1.

Ontario (3) d. Nova Scotia (6)
Nova Scotia comes into the tournament with a strong team but ran into a juggernaut squad from Ontario who will definitely be in the running to win the tournament. There was simply too much skill and fitness for the atlantic team to compete with and Ontario would move on 3-0.

Alberta (2) d. Saskatchewan (7)
The very strong Alberta squad overwhelmed the SK players on every match. This will set up what should be a thrilling matchup between Alberta and Ontario in the semi finals.

First Round Matches

With the first day of play concluded, I suppose it's the appropriate time for a rundown of the action so far. While there have been no major upsets yet in the tournament there has nonetheless been some very entertaining and exciting squash. Here is a quick overview of the rd of 16 and quarterfinal match ups.

Nova Scotia (6) d. Canadian Forces (11)
The Canadian Forces put up a valiant effort but in the end the Nova Scotia contingent was simply too strong. They move into the quarter finals with a  3-0 victory.

Prince Edward Island (9) d. New Brunswick (8)
In the only upset of the tournament so far PEI moves onto the quarter finals by upsetting the 8th seeded New Brunswick squad 3-0.

Saskatchewan (7) vs Northwest Territories (10)
Al Fern (SK) d. Brooke Harker (NWT)
Al took control early and didn't let go. His opponent put a few solid rallies together and and made several great shots over the course of the match but Al's superb length and touch in the front court made him too dangerous and he would take the match 3-0.

Tim Landeryou (SK) d. Spider Jones (NWT)
Tim's pace mixed with drops and boasts to the front court kept Spider off balance for most of the match. The #1 from NWT became more aggressive  as the match went on to try and compete, but ultimately couldn't match Landeryou's retrieval abilities. Landeryou would take the match 3-0.

Daryl Foreman (SK) d. Terry Gray (NWT)
While this was the tightest of the 3 matches, Daryl was still in control for most of it. The NWT representative made great shots at points in the match and actually had leads in the 2nd and 3rd games. Daryl responded by tightening up his game, keeping the ball in play and forcing errors from his opponent at key points to take the match 3-0.

Internet's been spotty at the hotel so it's been difficult to upload posts. I should be able to get the quarterfinal results and today's up later tonight. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Men's Squash Team Championships

So given that I won't likely be playing another racquetball tournament until the selection event in February, I thought it appropriate to branch out a bit with respect to my topics. With all the excitement and family proceedings over the holidays I doubt this blog is high on anyone's priority list! Not to worry though, I thoroughly enjoy updating random folks on the somewhat mundane activities that comprise my daily life :)

To wit, I thought I'd write about the upcoming Canadian Mens Squash Team Championships that I've been selected to compete in at the beginning of January! The tournament is to be held at the Club Sportif MAA in Montreal, QC. For more event info check out the link on Squash Canada's Website: http://squash.ca/en/events/2013-canadian-mens-teams-championship-1

The event brings together one 3-player team from each province/territory (with the host province/territory having the option to add an additional team) to determine the best "Mens Squash Team" in Canada! Teams compete in a head-to-head draw format, with each team member playing their respective adversary (#1v#1, etc) in a best of 5 match. The team winning the majority of matches (at least 2/3) wins the contest and moves onto the next round.

This year there are 11 teams competing. This includes representation from all provinces and territories (except for B.C., Yukon Territories, and Nunavut), 2 teams from host province Quebec, and an Armed Forces contingent to round out the draw. Quebec #1 will come into the tournament seeded first, with Alberta's and Ontario's squads rounding out the top 3. These to me are the most likely teams to bring home the title, as all 3 have cumulative team rankings under 70. Quebec's seeding would seem to be misleading if judged solely by the cumulative rankings of their players, but with David Phillips and Jason Delierre being somewhat inactive in recent years on the national circuit, their rankings have been somewhat inflated. I would not be surprised to see either of them "upset" their higher ranked counterparts from the Alberta or Ontario contingents. All 3 teams have 2 players in the top 10, so there will be hotly contested matches all around, and anything can happen. The semis and final will be excellent squash for anyone who comes to watch.

I'm hoping to write another post with predictions for the matchups once the draw has been decided so keep tabs on the blog and look for updates in the new year