Queen City Open (Regina) and Texas Open (Houston)

Queen City Open

My final two events of the 5-tournament road trip were tough. My back was still bugging me a lot, and my movement was very compromised. Every morning I would struggle to get out of bed, let alone have a reasonable practice hit. Fortunately, as I’d move and warm up throughout the day, my back would feel a bit better, and after a good warmup and an Aleve, I’d be able to compete without too much pain. Funnily enough, even though the pain wasn’t as acute, my body still wouldn’t let me move in certain ways. In particular, any balls to the backhand and anything low were really hard to retrieve. My reaction time was also really slow, which made me feel like a bit of a boat out there on the court (ie. slow to turn).

Playing Jaycee in my first round match

One positive takeaway was that I had to be conscientious and smart about my tactics. I found that cross courts often got me in trouble, so I kept a large percentage of shots straight down the wall. In addition, since I was hesitant to cover the front, I had to be careful and tactful about when to go short.

About to serve to Nikki (Quarters in Regina at the Queen City Open)

My first match vs Jaycee was tense. was a bit nervous about my back going into the match, but after I realized I probably wasn’t going to make it worse, I tried to settle in. Jaycee played well, and I managed to win in 4 games. Aside from one game where I stepped up on the T, I was pretty passive for most of the match and let a lot of balls go to the back.

In the quarters, I drew Nikki Todd, a Canadian teammate. It had been about a year and a half since we’d played in competition, and knew I’d have to bring my A game. Also, as a Regina native, she was the home favourite. I think I played about as well as I could have given my back, but wish that I had been more confident to attack short. Nikki is very quick, and I was very aware of her ability to counter attack off of my weak short shots. Instead of giving her that opportunity, I played a lot of balls to the back- when in doubt, a tight, straight volley helped keep me from scrambling. The games were all close and competitive, but I ended up going down 3-0.

Aside from losing, Regina was pretty fun. My billets were great, and I really enjoyed getting to know the Queen City committee members.

All of the athletes participating in the Queen City Open

A few of the pros were also asked to work with some of the local juniors in a Saturday morning clinic. They were all very enthusiastic!

Novum Energy Texas Open

After the Queen City Open concluded, I flew to Houston for a 25k in some warmer weather. I can’t tell you how nice it was to finish off with a tournament in a summer-like conditions!

The first two nights Danielle and I stayed with a billet, Melissa. She and her family were incredibly welcoming, and we were sad to leave to go to the hotel! Since us athletes cover our own accommodation (and transportation), we are always grateful when the tournament promoter covers hotel rooms or arranges homestays. In this case, billets were arranged for qualifying dates, and hotel was covered for main draw players. I was in the main draw, but arrived during qualification, and was therefore put up with Melissa for a couple nights until the hotel bonus kicked in.

My first match was against #4 seed, Mayar Hany of Egypt. Mayar had just been in Regina for the Queen City Open as well, and had won the entire event. I knew I could look at this one of two ways: 1) Mayar could be confident because she was playing so well, or 2) she could be very, very tired from having played so many tough matches. I disregarded both thoughts, and just tried to focus on my own game.

I think Mayar was half asleep in the first game, and I won it narrowly 12-10. After that, it was as though I had awoken the sleeping giant, and I proceed to tank the next game, losing 11-0. Yikes. I don’t think I’ve ever been bageled before (ie. losing 11-0) in competition, and that got in my head a bit. The next two games were better, but I didn’t feel as though I was hitting the ball well, and was always on the back foot. She hit some ridiculously good boasts to the front left corner, that I just couldn’t retrieve (partly limited because of my back, but they were also great shots).

It was a frustrating match, because I felt that if I had played well and been healthy, the score could have been different, but at the same time I was relieved to be done with tournaments. After 5 tournaments in a row, my mind, and especially my body were in desperate need of rest.

Overall, Houston was a good experience. I really enjoyed meeting the promoters and sponsors of the event, and hope to return soon! The squash community in Houston is very enthusiastic, and I see great potential for either an urban program or simply more tournaments. The complex that we played in (the Metropolitan club) was right downtown, and was huge. Immense workout facility (weights, treadmills, basketball court, crossfit studio), as well as 5 squash courts, probably a dozen tennis courts, and a restaurant/bar. The saying “everything is bigger in Texas” is true!

 

E.M Noll Classic 5K

Happy Thursday! I got back to NYC from Philly late Monday night, and aside from working, I’ve been trying to take a little rest from training. After my final match Monday, the medial part of my left calf was hurting and overall my body felt pretty tired, so I knew a few light days would do me some good.

I took Tuesday and Wednesday off, and yesterday I did some ghosting plus a light 30 minute bike. After a few light days, I thought my HRV would be green today and I’d be good to go, but I woke up “amber”! Nevertheless, I traveled up to Stamford to hit with John and some other pros, hoping I’d feel better after moving around a bit. About 30 minutes into the hit, I could tell that my HRV was right, as I was struggling to get into it, mentally and physically. I really tried my best to work hard and not get upset, but I can’t lie- it was pretty slow moving.

That’s a lot of amber days for one week…

John advised me to take the next few days off court (aside from coaching), to regain the “spark”. I’m planning to focus on my off-court training (strength and conditioning), while letting my mind reset!

Anyway, let’s back up a bit and recap this past weekend, as it was a good one!

E.M Noll Classic 5k (Philadelphia, PA)

This weekend I competed in my second tournament of 2018, the E.M Noll Classic, held at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia. Ever since I lived in Philly for the summer between Junior and Senior year of college, I’ve loved coming back and seeing friends and the city. (That summer was actually when I first started my blog, in 2014!). I love how Philadelphia has all of the aspects of a big city, without actually being that big. Furthermore, it has tons of history and museums, all within walking distance. While I didn’t get a chance to do sightseeing this trip, I was able to spend some quality time with my friend Kelsey, as I stayed with her at her parent’s place in the suburbs.

Thursday (travel day)

I arrived Thursday evening, after having had a practice hit with Will in the morning, followed by a few hours of coaching. Needless to say, I was tired when I got off the bus downtown Philly. Kelsey and I had plans to hit at 7:30, and since we were both tired from the week, it was a bit of a lacklustre 30 minute hit, but nonetheless we got out there and got moving.

Friday: Match vs Hayley Hughes (Round of 16)

The next morning, I woke up very tired, and couldn’t shake the feeling. I decided to stay off my feet until 30 minutes before match time, when I hopped on the bike for a solid 15 minute spin, followed by mobility and movement prep. I had a pretty slow start, and lost the first game 14-12. The next three games I buckled down and got it done, dropping only a few points each game. Although the scores reflected that I had a strong hold on the match, I didn’t feel very comfortable out there, and didn’t think I was watching or moving very well.

Surprisingly, the rest of Friday absolutely dragged. I was so tired, and despite the fact that there were a number of high quality matches going on, I felt out of it and “squashed out”. I hoped a good rest that night would help me recover for the next day.

Saturday: Match vs Ryan Morgan (Quarters)

After a good sleep Friday night, I felt much more rested. Ryan was in the city this past summer, and I got on court with her a lot, so I knew a few things about her game. However, about 20 minutes before match time, I had a bit of a panic attack, as I broke the strings on both of my racquets while practicing. With 15 minutes to go and no racquet, I rushed into the pro shop in hopes someone would be able to string one of my racquets in time for my match. Rob, one of the pros, claimed he is the “fastest stringer on the East coast”, dropped what he was doing, and proceeded to string my racquet right then and there. I was very relieved and grateful!

Sunday: Match vs Marina Stefanoni (Semis)

Although I felt good coming off my win against Ryan, I couldn’t help but feel nervous before my match against Marina, a 15-year old from Connecticut. Yes, you read that right- a 15 year old. However, Marina is no ordinary 9th grader. She has been winning the U-19 category in US tournaments for the past year or two, and is certainly one of the most talented young American players to come through the junior ranks. I watched her match against Nouran Gohar (world #5) at the Tournament of Champions on SquashTV, and was very impressed with how she played. Marina shows such little emotion when she plays, you might almost think she doesn’t care, but this is so not the case. She has a mature game, makes very good decisions, and very few errors. I tried my best to leave the whole age thing out of it, because I knew those thoughts wouldn’t be productive.

I ended up winning in 4, dropping the second game 11-4. My squash definitely did not feel free flowing, and I credit that to all to Marina’s tactics. She kept me off my game very well, by hitting cross courts I could not volley (to put me behind her), and then dropping it short at any chance (to drag me to the front). As a player who typically likes to attack mostly from the mid-court and volley straight balls, these tactics put me on edge, making it difficult for me to execute my game plan. Still, I was happy and relieved to win the match, and look forward to training with Marina in Connecticut soon!

The rest of Sunday was spent watching matches, blogging, and hanging out at a Super Bowl party. Although the party was really fun, Kelsey and I left with two minutes to go in the last quarter. We were right downtown by city hall, and didn’t want to get stuck in the post-game mayhem. While reading the news the next morning, I felt relieved all over again that we left when we did, otherwise we would have been stuck in the riots.

Monday: Match vs Maria Toorpakai Wazir (Final)

My match against Maria wasn’t until 6 pm, so I was able to get a practice hit in at noon with David, a fellow Canadian. We hit for roughly an hour (it wasn’t too intense), mostly doing some drills and a couple condition games. After a quick cool down and a shower, I headed next door to Real Food Eatery for lunch.

I got the same exact order I’d had the previous 3 days (!!):

  • mixed greens/kale dressed with EVOO and lemon
  • parmesan roasted broccoli
  • roasted beets with walnuts and goat cheese
  • 1/2 avocado
  • lemon herb marinated chicken thighs
  • almond basil pesto

Oh my goodness. This bowl is so filling and delicious. There were tons of “side” options to choose from, all of which looked delicious. Furthermore, the portions were really quite large! I think I got at least a full cup of beets and a cup and a half of broccoli- maybe more! I ate most of the bowl and saved some for later as a post-match meal.

My match against Maria started right on time at 6pm. I played well in the first game and came out on top, but lost the second 11-7. The last two games were strange, as the rallies weren’t very long, so I wasn’t tired, but I did feel very tense. I found myself hitting the ball back to Maria when I could have taken it in short, but I was so tight that my short shots were pretty heavy, and sat up to allow her to counter. Maria has ridiculously good hands, and if she’s at the ball, will pretty much hit a winner every time. We had several rallies which consisted of a serve and a return winner. It was a bit reminiscent of U13 junior squash!

Despite the unorthodox squash, I was able to win the 3rd and 4th games, securing my first-ever PSA title!

A big thank you to the tournament promoters and sponsors from the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, Salming, my coaches, and my billet (Kelsey). You guys helped make the weekend a great success!

Next up: National Training Camp (Windsor) + Windy City Open

The next 6 weeks is going to be so busy. On Monday I’m heading to Windsor, Ontario, for a national training camp, immediately followed by the Windy City Open, held in Chicago. After that, I’ll be back in NYC for a couple days before I head to Bermuda (!!!) for a 5k, which will kick off a 4-tournament road trip all over North America. Woo!