Carol Weymuller Open

I can hardly believe that when I wrote my last tournament recap (Nash Cup), the season was just beginning. Now, here we are in mid November, with squash season very much in full swing!

After Nash Cup

After Nash Cup, I was determined to fix what I felt had been lacking during my match with Nadine. I had difficulty controlling the ball on the hot court, and didn’t feel I could hang with her pace at the back of the court. For the next month, I focused probably 90% of my hitting on deep game variations, playing mostly against guys who hit the ball hard and take it early. This training tactic certainly paid off, as I went into my next tournament, Carol Weymuller Open, feeling fit and confident having improved this major part of the game.

I was fortunate enough to receive the wildcard slot for the Brooklyn-based tournament, meaning I was sure to come up against a more highly ranked opponent. Everyone in the draw was ranked in the top 50 (except for me, I’m currently #59), with the highest seed being world #3, Nour El Tayeb (EGY). My first round opponent was Nele Gilis, of Belgium. I’d played Nele once before at the 2017 Tournament of Champions qualifier in NYC, and lost in 3 games. (I think two of the games were close and one was not).

Carol Weymuller match – vs Nele Gilis (Belgium)

Fast forward to Weymuller first round. Nele is fit and fast, plays a lot to the back of the court, and has a very effective backhand drop/volley drop. Having played a lot of length games the past month, I was fairly confident I could hang with pace and pressure around the mid/back court. However, after an atrocious on-court warmup, and I didn’t feel like I could hit the ball to save my life. Fortunately, I know by now that that doesn’t mean much, and when I came back on court 90 seconds later to start the match, I’d somehow found my range. In retrospect, the awful warmup may have actually been a silver lining, and it forced me to focus on tactics and playing smart.

It was a very close first game, and I controlled most of the rallies for the first 3/4 of the game. Nele pulled away at the end, and I lost 11-9. In the second, I have absolutely no idea what came over me, but I think it was a combination of her settling in and playing better, and me going a bit passive. I lost 11-1. After tanking the second game, I was determined to change things around in the third (and was still feeling good physically), and put forth a pretty good effort. Unfortunately, I made a couple bad decisions when going short, and one or two bad tins towards the end of the game.  I lost that one 11-9. Agh!

After thoughts

In general, I felt I played well (for the first and third games). However, one thing in particular really struck me, and highlighted a crutch in my game. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel comfortable hitting a backhand volley drop (maybe because it was a glass left side wall- always tricky). This is probably one of my favourite go-to shots, and without it in my repertoire, felt a bit lost as to how to attack and take advantage of openings. Whenever I went short, I was going for a sort of mid-range kill shot, which worked sometimes, but felt forced and a bit anxious. I think the combination of being in a match situation, a faster court, and that side wall (something to practice and get used to), showed that I need to be able to have those shots under pressure and under all conditions.

When I compare this match to my level a year ago, I can tell there’s been a lot of improvement, mentally, tactically, and physically. It was even miles better than the previous month, against Nadine at Nash Cup. I was disappointed and annoyed to have lost, but didn’t feel it was a waste of time (which has happened before!). It highlighted holes in my game that needed to be fixed, which I’ve since taken into account and have been working on a lot more in solo practice.

All in all, it was great to be back in Brooklyn for a few days. Big thank you to Linda Elriani for giving me the wildcard slot and running a fantastic tournament, and to my billets for hosting. I hope to be back next year (maybe without the wildcard!).

Nash Cup 2018

Where has September gone?! I feel as though I moved into my new place in Stamford in the hottest weather ever, got settled, and now all of a sudden, pumpkin spice products are everywhere! I’ve also been traveling for part of the month, which always makes time seem like it’s going by in a flash.

My newest book… pretty fitting, in numerous ways.

Two weekends ago I traveled to Cincinnati to help coach a junior tournament, came home for two days, and then flew off to London, Ontario, last Wednesday for the Nash Cup! Nash Cup is always a fun way to kick off the PSA season. This was my third time playing the event, and can without a doubt say that it’s always a fun-filled time, thanks to the unwavering enthusiasm of the London Squash and Fitness club members!

Sam (who made it to the final!), me, and Phill

I was originally meant to play the wildcard, Paula Jenkins, in the first round, but after a couple withdrawals, I received a bye. This put me up against the no 2 seed, Nadine Shahin, of Egypt. I’ve seen Nadine play a few times, so I had a good idea of what to expect- fast pace, boasts from the back, and lots of low hard drives. After two practices, I began to adjust to the faster courts, but found myself struggling to control the hot and bouncy ball, mainly in the back corners.

The match started off well, and I felt mentally confident and composed. This attitude didn’t waver much throughout the match, which hopefully bodes well for this season, I think. Last season, I played numerous matches where I felt anxious and overburdened with random thoughts. During the match against Nadine, I mentally felt pretty good, but physically didn’t feel confident to execute exactly what I needed to do.

Wise words from someone… although I did find this sign sitting beside the garbage.

I found that when I stepped up and volleyed, I was able to control the play, but the combination of Nadine’s hard drives and the fast front wall limited the frequency and accuracy of my volleys. I also think I needed to be a bit quicker with my racquet prep and off the T, to make my drives from the back of the service box a bit more consistent. While a lot of the rallies were close, I ended up spraying too many drives a bit too loose, which gave her the chance to tee up and hit some kills (or wicked boasts). Speaking of boasts… in the third game, Nadine began to boast much more from the back of the court, because I wasn’t hitting good enough length, and I just wacked them cross court- right back to her. And yes, “wacked” is a very technical squash term, here meaning “smacked the ball without much thought, usually when rushed”. Let’s just say I’ve been spending some time working on the counter drop this week.

In the end, I lost 3-0, all games about 11-6 or 11-7. I didn’t feel that the match was out of reach, but was very aware that I have a couple things I need to fix. More than anything, it was a good test to see how I held up mentally in competition (after an anxious and burnt out 2017-2018 season), and also how my technique/tactics fared after summer training.

Squash aside, Nash Cup was fun as always. I love catching up with some of the Canadian locals, and they’re always so generous and kind. (If you’re not careful, this can get you in trouble on the Saturday night!).

Much needed

Big thank you to Brad and Jen, who hosted me for the week, and to the promoter (Jay Nash) and volunteers/staff who helped run the tournament. You guys are the reason why people loving coming back to this tournament!

I’ve got 3 weeks now until my next tournament, Carol Weyemuller, which will be held in Brooklyn. Time to get back to training!

 

Bermuda Exhibition

When I lived in Victoria, I probably couldn’t have told you exactly where Bermuda was on the map. Well, now that I live on the East coast, I can tell you that it’s actually pretty convenient to get to (by plane)! Only an hour and a half plane ride away from New York, Bermuda is just as easy for a weekend getaway as anywhere in the States, yet seems further away and more exotic because it is completely isolated. In other words, if I didn’t have a reason to go to the small country, I probably wouldn’t make it out there.

A couple months ago I was fortunate enough to play a PSA event in Bermuda, which was a lot of fun and a great opportunity. While the PSA event was a blast, I also had to focus on actually playing squash, as opposed to hanging out at the beach and sight seeing. So when Patrick (the promoter and head pro at the BSRA) emailed me at the beginning of May to invite me over for an exhibition, I jumped at the chance. A free trip to Bermuda?! Sign me up.

I arrived late Thursday night (June 7th), and left Monday afternoon (June 11th), which gave us a full three days to pack in lots of beach time and a little squash. Island life runs at such a different pace than New York City, and I welcomed it with very open arms.

Friday

Friday started around 8:30 am with some instant coffee and a veggie egg scramble, before it was time for us to make our way down to the squash club. Despite no previous scooter-driving experience, Nikki and I had rented a little two-seater (like a vespa) for the weekend.  Since she had arrived a little earlier than me on Thursday, Nikki took the driving test – which consisted of driving around in a very tight circle- with the intention of me also getting my license. The original plan was for both of us to test drive the scooter, and determine who was better and would be the designated driver. However, we ended up running a bit behind, so I put my life in her hands and hopped on the back, hoping for the best.

Although we made a couple wrong turns, we managed to arrive at the squash club successfully without any crashes. We met up with some of the other squash players, and helped organize a few things before driving to the iconic Horseshoe Bay beach. After roasting on the beach and chilling in the clear blue water, Micah took us to Pompano Beach club for lunch.

The food at Pompano was good, but the views were the absolute highlight. Micah called it the “best lunch spot in the world”! (Can you tell he’s a true Bermudian?). We hung out there for a little while before going back to the squash club to run a junior clinic around 5 pm. The courts were extremely hot and humid, I began to get worried about playing a match in those conditions the following evening. Fortunately, I was told my court was the most sauna-like of all the courts, and it wouldn’t be so bad for the exhibition.

After the clinic, the squash players and some club members went to a happy hour downtown, followed by a late dinner around 10 pm and some drinks at a club afterwards. I’ll just say that a lot of fun was had!

Saturday

Although we were pretty tired from Friday, Nikki and I got up at a reasonable hour of 9 am, as Micah had organized a boat trip for us around St. David’s, a more remote part of the island. Micah’s friend, Jeffrey, was extremely generous and took us on a 5 hour boat tour to show us reefs and secluded beaches.

Although we all chipped in money, Jeffrey went above and beyond to take us out on the “Honey Badger Express” to show us some great spots for cliff diving (which I did NOT partake in), snorkelling, and swimming. Jeffrey even surprised us with a fresh Hogfish which he BBQd right there on the boat, as well as burgers.

The boat trip was easily the highlight of my trip. I’ve never swam in water so warm and clear, and could have definitely spent another couple days on the boat exploring other parts of the island.

After having an hour or so to relax at home, Nikki, Ian (our homestay) and I headed to the club for our exhibition match. Nikki and I were the third match to be played, which meant we had a bit of time to relax and get ready. The exhibition was only a best of 3 to 11 points, so we tried to make the rallies fun and entertaining. Neither of us had really been playing since the season ended, and were surely both tired from a late night and long day, but still managed to put on a good show… I think!

All four matches were finished by 9 pm, and while most of the crew took to court 5 (the bar!), I decided to make my way home for an early night. I was exhausted and wanted to enjoy our last day in Bermuda without being too tired and hungover. I think that Princeton reunions the weekend before combined with the couple of days of fun in the sun really took it out of me!

Sunday

Sunday was the only day the weather was suspect, and we ended up getting poured on a few times. Rain showers in Bermuda can be weird, because it’ll downpour cats and dogs for 10 minutes and then almost immediately clear up. Even weirder- one part of the mile-wide island might get hit, but the other side could be completely sunny and dry.

Despite the weather, we managed to pack a lot of activities in. We hung out at Tobacco Bay (another less-touristy spot) for a few hours, got some food and ice cream, checked out the caves at the Grotto resort, hit up another beach club, and played some 2 v 2 beach soccer. The quality of the soccer was extremely questionable at best, but it was a fun (and difficult) game.

Nikki and I had a low key Sunday night at home with our billet, Ian, before grabbing ice cream (for the second time that day), doing some emails/catching up with life, and calling it an early night.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience. I got to know a few other pros I hadn’t really met before, and got to tour around Bermuda with our local squash tour guides! Big thanks to Patrick for setting up the exhibition, and Micah for his organization, especially with the social stuff. Bermuda is such a fun tiny island and I would love to go back!

Things to Work on this 2018 Offseason

This season was jam-packed. From September to May, think I played 17 tournaments! While there were mental and physical ups and downs, I held up okay, and felt better at nationals in May than last year. I am hopefully that next season I won’t have to play as many tournaments, and that I’ll have a chance to take a midseason break at some point. This will allow me to reset both physically and mentally, and have a strong second half of the season. Traveling and competing is hard on the body, and I didn’t realize the value of rest and proper training until I hurt my back in March.

I am now about two and a half weeks into my off-season training. After nationals ended at the beginning of May, I took two weeks to do whatever I wanted training-wise. When I was home, this included mostly hiking, biking, some running, and lifting. I also got on court a couple times to play doubles and lives, which was fun, mainly because of the hitting partners. For the relatively small number of courts in Victoria, we have a pretty active membership, and it was great to have some of the hometown crew back together.

I’m currently on the 3rd week of my first phase of off season training, which will carry me through to the end of June. It’s focusing on improving my VO2 max using mainly treadmill intervals (anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes), and strength workouts (8 reps). In this phase, there are 3 conditioning days and 2 strength days, which gives me one day to do something different, like take a class, play squash, or take a rest day. So far I’ve used my “extra” day to play squash (once), take the Kettlebell and Core class at Body Space, and take a day off to go to Princeton Reunions (trust me when I say I needed the rest day…!). The Kettlebell and Core class at Body Space has been really great, as it has challenged me to integrate both cardio and strength with difficult movements. Plus, group exercise always adds to the intensity and motivation of the class.

So far, I’ve been sticking with the 5-day program, and have added extra workouts in only if I have the energy and motivation. As an athlete who typically workouts out 2x/day 6 days/week, I can’t stress how nice it’s been to only have to work out once a day. I love training, but I’ve been enjoying a more relaxed approach to my schedule, which has been kind on my body and also on my brain!

As the summer goes on, the program will change accordingly and some aspects will eventually become more squash specific. As for now, I’m trying to increase my VO2 max (i.e. get my cardio up to “speed” with my legs…) so that it’ll hold up when I integrate shorter, harder intervals with less rest… like squash!

After nationals, I immediately wrote down a few areas I need to work on this offseason. These “goals” may change a bit, but in bullet point form, this is what really stuck out to me after my final tournament. I’ve since chatted with a couple of coaches, and while I will integrate their thoughts into the program, I haven’t listed them below.

2018 Offseason Areas of Improvement

Squash

  • Improve backhand and backhand corner
  • Improve movement all around the court. Especially, work on being quicker and keeping my space from the ball.
  • Quick and efficient racquet prep

Fitness

  • More ghosting and squash specific, on-court fitness
  • Integrate consistent pressure sessions. I used to do this all the time in juniors and college, and found it really helped at the end of long games and tough rallies.
  • Build strength in tough positions (ie lunges…)

Mental

  • Meditate consistently. I started this last summer, and it helped in all areas of my life, including work, relationships, and how I interacted with my surroundings (mainly crazy people of New York!).
  • Read. I’ve just finished reading one of my new favourite books- How Bad Do You Want It, by Matt Fitzgerald. I honestly couldn’t put the book down, and found myself writing down important takeaways as I read. Reading a physical book (as opposed to online articles or Kindle app type books) is calming, and I feel that I get more out of the text.

Those are just the main points which stuck out in my mind after the long season. Although I’m starting to plan and think about on-court training, I’m not quite ready to get back into full squash mode, and am going to approach my re-introduction to on-court training with a relaxed mindset.

Alright, that’s all from me! I’ll be back soon, hopefully with some day-in-the-life posts and perhaps a recap of How Bad Do You Want It. Oh, and I almost forgot- I’m going to Bermuda this weekend for an exhibition (!!!), so I’m sure there will be a few things to say (or pictures to post) about that trip!

 

Canadian National Squash Championships 2018

This year’s Canadian nationals were held at the Glencoe Club in Calgary, Alberta. In juniors, I would play tournaments at the Glencoe at least twice a year, but had not been back since. The Glencoe is an enormous facility, housing several squash courts, tennis courts, a badminton arena, an indoor and outdoor pool, curling, skating rinks, and even a bowling alley! Since I’d been there last, they had also re-done the cafeteria, restaurant, and gym. It’s an old club, but has a classic yet modern feel. I wish I belonged there!

The committee and club did a fantastic job organizing the tournament. Everything ran smoothly, and having the entire badminton arena blocked off for sponsors, lounging, and court control helped accommodate the masses of people. Furthermore, the Glencoe featured an all-glass court for the event, which was also put up in the badminton arena. This was pretty cool, since usually only main world series events are held on glass courts. The only downside to the court was that the decals (ie. sponsors logos) on the front wall were very large- and white. Since we were using a white ball, you would often lose sight of it when coming off the front wall. This, coupled with the fast front wall and altitude caused a few flubs over the course of the tournament. All in all, I don’t think it was a major factor in the result of my matches, but the court did take some getting used to, that’s for sure.

Matches

My first match was against Erin Roberts. I had the chance to jump on the glass court prior to the match, and this served as an advantage. I took the ball as early as I could and put pace on it, to force Erin into the corners behind me. This strategy worked well, and I felt surprisingly comfortable on the lightning fast court.

Kids, don’t try this at home!

Now in the quarters, I drew Nikki Todd, a fellow Canadian teammate. We’d played a couple months prior, in the Queen City Open (see previous post for recap), and I had lost in a somewhat close 3 games. Although I didn’t hype this match up to myself or to anyone, I knew it was more important that just a quarterfinal. With Women’s World teams 4 months away, Squash Canada had declared this tournament as trials. The top 4 women would make the world’s team. Sitting in 5th place, I had to beat at least one of the women ahead of me for a place on the team. (5th place is a reserve, but does not travel to the tournament).

Nikki started off strong, and I lost the first game fairly quickly. She was more consistent at applying pressure with low hard drives- similar to what I’d done to Erin the previous day. In the second, I did my best to regroup, and narrowly missed out. The third was a bit scrappy, from what I can remember. I managed to save a couple of match balls, hit a drive  between my legs at 11-11 (which I will blame on a funny bounce), and squeaked it out 13-11. I knew I needed a good start in the fourth game, but quickly found myself trailing by 5 points. Not ideal! Now, with my back against the wall, I began to play better squash, and scrapped together some points. However, in the end I couldn’t pull it out, and went down in 4 games.

After that match, I had several people come up and tell me it was a good game and that I played well, but I couldn’t help feel a bit disappointed. I’m not sure if that was because I knew I would not be on the team going to Womens World teams this fall, or because I felt I could have played better. I actually talked with Nikki after the match and asked her what she had thought of it. I was curious as to what her strategy had been, given my strengths/weaknesses, and the court. Nikki said that instead of lobbing or hitting mid-height shots from a defensive, she aimed to keep the ball away from my volley, with low drives, or drops or boasts if necessary. As someone who likes to attack on the volley from the midcourt, I did find it a bit frustrating, since I had to find other ways to create pressure, and furthermore, neutralize her attacks.

My final two matches of the tournament were both against Calgarians. The first match was against Jamie Laird, whom I’d played Jamie once before in college, and lost in five. Jamie is a great competitor, and had been in form this tournament. The match was a bit of a roller coaster on my end, but managed to win in five games.

Following Jamie, I was up against fellow Princeton alum, Jackie Moss. Jackie graduated right before I matriculated, and played top 3 for the team. Like Jamie, Jackie is a great competitor, and can never be counted out. Now on the last day of the tournament, this match would not just be a matter of squash skills, but also a test of how well your body had held up after 3 hard matches. Despite playing 5 games the day before, I felt pretty decent, and closed it out in a close 4 games. Despite a few reffing blunders, the match was competitive and fair, and a good way to finish off my season.

Overall, I’m okay with how the tournament went. I was seeded 5th, and upheld that ranking. It would have been really nice to have done better, however upon reflecting, I came away with two “macro” positives. First off, I felt mentally much better than the year before (mentally, I was not in a good place for last year’s nationals). Secondly, I had more confidence in my game and in myself than at the beginning of the season. I guess playing 17 tournaments in the span of 8 months will help with that!

Victoria

After a fun night out (there’s always an end of tournament banquet), I flew home the following day to Victoria. I had the best week at home, running a bit, hiking, biking, working out, and also playing “fun squash”, including doubles and lives! I also got to go kayaking, and meet up with friends. The weather was perfect, which made it easy to be outside and be active. That’s one thing I miss about the west coast… no fight for quiet green space!

Early Offseason Plans

Since I’ve been back in NY, I’ve been coaching, and have taken a break from playing. My workouts have consisted of lifting, general circuits, Kettlebell and core at Body Space, and a run. I’m letting myself take the rest of May off from squash, and will start to ramp up off court training in June. As for hitting, I think I’ll get back on court when I feel like it. Last summer, I took nearly a 2 month break from squash- something I’d never done before. It was really necessary, but this off season I’d like to spend more time working on my game, so I feel better prepared for the fall. I am hoping that in the next few weeks, I’ll start to get the itch to play again, but in the meantime, I’m going to work on off-court, and enjoy life a little bit!