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!

 

Calgary CFO Consulting Services Open + A Trip Back Home

A resolution for next season: get better about tournament recaps! Although it’s been over a month now since the tournament in Calgary, I can still remember my matches and time there quite vividly. (It definitely also helps to take pictures to serve as little reminders!).

Two days after returning to NYC from Bermuda, I flew off to the other side of the continent for the CFO Consulting Services Open. I always look forward to playing in Calgary because they put on a great event, and I get to see friends from junior squash. (Shoutout: Thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers, and of course, Glenn Stark for putting on the tournament! You guys do a fantastic job every year, and make the event very special- especially for us Canadians!)

This year I stayed with friend and Canadian teammate, Danielle. I’ve stayed with her a couple times before, and we always have a good time. (I think the first time I stayed with Danielle was for a tournament in Grade 10!).

Breakfast by D!

Match vs Nouran El Torky

I had a bye first round, and drew an Egyptian, Nouran El Torky for a spot in the main draw. As the first seeded qualifier, I was technically “expected” to make it into the main draw, but it is not uncommon to have underrated players come through qualifying and beat the odds. My opponent was definitely one of those cases.

I went into the match with a neutral and relaxed mindset. I knew if I lost, that I could opt not to take the ranking points and it wouldn’t hurt my rating, which alleviated some pressure. Instead, I made my goal to just play and not worry about the outcome.

This “gameplan” (which was more of a mindset), worked surprisingly well. The score was like background noise- I knew it was there, but it didn’t have much bearing on my play. Even when the games went to a tie-break, I still felt calm. I actually found myself wondering if I was too relaxed, and was too indifferent about the score. As much as possible, I tried to let those thoughts pass and not bother me. I was playing well, and avoiding confrontation with my opponent (she tends to get into it with the refs and there are always lots of calls), and just tried to keep doing the right thing tactically.

After losing a couple match balls in the fourth game, I eventually lost in a tiebreak in the fifth. It was a very long match (about 75 minutes), that was more mentally draining than it was physical. I can’t imagine how spent I would have been if I had been anxious or wound up during the match, as opposed to having a calm, relaxed mindset.

Injury + Victoria

Unfortunately, my body found the match to be more difficult than I realized, because immediately following the very last point, I threw my back out. It wasn’t any particular movement that hurt it, so my best guess is that the injury was a result of massive overuse and repetitive motion. In other words, lots of squash and lots of tournaments, without adequate training and rest.

The pain was so bad that I couldn’t bend down to take my shoes off or put my pants on without holding on to something or compensating in some way. I even took some pain killers for the next few days to help the pain subside.

I flew home to Victoria the following afternoon for a little visit with friends and family. Before the whole back injury episode, I was hoping to get some really good training in. However, as the weekend progressed, it became increasingly clear to me that I needed to make rehab the central focus. Massages/rolling, mobility, and contrast therapy became my best friends for a few days, as I literally could not function if I didn’t do some sort of rehab every couple of hours. My back was tiiiiiight!

On the plus side, I got to see some old friends! Danielle, Lindsay, and I have known each other since Kindergarten (almost 20 years!), and I’ve known Casey since middle school. We go way back!

Casey, me, Danielle, and Lindsay

I also convinced my mom to go on some walks with me to enjoy the sunshine. How beautiful is the Pacific Northwest?!

After an amazing few days at home, I flew off for my last two tournaments of the road trip: Regina, Saskatchewan, and Houston, Texas. More on that in another post!

 

Bermuda Open 2018

The location of this tournament doesn’t need much of an introduction, does it?

Three days after returning from Chicago, I flew off to Hamilton for the Bermuda Open! Everyone I met was incredibly kind, and the family I stayed with could not have been more welcoming. Check out our morning views!

The first couple of days were really nice weather, but by the first day of the tournament, the sky had clouded over and it rained a bit. This was a bit of a blessing in disguise, as it would have been difficult to resist being outside all day before competing in the evening.

Matches

1st Round vs Sanne Veldkamp (NED)

My match with Sanne was fairly straight forward, and I tried my best to feel out the court and get rid of the first match nerves.

Aly and me at Aerial Sands! (And no, I’m not naked… strapless top!)

Quarterfinal vs Anna Kimberley (ENG)

For my second match, I was pitted against Anna Kimberley of England. I’d seen Anna play a bunch in college (she went to Trinity), but we never competed against each other. She has a typical English game, and hits good lines, and also retrieves a lot. She outplayed me in the first game, but I managed to step up my game in the second grab the second one. The third was close and physically challenging, and I narrowly missed out in a tie break. However, the damage seemed to have been done, and I think the tough rallies from the first three games took a toll on Anna, and I was able to put the pressure on to win the last two games. It was a long hard match, which certainly forced me to dig deep, and I was happy to pull it out against an underrated opponent!

Semifinal vs Alex Fuller (RSA)

My match against Alex was a bit all over the place. I felt that I was hitting the ball pretty well, and my body felt fine. However, my tactics were all off. I went short too early in the rally, when I should have pressured Alex to the back and used the short ball as a moving shot, to then attack to the back again. She is quite quick and fit, and I underestimated my own fitness. Not sure why I didn’t quite believe enough in myself, but I know for certain I wasn’t tuned in with respect to my tactics. Looking back on video, I see that a lot of the shot choices were a bit random and undisciplined. We had some hard rallies, which I should have fought through, but instead let the thoughts in my head get to me. The rallies were all close, but I went down in 3 straight games.

I ended up flying out first thing the next morning, as there was a storm approaching Bermuda. I didn’t want to risk getting stuck for the weekend, as I had a quick turnaround to Calgary shortly after!

Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with a picture of my Bermuda airport breakfast. It was very “Keto-friendly”! (Not that I’m on the keto diet, but it’s a nice way to justify having bacon and eggs!)

That’s all for now! Still have several tournament recaps to write, so I’ll continue to roll those out, as well as a few more current posts.

 

National Training Camp in Windsor

What a great February it was for squash! I started off the month with my first ever PSA title in Philly, then participated in a National squad camp in Windsor, followed by the Windy City Open in Chicago. To top it all off, I finished the month with a tournament in beautiful Bermuda! (I’m now currently finishing this post in Calgary, where I am surrounded by 3+ feet of snow in -19 degree Celsius weather. Eek!).

I feel like I’m constantly playing catch up here with blog posts, because there’s been an event nearly every week. Furthermore, I haven’t been making the time to sit down and hash out my thoughts, so I’m running a little bit behind. So without further adieu, let’s back up to mid-February, for a recap of my training trip to Windsor, Ontario!

I was originally debating whether or not to participate in the National camp, since it was being held right before the national team championships, which I would not be playing in. (My province didn’t send a team). Furthermore, I knew I had a lot of traveling on the horizon, and thought an extra week at home could be nice. However, when I mentioned the camp to John, my primary squash coach, he insisted I go.

Whenever I’ve done a training stint in Windsor with Graeme (the national coach), it’s always been hugely beneficial. He has a slightly different perspective on the game from John, and the two don’t conflict at all. In fact, I would say that Graeme’s coaching helps me technically (and somewhat tactically) execute the overall game structure that John and I have been working on.

In the past, John and I have also worked a lot on the technical aspect of the game- which has been absolutely essential- but recently our focus has shifted more towards the tactical side. A few months ago, after the last national camp held by Graeme, John remarked upon how inspired I seemed on court. He was right! It can be easy to get “tunnel vision” when you’re training in the same setup day in day out. Going up to Windsor and having a change of scenery was like a breath of fresh air.

Chicken, quinoa salad, kale/cabbage slaw, and green beans. One of the delicious dinners our billets prepared during the week!

All that to say, that is why I went up to Windsor for a 6 day training stint. And it was worth every single minute.

Nikki, Danielle, Sam, and I were the 3 “campers” for the week. During the 3 days with Graeme, we focused on the following themes:

  • Taking the ball early (mostly on the volley), and actively stepping forward. It can be tempting to let the ball come to you, but by going to get it, you can a) inject pace from your movement onto the ball, and b) mess with the timing of your opponents movement.
  • Getting on to the ball quickly/early, and being deceptive. We worked on holding the ball until the last possible moment, using the momentum from your last step as a “backswing”.
  • After taking the ball in short, closing down the court. We focused on hitting counter drops and boasts, and then pouncing on a weak cross court.
  • Using an open racquet face, whether to hit down on the ball and inject some pace at the same time, or to get underneath the ball (volleys).

Graeme and I also worked on counter drops, since I have never really worked on them. It is much harder to cover the court with the 17″ tin, making the counter drop all that much more effective. We focused on the movement and racquet prep, reaching out to keep hold of the T as much as possible, while using the momentum from the movement to push the drop into the corner. Previously, I was trying to do too much with my racquet, which would make the ball pop up or not even reach the front wall. After a couple hour-long sessions, my right leg was feeling it!

Sam and me resting (we fell asleep during a movie) after a long day of training! (This picture was actually taken during the summer camp, but I’d say the tiredness level was along the same lines!)

My week of training looked something like this:

Tuesday:

  • Squash camp 10:30 am – 12:15 pm
  • Squash camp 2:30 pm – 4 pm
  • light lift 4:15- 5 pm

Wednesday:

  • Squash camp 10:30 am – 12:15 pm
  • Squash camp 2:30 pm – 4 pm
  • Steady bike 4:30 pm – 5 pm

Thursday:

  • Squash camp 10:30 am – 12:15 pm
  • Lift 4 pm – 5 pm

Friday: 

  • Squash with Graeme 10:30 am – 12 pm (worked on counters)
  • Squash with Nikki and Danielle 2:30 pm – 4 pm (queen of the court)

Saturday:

  • Squash with Graeme 10 am – 11 am
  • Squash game with Matt 4-5 pm

Sunday: Rest day!

  • Acupuncture/massage/cupping session

Monday:

  • Drive to Chicago for the Windy City Open
  • light hit 6:30 – 7:15 pm

Tuesday: 

  • Match vs Sarah Cardwell (AUS) 1-2 pm (Recap to come in following post!)

All in all, it was a solid week of training, and I really enjoyed every single moment. It was so refreshing to be with a group of like-minded athletes that were all so motivated both on and off court! Our sessions passed by in a flash, yet were extremely productive. I can’t wait for the next camp!

 

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!