Team Pizza Hut’s Terri Cairns took to the court with a hefty weight on her shoulders.
With her team down 8-4 in points, Cairns could not afford to drop a single game, if her team was to have a chance to win the Tuesday squash league’s finals at Better Bodies in Whitehorse.
Unfortunately for Pizza Hut, Team Roche Firth Marchuk Financial’s Michel Gelinas took the opening game to secure a first-place finish for his top-seeded team.
“I knew it could be long so I paced myself,” said Gelinas. “It’s like long-distance running or middle-distance running, you have to pace yourself.”
In the first match of the finals, Pizza Hut’s Jim Gilpin suffered a 12-15, 15-4, 15-8, 15-11 loss to Patrick Gardiner.
“Everyone I play in the league is younger than me; sometimes that works to my disadvantage,” said Gilpin. “Experience only takes you so far—my experience didn’t take me far enough tonight.”
The following match featured a sub for Roche, with their captain Kyle Marchuk on vacation in Hawaii.
Although an intense match, sub Phil Jackson was downed 15-10, 11-15, 10-15, 15-6, 15-8 by Hut’s Jeff Seaman.
Roche’s Doug Thorseth then won in straight sets, defeating Chris Ziegler 15-12, 15-9, 15-10 and forcing Cairns into the do-or-die situation.
“We came and played as hard as we could,” said Gardiner. “Last week, I played just as hard as I did this week and last week I lost and this week I won. So it is a team effort and because of the effort of the other team we made it to the finals and I was lucky to win tonight.”
For the playoffs, the league decided to adopt a new points system that’s sweeping the squash world. Called PAR (Point A Rally), the new system means a point is awarded to the victor after every rally. Before the instillation of the system, which has been adopted by Squash Canada, only the server would be awarded a point after winning a rally.
“I read a couple articles in squash magazines and they convinced me we’re going to have to get used to it,” said Squash Yukon and Better Bodies coach Marie Desmarais. “Everyone is at the same disadvantage because no one has played it. You only have to play a couple matches—you adjust to it quite fast.
“To tell you the truth, we’ve already found it improves your game because your unforced errors are unforgiving. Players are already a little more cautious.
“I like it because it makes you play better squash.”
However, Squash Yukon did make a small alteration to the PAR system. Squash games (otherwise referred to as sets) are traditionally played up to 11, but hoping to prevent the matches from becoming too short, Squash Yukon decided to make the games up to 15.
“We found a lot of other (organizations) are playing to 15 as well,” said Desmarais.
Other than a few off-handed remarks made in frustration, most of the league players, who are learning PAR as they go, favour the change.
“I prefer it,” said Gelinas. “I feel it’s a better system because you have to give a bit more. If you’re serving under the old system you might say, ‘I’ll try a hard type of serve.’ But you can’t do that with the new system because if your serve goes out it’s a point for the other guy. You play safer.”
“It intensifies the whole match because every point counts,” said Gilpin. “If you get behind it’s harder to get out of the hole.
“It makes a different game psychologically … It adds something to the game.”
Pizza Hut, who finished the regular season in third place, advanced to the finals with a decisive 20-10 win over second seeded Assante on April 14. Assante then finished fourth after a 15-14 loss to Media Solutions.
Roche, advanced to the finals with close 15-14 win over Media Solutions.
In the fight for fifth, Ketza defeated Kilrich 17-14 on April 14.
Points are awarded for sets won plus a bonus point for players who wear their team’s jersey, which is a way of limiting substitutions by creating a penalty for absenteeism.
“It happens all through the year,” said Gardiner. “At the end of the year you see the scores and you know which way it might have gone.”
The teams in the Tuesday and Thursday leagues are determined by a draw. After a couple months of playing and accumulating points as individuals, the top players draft their teams with the top half going into the Tuesday league and the bottom half being split into teams for the Thursday league.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org