PRINCE GEORGE, B.C.
A pair of Yukon squash players didn’t get the chance to ease into the competition at the Canada Winter Games on Sunday.
Whitehorse siblings Mustafa, 17, and Sana Syed, 15, ran into tough competition in the first round of individual play in Prince George.
How tough? The No. 2 ranked players in Canada.
“I thought I was going to get bageled – which means 11-0 – like every game,” said Mustafa. “But it was 11-2, 11-4, 11-2. We had some pretty long rallies and it was a fairly good match, so I was happy with it.”
Mustafa lost in the first round to Ontario’s Carter Robitaille, who is currently No. 2 in Squash Canada’s ranking for boys under 19.
The 17-year-old, who is currently ranked 55th in Canada for U19, won a pair of matches at last year’s junior nationals. Robitaille, on the other hand, has won three consecutive national junior titles including under-17 last year.
Sana was ousted in the first round after drawing B.C.‘s Grace Thomas, who is currently ranked No. 2 in Canada for girls under 17.
Thomas, who took third at the junior nationals last year, beat Sana in three games.
“I was expecting to play somebody really, really good,” said Sana. “I wasn’t expecting to win the match or anything like that, but I wanted to try my best and I think I played pretty well. There were some times where I could have done better, but I wasn’t overall disappointed in how I played.”
The individual competition, which is the first-ever being held at the Canada Games, features only 16 players. Each province and territory was given a position for a player in the draw and high-ranking players fill in the rest of the spots.
The two Yukon players were eliminated from the individual competition, but there’s plenty more squash to be played.
The team event began Monday and runs through to Saturday.
Yukon’s team beat N.W.T. in the female team event on Monday, winning in three straight matches.
“We’re really happy about it,” said Sana. “It was really good to play people more on our level. They had really good matches with each of us and it was a lot less intimidating.”
The team will next play Ontario on Tuesday and Nova Scotia on Wednesday.
Yukon’s male team had a tough start to the event, losing to Albert and B.C. on Monday. They next play Newfoundland Tuesday, P.E.I. Wednesday and Manitoba on Thursday.
“It’s really fun to be here,” said Mustafa. “I went to the last one (the 2011 Games in Halifax) so I was really pumped up for this one. Canada Games is always a great time – especially with the (collectable clothing) pin trading. You always make a lot of friends doing that.”
“We get to meet so many people our age who play squash, and we don’t find that in Whitehorse,” said Sana. “We’re not used to meeting people our age who are super skilled in the sport. So it’s a really cool experience and I’m having a lot of fun.”
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