Squash Still Re-building
Coming off a 2-11 season, varsity squash might seem to have only one direction to proceed: up. With only two returning players, however, that assumption might prove overly optimistic. Consider this epigram from head coach Trevor Rees: “This season will be hard, which is what will make it great.” Paradox? Tautology? Oratorical prestidigitation? Rees channeling his inner Phil “Zen-master” Jackson? The Cheshire Cat has nothing on Rees’s grin.
One of Rees’s returners is #1 Leighton Ball. While that might seem a boon, having one’s top player back, the level of play at the top tier of prep squash has risen in recent years with an influx of superbly talented Egyptian and other international players. Unfortunately, Ball sometimes finds himself in the position of sacrificial lamb at the hands of opponents with world rankings. Fortunately, he understands this, takes what he can from the chance to play such an opponent, and, ever calm and collected, moves on.
Ball’s returning teammate, Charlie Rote, moves up from the #4 position last year to follow Ball in the #2 spot. Whether Rote is ready to challenge the interscholastic talent at that level remains to be seen, but a couple of things are certain, based on past performance. For one, no opponent will outwork the indefatigable Rote. For another, no opponent will surpass – and few will equal – the level of intensity that Rote takes onto the court. He is “fire” to Ball’s “ice.” The two will share the team’s captaincy.
As the season gets underway, the rest of Rees’s line-up, most of whom played for Salisbury’s j.v last winter, has Mike Mantzikos at #3, Robby Kasden at #4, Minjoo Park at #5, Alex Kim at #6, Max Park, who played last year at The Hill School, at #7, and Trip Smith at #8. (NOTE: Only the first seven matches in squash count toward the two teams’ cumulative scores; #8s often compete in an “exhibition.”
Among the other league members, Avon Old Farms and Brunswick appear to have the top teams and should compete for league honors. Last year’s Salisbury team ended the season with an 8th-place finish at the New England Interscholastic Division B Tournament. From this vantage point, another 8th-place would qualify as an accomplishment for this year’s team.
Not that that bothers Rees. The second-year coach understands that winning is secondary to learning the fundamentals of the game, which most of his players are still doing, and to making steady improvement. Rees subscribes to another aspect of the ethos of athletic competition. In his own words: “Each time we take the court, we aspire to be the very embodiment of the ‘gentleman-amateur-competitor’.”
The squash program is in good hands, caring hands.