|Squash - Girls Varsity High School Nationals|
|Date:||February 8, 2014|
Event Recap:Round of 16: Berkshire 6 - Portsmouth Abbey 1
The Bears roared their way into the opening round of the U.S. High School Championships at the beautiful facility at Springside School in Philadelphia.
Facing PA, a familiar foe from the other side of New England, Berkshire got off to a quick start as #7 Chelsea Leeds and #2 Olivia Silverman won in straight games despite some early nerves and a very abbreviated warm-up session. That form held for the next two matches, as #5 Edeline Loh and #3 Clementina Davila maintained a clear edge against the foe and clinched the victory for the team.
#6 Serena Menges, one of the senior co-captains, "made assurance double sure" with a straight-game victory while her fellow captain, #1 Michaelann Denton, ran into a titan in PA's talented Claire Davidson. Denton struggled to establish and length and got bogged down in the back, ultimately falling 3-0. Berkshire's last squasher was #4 Allie Brazo, who made quick work of her opponent to complete a terrific first round for the Bears, who advanced to the quarterfinals for a Saturday tussle with Darien High School.
Quarterfinals: Berkshire 3 - Darien HS 4
With a place in the semi-finals on the line, the Bears knew that they needed to start well to put themselves in good position. #7 Leeds seized game one but lost momentum and games two and three, while #2 Silverman struggled with court conditions and never found her rhythm, going down in straight games. #5 Loh, moving court one as Leeds continued her titanic battle on court two, dropped the first, but roared back to take the second and even things.
At this juncture, the match hung in the balance for both sides. Leeds battled back to claim the fourth frame and even things but came up just a bit short in the final game. At the same time, Loh lost an exhausting third game 12-10 and was unable to mount much of a fight in the fourth, so the Bears found themselves down three matches to zero.
Looking to stop the bleeding, Berkshire sent out #6 Menges, who did not disappoint her teammates or her dad, just off a train from NYC. Menges won in three, squelching a fierce fightback at 13-11 in the third. #3 Davila, hoping to keep pace, took a racquet to the backside and dropped the first but roared back to win the next three in dominant fashion, getting the match score back to 3-2.
The Bears, needing to run the slate for the last two, still good about their chances. #1 Denton seized game one in dominant fashion but could tally nothing further against Darien's best, falling in four. #4 Brazo, playing for Berkshire pride and struggling with a terrible head cold, authored a superb performance in the last match, demoralizing her opponent with great court coverage and punctuating rallies with deep drives.
Having fallen out of "medal contention" by the slimmest of margins, the girls can now concentrate on simply enjoying the squash, with two matches left to go, as well as getting gussied up for a night out with lads at the first annual Phil-atelli dinner.
US High School Championships, Part 2
Third Round: Berkshire 5 - MICDS 2
Buoyed by a lovely luncheon, courtesy of Serena Menges's father, the Bears looked to regain momentum in the hunt for fifth place. Facing MICDS from St Louis, a team with limited head-to-head matches, Berkshire knew they had an edge in terms of experience. But would the midwesterners' strokes and strategy be enough to win out, or would the New Englanders' savvy carry the day?
With three matches happening concurrently, the Bears got off to a slow start. #7 Chelsea SqLeeds, running on fumes after her lengthy afternoon contest, fell in three straight. #5 Easy Eddie Loh, showing flashes of brilliance, fought all the way to five games but came up short in the fifth (11-9), putting Berkshire in a 2-0 hole. #2 Olivia Silverman, the Splendid Sliver, righted the ship with an efficient 3-0 victory.
#3 Clementina Diva Davila used fine length and a commanding physical presence to bring the Bears even with the Rams. #6 Serenity Menges played with a composure befitting her moniker and pushed the Bears into the lead, #4 Allie Brazarus, emerging once again from the depths of her head cold, clinched the match victory for Berkshire.
Last to play was #1 Mic Check Denton. With the supportive and engaged gallery, Denton and her opponent traded dazzling drops and devastating drives, with Berkshire's top dawg coming out on top in four close games to bring the third-round action to a close.
After a quick cheer for their opponents, the girls repaired immediately to the hotel, getting ready with all deliberate speed for a night out on the town. The Philatelli saw girls and boys teams convene at a trendy night spot in nearby Conshohocken for steaks and sushi, DJ and dancing, fellowship and fun. Generous contributions from the Silvermans and Leeds, combined with the largesse of the Morse family (Tyler '17 is on the boys' team), enabled Berkshire's tired squashers to finish the day in style.
Fourth Round: Berkshire 5 - Brearley 2
With fifth place on the line, Berkshire ambled back to Springside School to take on Brearley.
Back to the two-court system, the Bears and Beavers split the first two contests. #2 Silverman had another solid outing to win in three, while #7 Leeds found herself locked in a massive challenge that echoed her stalwart effort from Saturday morning. This time too, Leeds fought hard but came up a bit short in the final frame. #3 Davila followed Silverman on the first court and notched a similarly secure victory to put Berkshire on top, while #5 Loh looked to be following a trajectory similar to that of Leeds. At a tense moment in the fourth game, Loh dug a ball off the back wall the glanced off of her opponents head. The struck Beaver played on for several points, then expressed doubt about her fitness to continue, which initiated a full concussion protocol on the part of the on-site athletic trainer.
Uncertain whether that match would continue, both teams forged on. #1 Denton fell in three games, which evened the match tally at two each. Looking for clarity, Berkshire sent forth two of its most seasoned warriors. #6 Menges dropped a tight first, reversed that outcome in the second, claimed the third by a more comfortable margin, and squeaked by 12-10 in the fourth. The Bears were one away from clinching, with #4 Brazo as our proverbial ace in the hole. Brazo, battling her own precarious physical condition as well as the drama of the moment, seized the first in dominant manner, then dropped the second by a similar margin. Back and forth fought Bear and Beaver in the next two, with green foraging ahead and maroon equalizing. In the fifth and final frame, Brazo found herself down 9-2 but maintained composure and started battling back. Brearley had several match balls, but Berkshire refused to yield the day, and Brazo finally slugged a winning drive for an unbelievably courageous 14-12 victory.
As this drama was unfolding, Brearley's #5 was forced to retire, giving Berkshire one last point but stealing none of the glory from Menges and Brazos's heroics. This last victory secured fifth place for the Bears, with the sole blemish being Saturday's close loss to Darien. A complicated lunch stop at Wawa; a snowy rendezvous with family Brazo; an eclectic playlist on the FM dial; and a last-minute pizza stop in Lakeville CT punctuated many wear hours on the road and got everybody back in time to hit the books.