SCH junior Mason Blake gets low and long in an effort to retrieve the ball at last weekend’s Mid-Atlantic Squash Association Championships. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Three boys’ squash squads from the area placed among the top five teams at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Squash Association (MASA) Championships, which culminated in a busy day of racquet activity at Episcopal Academy last Saturday.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Germantown Friends, and Penn Charter came in second, fourth, and fifth, respectively, out of the eight teams in Division I of MASA.

SCH fell in the championship match to four-time defending national champ Episcopal. EA had beaten the Blue Devils twice during the regular season, but the third meeting produced the closest result of all, with the Churchmen winning the MASA final by a score of 5-4.

The GFS Tigers reached the semifinals, and they eventually succumbed to Haverford School in a playoff for third and fourth place. Penn Charter lost to SCH in the opening round (the quarterfinals) but then worked its way back through the consolation bracket to take the fifth/sixth match over Conestoga High School.

The main draw quarterfinals were all played at different campus sites during the week, prior to the gathering at EA last Saturday. Tuesday’s tilt between SCH and Penn Charter served both as a first-round MASA contest, and also as the Inter-Ac League rematch between the teams.

Because Inter-Ac eligibility rules applied, the Blue Devils were unable to deploy junior Sean Kenny, who transferred in from Haverford School at the semester break and isn’t permitted to take part in Inter-Ac competition this season. Fellow junior Phil Kelly and eighth-grader Chris Dalglish also sat out this match, giving junior Carlen Veasey and freshmen Henry Kelly (Phil’s brother) and Harrison Kapp a chance to play in the seventh, eighth, and ninth positions.

All three prevailed to assist in an 8-1 victory for the Blue Devils. PC avoided a clean sweep thanks to Scott Marcus. Playing in the number five spot, Marcus outlasted fellow senior Peter Ferraro of SCH in a five-game struggle.

On Friday afternoon, Germantown Friends crossed the Delaware to play its quarterfinal bout at The Lawrenceville School. The Tigers got by the Big Red, 5-4, thanks to wins by seniors Drew Wallace and Sam York, sophomore Anand Butler, and freshmen Felipe Sanz and Silas Shah.

In the main draw semifinals on Saturday morning, SCH stormed past Haverford, 8-1, but GFS had the misfortune to draw top-seeded Episcopal, and suffered a 9-0 defeat. That put the Tigers in a Saturday afternoon playoff for third place, along with the Fords.

The Haverford program may have lost one talented “Sean” this year, but it was able to acquire another. As a freshman at Episcopal last year, Sean Hughes was the top-ranked player in the country in the Under-15 category. He has moved over to Haverford, and was eligible to play in the number one spot for his new team in the MASA tourney.

Hughes battled to a 3-1 win over GFS senior Max McCafferty, leading a 7-2 victory that landed the Fords in third place overall. McCafferty’s freshman brother, Calvin, continued his phenomenal season in the second spot for GFS with a 3-0 victory over Thomas Walker, who played number one for Haverford in Inter-Ac League matches this season.

The other successful outcome for the Tigers occurred in the fifth spot, where Wallace proved the better of two dueling Drew’s, topping the Fords’ Drew Field, 3-2.

Penn Charter’s loss to SCH back on Tuesday had consigned the Quakers to the Division I consolation bracket. Starting out Saturday morning, PC had a tough go but came out on top of the combination team from Harriton High School and Lower Merion High School, 5-4.

Seniors Randy Beck, Luke Angelakis, and August Crofton won at number one, three, and seven, respectively. Crofton’s brother Quinn, a junior, took the number nine match, and the other “W” came from sophomore Owen Davis in the fourth spot.

Later on, Charter had a somewhat easier time in the match for fifth place against the Conestoga High School Pioneers, although there were several extended engagements in the 9-0 affair. The action at number nine and eight was over quickly, with Quinn Crofton and sophomore Aidan Porges each sailing through at 3-0. The elder Crofton and Hollin were both 3-1 winners, as was Angelakis at number three.

Things got more dicey in the middle of the line-up, but the Quakers came out on top in a pair of five-game clashes. Marcus won his fifth game at 11-7 to pull out the number five bout, while one rung above Davis clinched his contest with an 11-9 victory in the fifth.

That left Beck and senior classmate Max Reiff still on the court in the number one and two matches. Beck finished first, 3-1, but Reiff had to endure a 16-14 fifth game before completing PC’s 9-0 sweep of ‘Stoga.

Despite the 5-4 final score of the championship final involving SCH, the team victory was sewed up by the Churchmen after the completion of the first seven matches, since five of them landed in the Episcopal column.

The Blue Devils’ first victory came from senior number six Christian Dorff, who fought off tenacious EA junior Aaron Kim, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9. Two other 3-0 encounters went Episcopal’s way when two of their five seniors overcame the Giegerich brothers of SCH. Number four Brian, a junior, lost 11-7, 11-7, 11-9 to Kevin Flannery, and sibling Matt, a sophomore, fell to Pat McCarthy, 11-3, 11-6, 11-6.

Another upperclassman for the Churchmen, Jamie Ruggerio, won a heated three-gamer over Blue Devil junior Mason Blake, 11-6, 11-8, 11-4. However, up in the second spot Springside Chestnut Hill picked up its second victory courtesy of Kenny, who outstroked fellow junior Andrew Stone, 11-6, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8.

Another four-game tilt fell to EA as sophomores squared off in the number nine spot. The Devils’ Michael Bown prolonged the match with an 11-4 win in the third, but the first, second, and fourth rounds went to Will Ruggerio of Episcopal, 11-6, 11-5, 11-9.

Now up 4-2, the Churchmen needed just one more winner to clinch the MASA championship, and they had their ace out on the court. Harvard-bound senior Devin McLaughlin, a member of the junior national team, was up against SCH’s Phil Kelly. McLaughlin captured the first two games at 11-7, after the players were tied 6-6 in the first and after Kelly led 6-5 in the second. An 11-6 score in the third wrapped up the win for McLaughlin, and the MASA title for his team.

Observers who had seen SCH play this winter knew that instead of folding their tents in light of the team outcome, the Devils would continue to battle and try to make the final reckoning as close as possible. In this spirit Dalglish, the eighth-grader, slugged it out with EA senior Doug Trimble in the eighth position, eventually prevailing, 11-3, 9-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-5. Dalglish had enough energy left to jump out to a big lead in the fifth, and he never let his rival back in the game.

It was a senior, Ferraro, who brought the final margin down to one match in the team scoring. In the opening game of the number seven contest, EA junior Jeff Hu broke out of a 9-9 tie to win 11-9, but Ferraro came back to capture the next three games, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6.

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