Ryan Tyree, Mercersburg Squash Varsity Girl Coach
Feb 14, 2023
Last Saturday, the Mercersburg Academy boys varsity squash team took the long ride out to Lawrenceville School to compete in the annual Mid-Atlantic Prep League tournament. The last Mercersburg-Lawrenceville meeting was actually the first match day of the season, when, after a grueling two-hour 3-4 loss to a Division I Gilman School squad, the team mustered their mettle to emerge with a 4-3 result, the first win over Lawrenceville in living memory. So after ten weeks of training and match play, the boys were keen to rise to a new occasion and win again, hopefully in an even more decisive fashion. As the number one seed, the boys began the day against 4-seed Blair Academy, where they convincingly settled things with a 7-0 scoreline and every player winning in straight sets. Being the favorite on paper is nice, but the team spent a lot of time thinking and talking about how to approach a rematch with no home court advantage, and the desire for revenge likely to inspire the opposing squad.
As the first flight of matches got underway, the 8 (exhibition) 6, 4, and 2 positions were up. Just like at Nationals, the format at the MAPL tournament is seven points. In the exhibition bout Dawson Hastings ’23 lost a closely fought 1-3 match, but all three other Blue Storm players won their opening sets: Francis Betkowski '23 at position 6, Fawad Jan '24 at 4, and Santiago Medina '24 at number 2. Santiago would go on to secure the first win for Mercersburg by winning three-love, but the other two opponents were not giving up so quickly. Francis' opponent battled back to win both the second and third sets, reversing the momentum and getting within one set of a Lawrenceville win to tie the match. Meanwhile, Fawad staked himself to a two-love lead before dropping the third set, giving his opponent a glimmer of hope. Fawad went on to take back control of his match and collect the second win for the day for the Blue Storm! Even though the scoreline read 2-0 in our favor, it was still very much anyone's match, especially since Francis was down 1-2 against a higher rated opponent. Then, it happened. Drawing on his experiences from his freshman year playing at Nationals, when the match was tied at 3-3 and the whole match depended on him, Francis began his comeback. Clawing his way to a nail-biting 11-8 win in the fourth, he pushed his opponent to the pinnacle of the game of squash - the fifth set. Francis started out slow and his opponent stayed in the lead until the score read 6-8 to Lawrenceville. But Francis had put in the work, and forced his opponent to put in more work. The game leveled at 8-8, then 9-9. And then Francis won the match.
With three wins, the Storm only needed one more. Danny Adusei-Poku '23 lost a hard fought first game, as Huzaifa Ibrahim '24 began his match in the number one position and Adrian Guijjaro '25 opened up a commanding first set against his opponent. Both Adrian and Huzaifa went up 2-0 as Azian Subhani '23 began his match in the five position. Azian lost the first set, but battled back to take the second and even things up. Azian was extremely hungry to keep the momentum going, but his opponent found an extra gear and went on to take the match, notching the first win of the day for Lawrenceville. Meanwhile Danny's opponent kept one step ahead of him until a very close third set and ultimately took another win for Lawrenceville.
The match stood at 3-2 for Mercersburg, so the energy within the team was palpable, looking for ways to secure that final match. Adrian's opponent fought back in the third set, leaving Adrian still in the lead at 2-1. On the next court over, Huzaifa built upon a blistering opening 11-2 win in the first set, and never gave his opponent a moment to breathe. Some amazing points were exchanged, but on this day there would be no speculation for the crowd as to which player was in command. Taking the win and securing the team match for Mercersburg, Huzaifa closed down every avenue: 3-0. And just to complete the team goal of a better result than the last meeting, Adrian went on to defeat his opponent in the fourth with a dominating performance.
The Mercersburg boys varsity squash team found themselves hoisting the MAPL trophy for the first time in school history, ending a Lawrenceville winning streak that began with the formation of the MAPL over 20 years ago.