Howe Cup Win!

By Aya Sato-DiLorenzo

On November 7th, I headed to Philadelphia to participate in the Howe Cup (the United States’ largest squash event for women and an annual team championship tournament run by US Squash). It was my third year of participating but something was new this year, though: I decided to enter in the hardball doubles tournament that was taking place at the same location as the singles event.

Howe Cup Infinitum Squash.jpg

My memory of playing doubles goes back to late 2000s. I used to belong to a club in Long Island City, New York that had a doubles court. I played only a few times then and I remembered it as very challenging and confusing. I just couldn’t figure out when it was my turn to hit or where I was supposed to go!

I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to enter in the tournament. Earlier this year, I made a resolution to do as many things related to squash as possible; I am planning to start a part-time graduate study program in 2019 and while I am not going to stop playing squash, I know that I will have to spend more time studying and less time on court (unfortunately) once I start school. I told myself that I wanted to do everything related to squash this year, while I still have the time! So, I emailed one of the Massachusetts Women’s Squash Coordinators and said I wanted to try doubles and to please pair me up with another woman who was looking for a partner.

A woman named Rachel and I ended up entering the doubles tournament together. Rachel was a rising star at Newton Tennis and Squash and I knew her fairly well because I played a few matches as a nomad for their women’s team last year. I remembered that she likes to volley and also that she has good attacking boasts. She and I had different styles of play, which I thought could be to our advantage. She also had some experience in softball doubles, which would be a big help. We did not spend much time discussing our strategies but to me, it was obvious that I needed to let her take the lead. I would follow what she tells me and focus on hitting good deep shots with Rachel attacking any loose shots from our opponents.

As it turned out, this strategy worked well… unexpectedly well! The division we played in was a round robin format: there were nine teams in three boxes and the top team from the each three box would play in the three-way final. Somehow, we finished our original box undefeated and headed to the final.

The first final match was against a pair of sisters from Massachusetts. They both played the #1 spot for separate 4.0 teams in the Howe Cup singles tournament. They were really good singles players but Rachel and I did exceptionally well against them! My shots consistently went to the back corner and Rachel hit some great cross-courts. I remember one point in which I sprinted to Rachel’s side to cover and ended up hitting a good straight drive, which neither of the sisters expected. I even hit a boast that went right into the sidewall nick (I said aloud “how did I just do that?!”). Before we knew it, we finished the match with a 3-0 win.

Our last match was against a New York team. Bright and early the Sunday morning, Rachel and I headed to the court. We struggles a bit making a number of errors and one of the NY players had some great shots (she was a 4.0+ level player in the singles tournament). We lost the match 2-3 and were disappointed but I realized that we still had a chance of winning if the other team (the sisters) beat the New York team. If so, all three teams would have a 1-1 record and the team with the most number of games would win; we had taken five games total during our final matches (3-0 in the first match, 2-3 in the second match).

Of course, we didn’t think the chance was high but we knew it was there. The New York team was good… Rachel had to leave early to get home to get ready for the week and asked me to get the trophy for her “if we ended up winning.” She was just joking but the unexpected actually happened! I went to their 1:00 pm match to show some support for both teams. After all, we all had a great weekend together competing with each other. I texted Rachel live updates: “The sisters got the first game.” “Holy cow, they got the second game. We are still in this!” And after the third game… “OMG WE JUST WON THE TOURNAMENT!!!!.” The sisters beat the New York team 3-0! All three teams in the finals won one match and lost one match and Rachel and I had the most number of games!

I still get very excited when I think about my Howe Cup doubles experience. Looking back, there is one thing Rachel and I did very well: we stayed positive and played to our strengths. Many other teams automatically chose to put the weaker player on the forehand side and the stronger player on the backhand; they were playing defensively. We put Rachel on the forehand knowing that she would more likely play attacking squash from there - and my role was to give her the opportunity to attack. There were other players who were ranked much higher than us in the tournament, but in the end, it came down to our teamwork and attitude.

Chessin Gertler