Everyone that has been around this group, be it for a game or a season would tell you – there is just something special about the Spence Squash team! They arrived at their home courts at Eastern Athletic in Brooklyn with one goal: play like champions by playing for each other. With more than 50 spectators jockeying for position in cramped quarters, it was evident that the atmosphere for the AAIS Squash Championship between the two program rivals, Saint Ann’s and Spence, would be as charged and exciting as the play on the court.
The two teams entered the championship match as AAIS regular season co-champions with identical 9-1 records, having split their two head to head matches. The Sabers owned the slimmest of margins in games won in the tie-breaking procedure, giving the Big Cats the nod as the #1 seed in the tournament. Make no mistake, these are two of the best squash teams in the region and they were about to go head-to-head for the league crown.
The tone for the foray was to be set by senior, Louise W. and freshman, Annie K., #7 and #2 on the team ladder, respectively. With each point played, the crowd noise swelled to a deafening clamor, at times making it impossible for spectators to hear the score. Louise played a savvy match, moving her opponent off the T and aggressively looking for kills and then changing pace to keep her opponent at bay and securing the first and all-important win for the Sabers. One court over, there was a battle brewing, as after dropping game one, Annie’s usual quiet resolve developed an edge – something that had emerged during her play at Nationals, but there was something different this time; Annie put a chip on her shoulder and served notice, this was her match! Growing bolder with each long rally and aggressive kill, Annie chased down every ball and hit sweet passing shots with her opponent on the run. An emphatic signature win from the #2 spot on the ladder and EAC erupted in cheers and her teammates rushed to mob her in celebration! Something special was afoot and everyone knew it, the Sabers were there to ROAR!
Up next, senior Chloe P. showed just how important process is to outcome, both in her career and in her championship match. A long way from her days as a freshman, new to the sport, Chloe took the court at the #5 spot as a senior co-captain, with a chance for her Sabers to take their early momentum and claw even closer to the title. In one of the longest and most evenly played matches of the tournament, Chloe rallied to save game and match points on multiple occasions, with, as the saying goes, a “refuse to lose” mentality. Through sheer composure and will, she fought and clawed to a well-earned dramatic, come from behind 5-game victory. Chloe’s win staked the Sabers to a 3-1 match lead, putting them in the catbird seat and their opponents on the ropes.
Then the little ball of energy, freshman Paloma G. took to court with the program’s first shot at a championship on her racquet. Paloma plays at a furious pace, almost forgetting to breathe. Opponents not prepared for the pace often find themselves wondering how to slow things down so they can catch their breath. This match of the #6 players on their team ladder was no exception, in a blink, Paloma was up one game, then another, and then the championship-clinching third win, sending the Sabers, and their faithful following, into a frenzy.
In a perfect example of how to “Saber the Moment” the Big Cats, delivered another dramatic TEAM victory, by the magical score of 4-3, the same score of each of their four wins at the National Tournament.
After years of the program being agonizingly close to claiming an AAIS league crown, the Sabers Squash TEAM, all 11 players, etched Spence into the history books with the program’s first AAIS Squash Tournament Championship title!
Spence will look to complete the trifecta as they enter the NYSAIS tournament as the #2 seed, beginning with the quarterfinals today at 4 p.m. versus Holy Child. All matches of the tournament will be played at Hackley’s squash center.