Mid-season Squash League Wrap-up: Who's Hot This Year

January 12, 2013 - 11:19am
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Ray Lewis said it himself in Sunday's post-game interview, "I've got this little patch of turf, but it's HRC's house when it comes to NYC squash leagues." The Health and Racquet Club dominates the 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 leagues. Not sure how they do it, since they don't even have a real court.  The only team to challenge the HRC mafia is Harmonie Club's men's 3.0 team.  Harmonie had a decent team last year and has brought back nearly all their starters. HRC holds the next two spots in the 3.0, meaning that their biggest competition is themselves. "We totally retooled from last year," says HRC captain Will Powell, "and I think all but two guys are new".

HRC's 3.5 team, captained by Mike Pepper, has gone to a 7-0 start. In what promises to be a smashup end to the season, most of the top four teams don't mean until the latter part of the season. Second placed Princeton seems to be the best positioned, having beaten 4th placed NYAC 3-1 in December.

HRC's 4.0 team stands atop the rankings, but possibly only with an assist from Superstorm Sandy.  The team's first match of the season was cancelled, and it's 4-1 record puts it mathematically above the other teams in the league that have reported six matched played.  The 4.0 division will be a dogfight, with fully six teams on equal footing.

The HRC train stops at the 4.5 division, where Ray Piacentini's Union League tops the standings. It's been a long road to the to for the ULC. They won at the 4.0 level in the past, but struggled for a couple of years at 4.5. A similar story lies with SCLA's 4.5 team. An ill-fated move to 5.0 last year has the team returning for redemption at 4.5, a division they won two years ago.  NYAC and NYSC Uptown round out the top four.

The 2013 5.0 is full of new look teams. NYAC benefits from the energy that John Reiss brought to the former Lincoln team and fields a 5.0 team for the first time in a solid second place. West Side Y, a team not usually seen in the 5.0's stands in third. West Side Y rides on the shoulders of Rob White, and with his health in doubt for the season, this team is not expected to remain at number 3. The Yale Club (which finished dead last in the 5.0 last year) stands in fourth.  And then we have the top-ranked Uptown Super Kings. Where to begin? Though never far from controversy, the team has successfully fended off recruiting violations allegations to hold the top spot in the 5.0. Though with less of a lock than last year, this team should defend its title.

The men's 5.5 was reborn into the men's open for 2013, with the effect of lifting the skill cap and allowing more of the city's top players into the league. But luring Jacques or Gustav to your club isn't enough to win - depth still counts.  CityView's Graham Bassett has played in seven of his team's eight matches, tearing a path through the league and racking up a 7-0 record. But a lack of depth at the number three spot means his team sits in fourth place.  Situation is the same with the University Club (3rd place) and StreetSquash (2nd). The U.Club has the largest nominal roster, but relies too heavily on Kelly to last through the stretch.  With Swanepoel, Mahan, Miao, Zou and elder Buchsbaum, StreetSquash/Columbia United should be unstoppable. But talent is nothing if those guys can't get to the court, and a busy school workload will likely keep the cream of the crop buried in the books. If you want depth (combined with a group of guys that can get to a match together), look at Harvard. If you have a team with an American squash legend Richard Chin (but you don't need to rely on him to win) then you've got a team built for a winning season.

By the way, does anyone know what's going on with the Princeton Club 5.5 team?  This roster would strike fear into the heart of any league team in the country but the team is languishing in 6th place.  Between Callis, Shannon, Wong, Cheng, Hillyard, Blackiston, Canner and Musto, this team has more youth and more All American's than anyone else. It's not even close.  Harvard, your days at #1 are over if any combination of these three guys show up to a match.

In the women's 3.5, NYSC Uptown is on the cusp in 4th place, but it's really a three-way race between EAC in first, StreetSquash in 2nd and CityView in 3rd.  EAC beat CityView in a close one in early November, but the key matchups won't happen until the latter half of the season.  With CityView set to lose key player Marks in February, look for EAC to pull away in the spring.

StreetSquash (captained by college celebrity Clair Oblamski) top the women's 4.0, but with five two-loss teams, this division is anyone's guess.  EAC may have the division's  strongest player in Sherwood.

In the women's 5.0, Harvard is in first place by a longshot because of the talent of Neo and Bamber Tietz.  But, it's a house of cards when two players are that much of your output. Can it last?