Volume 96, Issue 74
Tuesday, February 11, 2003

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Men's squash wins 20th straight OUA championship

By Jordan Bell and Ryan Hickman
Gazette Staff

Niru Somayajula/Gazette
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS. Queen was out in full force on Saturday. In back row from left is Western coach Jack Fairs, Vinay Lodha, Julian Chin, Alex Carter, Dax Letham and Josh Schwartz. On bottom from left is Andrew Jones and Robert Nigro.

Was there ever any doubt?

The Western Mustangs men's squash team soundly defeated the McGill University Redmen 6-0 to win the Harold Martin Trophy, symbolizing Ontario University Athletics squash supremacy, this past weekend at the Town and Country Racquet and Fitness Club in Hyde Park.

The victory increases the squad's amazing winning streak to 20 straight OUA championships.

"You have to be very fortunate and lucky," said Western head coach Jack Fairs concerning the illustrious streak. "There's a lot of uncertainty in sport. But we try not to think of it in terms of wins and championships, because you can get in trouble if you think about it that way."

Fairs explained the contingencies involved with putting together such a successful squad.

"It's critical to have depth in squash. Our team is extremely strong at the bottom. You also need to be committed to the program."

"They're just too strong," explained Owen Watson of McGill University's second place squad, regarding Western's dominance. "Our goal today was to go for second and hope to get a game off [Western]. Their number 6 player could play number one for us."

Fairs empathizes with the unfortunate circumstance of being the Robin to Western's Batman. "If I was an opposing coach I would get tired of us winning as well."

Robert Nigro, Andrew Jones and Dax Letham were awarded spots on the OUA first team all-star, while Vinay Lodha and Will Mariani were named to the second team. Furthermore, Fairs was the recipient of the OUA Coach of the Year.

The Gazette was on hand to catch all the OUA squash action. Not every match was gripping, but there were definitely some gems.



Andrew Jones (Western) vs. Nanu Devala (McGill)

Devala won the first point of the match, but after that, it was all Jones. The third-year Western kinesiology student drove the graduate student from Pakistan to sheer madness, at one point forcing him to shout, "It's just not working!"

In the first game, Jones regained his composure after losing the first point and went on to reel off five consecutive points to take a 5-1 lead before eventually winning the first set 9-4.

Jones fell behind 4-1 in the second game, but regrouped once again, taking the game 9-4.

The third game was more heated and tight, but the Jones victory was a forgone conclusion. He took the third game 9-5.

Devala was visibly frustrated in the third game, but Jones said he knew he had him earlier on in the match.

"I knew I had him in the first game," Jones said. "I felt I was controlling the rallies. In squash you can pick up the flow of the match through the first two games."



Robert Nigro (Western) vs. Mark Smith (McGill)

Both teams' number 1 players squared off in the second round of matches played. Nigro took home the OUA individual championship the previous week and was clearly the player dominating this match on Saturday.

McGill's Smith knew he didn't stand much chance and realized it fully after an abrupt 9-1 opening game. Nigro had the slim red head running around the court and finished him off after three straight games (9-1, 9-5, 9-4).

"It's not like we don't try," Nigro said after the match, knowing beforehand his win was imminent. "I just take it down a bit to make it a match."

Nigro added that he enjoyed the competition because it's not as intense as when he played junior nationals and in other international tournaments.

Dax Letham (Western) vs. Maxime Descoteaux (McGill)

Letham, Western's third-seeded player and a rugby player by trade, was Western's bull finishing off the tall Frenchman, Descoteaux from McGill in a blink, 3-0 (9-2, 9-1, 9-1).



Vinay Lodha (Western) vs. Owen Watson (McGill)

The number 4 ranked players on each team duelled in a tight match, even though it only lasted three games. Lodha took the first game 9-5, but then it started to heat up in the second with a lot of physical play and "lets" that got Watson visibly upset.

Lodha and Watson have known each other from sectionals this year where Lodha whacked Watson across the neck with his racquet. The frustration between the two was evident, but Lodha took the second 9-7 and easily in the third 9-1.



Julian Chin (Western) vs. Shrif Shaker (McGill)

The match-up of fifth seeds between Chen and Shaker was by far the closest match of the afternoon, especially after Shaker took the second game 10-8 after some unforced errors by Chen. Any thoughts of upset didn't last very long when Chen sealed the match 3-1 (9-3, 8-10, 9-4, 9-4).

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