By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The frustration would have been too much for Andrew Douglas last season. He was trailing 10-6 in his squash match to his friend David Pincus and felt the pressure of the championship round, but the 15-year-old Douglas is different now. He’s more mature and smarter about the game. He knows to stay focused now and to take each point at a time. That’s what he focused on this time around.
“When you are trailing like that it’s easy to let your emotions get the best of you,” Douglas said. “I used to let that happen too much if I was up or down in a match. Now I try not to focus on the result, just focus on each point individually.”
It helped that Douglas had been in a similar position just the day before, when he trailed Wil Hagen 10-6 in the tournament’s semifinal round. Thinking back to that moment, Douglas kept his focus and battled back to eventually take the set 12-10. He used that six point rally as motivation to battle back against Pincus.
For the second straight day, Douglas battled back and won the set 12-10. His confidence was soaring at that point, and he next played a flawless second set and beat Pincus 11-6. Then, with Pincus exhausted, Douglas took the third set 11-0 as he finished off the sweep to win the Baird E. Haney junior gold squash tournament at the Brooklyn Heights Casino on Sunday.
“Andrew was really patient, really accurate, had really good length and was really motivated going into that match,” Pincus’ coach, Laurent Elriani, admitted after the tournament was over.
“I think the first game was crucial for David. I think the fact that he was 10-6 up, had four game balls and Andrew came back, I think it hurt David’s confidence a little bit. After that Andrew played flawless squash in the second game. He didn’t miss one shot. Then in the third game he was just too good.”
The win was the first of the season for Douglas after he didn’t win a single tournament last season even while playing at a lower level. This season, Elriani explained that Douglas has put a lot of effort into his training and has turned the corner and become one of the best players in the country, not just in the borough.
“He just turned 15,” Elriani explained. “Just before he aged up he went to play in one of the biggest tournaments in the world in Holland. If you come in the top 16 in that tournament it generally means that you are in the top eight in this country. Andrew came in sixth in the first tournament and then came in third. So he killed it. He’s one of the best.”
“He had a big breakthrough recently and racket skills wise he had a big breakthrough and now he’s playing really well.”
The weekend’s win should see Douglas soar in the rankings. Since he moved up to the under-17 division he’s ranked lower than his skill level warrants, Elriani said. This win, coupled with a strong performance at a JCT (Junior Championship Tour) tournament at Harvard in three weeks, will go a long way toward improving his ranking.
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Spencer Lovejoy, from Branford, Conn., won the boys under-19 bracket by beating Yousef Hindy, of Greenwich, Conn. 11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 11-1.
Christina Huchro, from Scarborough, N.Y., won the girls under-19 bracket by beating Hannah Scherl, of Englewood, New Jersey, 11-8, 11-7, 11-6.
Lindsay Stanley, from Summit, New Jersey, won the girls under-17 bracket by beating Ellie Gozigian, of Boston 9-11, 11-7, 11-2, 11-4.
Among the participants competing from Brooklyn, David Merkel and Gabriel Bassil, competing in the boys under-19 bracket, didn’t make it past the first round. Sam Premutico didn’t make it out of the quarterfinal round. Bassil did make it to the semifinals of the consolation bracket, but lost to William Kurth, of Tenafly, New Jersey, 11-4, 11-8, 11-7.
“Sam and I didn’t play our best this weekend,” Bassil admitted. “I got to play Sam though which was fun (Bassil won 13-11, 5-11, 13-11, 11-5). We’re good friends so our matches are usually tough, back and forth, long games. He’s won the last few times, but I won this time. It’s a friendship rivalry. You go in there and it can get intense, but we’re just having fun and trying to do our best.”
In the girls under-19 bracket, Lucy Martin fell to the eventual winner Christina Huchro in the quarterfinals. Emily Sherwood, who won two golds in the Maccabiah Games, also known as the Jewish Olympics, over the summer, took third place and Amanda Houser lost in the quarters to Hannah Scherl, of Englewood.
“Playing in the Maccabiah Games was definitely an amazing experience,” Sherwood said. “I won, I got two golds, but just to be able to connect with everyone there because we are all Jewish. It was my first time being in Israel and I feel like it motivated me to play really well. Just being there in Israel, to get the gold medal and to walk through the stadium like it was the real Olympics. It was really a tremendous experience.”
Will Cembalest, Charles Culhane, Jacob Bassil and Cameron Ewan also participated in the boys under-17 bracket. Cembalest and Culhane both made it as far as the quarters, but lost to Pincus and Drew Monroe, of New Canaan, Conn., respectively. Ewan and Bassil didn’t make it past the second round.
From the girls under-17 bracket, Katrina Northrop made it as far as the semis, Jane Pincus was eliminated in the quarterfinals and Veronica Culhane, Clare Kearns, Nina Premutico and Fiona Agger were all ousted in the second round.