MICDS boys varsity squash coach David Doherty believed his Rams would be good this year but the younger players would have to step up and perform to make the season a memorable one.
“After losing some key seniors last year, it looked like it might be a rebuilding year,” Doherty said. “However, several of the rising juniors participated in squash summer camps in St. Louis and on the East Coast, and they returned for this season as much stronger players. It may be our deepest team in years.
“Aside from two seniors and one freshman, the whole team is made up of juniors. It could be a very, very strong team next year.”
This year’s team is going to show what is can do.
Led by senior captains Will Cooper and Dan Hochberg, the Rams won the recent Flanagan Invitational Tournament at Mercersburg Academy, Penn.
This marks the first time the Rams have won in five prior attempts. Last year’s squad recorded a second-place finish.
“It was our fifth time playing it, and we had never won it,” Doherty said. “We were runners-up last year, but we hadn’t really had a tough match yet this year, so it was unclear how we were going to do.
“They were strong teams from New York, Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.”
To get there, the team flew into Washington D.C. Then came a two-hour drive northwest to the foothills of the Appalachian mountains and Mercersburg.
On the first day, the Rams played against Woodberry Forest Tigers, decisively winning 8-1. The standout performance in this match was a 0-2 comeback by freshman Carson James, who outlasted his opponent for a 3-2 win.
“Woodberry Forest is a rural boarding school in Virginia,” Doherty said. “Carson James was down 2-0 in this match and faced a match ball. He battled back for a close victory. This was his first real test as a varsity player.”
The team then played Canisius High School from Buffalo, N.Y., where juniors Meade Summers and Campbell Graves both had straight-set victories as part of the 7-2 overall score.
“Senior Daniel Hochberg had the toughest match here,” Doherty said. “He won in four sets with a narrow 12-10 in the last.”
On the second day, MICDS faced defending champion Mercersburg Academy.
Junior Sully Keeley dug his heels in for a five-set victory at No. 3 singles, inspiring the Rams to a dominant 7-2 win.
“We haven’t beaten them in several years,” Doherty said about the host school. “They edged us 5-4 last year for the tournament win. Senior Will Cooper and junior Sully Keeley both won key matches in five sets.”
MICDS then faced a tougher test against Blair Academy, which is located in rural Warren County in New Jersey.
Junior Henry Posega-Rappleye took his turn as man-of-the-match, capping a nervy 5-4 win.
“Blair was a tough opponent,” Doherty said. “Their No. 1 was a recent import from Cairo, Egypt, the capital of the squash world. Junior Jude Sorkin playing at No. 2 had a crucial win, and then junior Henry Posega-Rappleye capped the final victory.”
In the final match of the day, the Rams sealed their victory with a 9-0 victory over St. Anne’s Belfield, of Charlottesville, Virginia. MICDS had dominant wins from juniors Eli Paul at No. 1, Jude Sorkin at No. 2, and Adam Jasper at No. 10.
“Juniors Eli Paul, Meade Summers, Campbell Graves, and Adam Jasper all had very convincing 3-0 victories,” Doherty said.
At the end of the tournament, three players, Cooper, James, and Graves were undefeated.
Winning the tournament was huge for his team, Doherty said.
“They were elated,” Doherty said. “They beamed all the way back to St. Louis.”
On Tuesday (Dec. 18), MICDS will have its sixth annual MICDS Winter Squash Tournament to benefit the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
“This is a handicapped double-elimination tournament open to all members of the squash program (varsity, JV and C team players and their parents/ guardians and is organized by assistant coach Chris Brennan. a 1994 MICDS graduate,” Doherty said. “We typically have around 60 players who last year donated 250 pounds of cans to the food bank.
“Over the last four years, the tournament has generated over 800 pounds of cans to the St. Louis Food Bank.”
Besides being able to donate food, Doherty has another goal in mind as well.
“Bringing the whole squash community together for a good cause,” Doherty said.
The next major trip for the Rams is to Hartford, Connecticut in late January for the U.S. High School Squash Nationals. It’s the largest tournament in the world with close to 1,500 players competing.
“This is a really tough tournament, but we are hoping and working towards our first top three finish in our division,” Doherty said.