The Rye Country Day School Boys Squash team entered their crucial match against visiting Choate Rosemary Hall February 12 hoping to clinch a top-8 seed in the New England Interscholastic Squash Association tournament at the end of the month.
By Mitch Silver
The Rye Country Day School Boys Squash team entered their crucial match against visiting Choate Rosemary Hall February 12 hoping to clinch a top-8 seed in the New England Interscholastic Squash Association tournament at the end of the month. With the teams tied at 7-4 in the league, this one looked to be a squeaker.
It was closer than that.
As the contest went into its second hour, Wildcats freshman Jack Mattson playing at 4 and sophomore Kyle Eagen at 6 had already dropped hard-fought matches. Senior co-captain James Pierrepont was locked in an epic tussle at 2, having just yielded the fourth game of the best-of-five to Choate’s Alex Newhouse.
The good news for Country Day trickled in first from Court 7, where sophomore Jared Yanis Jr. pulled out a fourth-game decision, 11-9. Then, on Court 3, Choate’s Nick Van Eck injured his back and had to default, down two games to none, in favor of the Wildcats’ other senior co-captain, Will Chai. When Pierrepont took the deciding game in his match 11-9, Rye Country Day was up, 3-2. Then things got interesting.
Junior Eli Rattner lost his first two games by identical 11-8 scores. Then Rye’s No. 5 player came roaring back, taking the third and fourth stanzas 11-7 and 11-9. At that point, Choate Coach Will Morris took his young charge, Sam Karolige, aside. “I reminded him of the things he does best on the court, and that maximizing your strengths is the secret to winning matches.” Whatever it was, Karolige reasserted himself, defeating Rattner in the fifth game, 11-7, evening the match.
That left just Rye’s top player Carl Shuck and his opposite number, Harry Graham. Schuck is tall, lean, and fair — remember Dennis Christopher in the movie “Breaking Away?” — while Graham is dark and powerfully built. And it was Graham who took the first game easily (11-5) when Schuck made several uncharacteristic errors.
Now it was Country Day coach O’Callaghan’s turn to take his player aside for a conference. “I told him he needed to take control of the T by volleying more. He was spending too much time in the corners. I also told him to think about his squash like a big game of keep-away, to move his opponent around the court. In many ways, he already knew what to do, he just needed to relax and get into a rhythm.”
The time-out was just what the coach ordered. Schuck attacked more in the second game and dominated a visibly unnerved Graham, who must have thought he’d be having things all his own way. Two straight 11-4 games left the contest, and the match, on sophomore Schuck’s racquet.
His coach was confident. “Carl has had a fantastic season playing in the No. 1 spot. He’s faced some of the top players in the country and has continually improved his game.”
With all the other matches over, it was a hushed throng that watched their schools’ top players face off like champions. Up 7-1 early in the fourth game, Schuck was volleying and forcing his opponent into the corners. But Graham never gave up, and climbed back into it at 9-7 down.
The next point was the longest of the afternoon, with each player pounding the little black ball at least 25 times. When it was over, Carl Schuck had the point. And then one more serve sealed the victory.
Coach O’Callaghan summed it up. “It was a great day for Rye Country Day squash to beat Choate, a boarding school with a history of very strong squash teams. It was great fun to be involved in such a close match.”