An intrepid band of merry pranksters sailed by air to the Pacific Northwest to represent the United States in the Lapham Grant matches. Fifty-two American men and women arrived in Vancouver, BC, on April 25, 2013, hoping to defend the titles that the U.S had won in Atlanta in 2012, and avenge the one that had been lost. At stake were trophies representing the longest running continuous matches of any sport between Canada and the United States. A year earlier the U.S. had won the Lapham (men’s singles), the Grant (men’s doubles), the Wilkins (men’s 65+) and dropped the Crawford (ladies singles and doubles combined).
The Canadians clearly had planned to defend their turf well. The Canadian side offered intense depth and Lapham experience, while the Americans brought many players new to both the Lapham tradition and Vancouver. Vancouver has long been a quiet hotbed of Canadian strength in squash, and Canada wasn’t afraid to activate that strength. Team Canada was lead by Captains Michael Leckie, Michael Jackson and Natasha Doucas. Team USA was lead by Captains Alex Dean, Gerry Peters and Sarah West. The list of participants read like spicy ingredients for a great recipe with fresh current squash stars, legends and those who simply love the game of squash. The competition was strong but it was the pride of representing and the camaraderie that shined.
The social scene started even before the racquets came out of the bag. The Thursday night cocktail party was a hit and provided the first real opportunity to continue the annual bantering session.
The Friday matches began to roll in some positive momentum for the Maple Leafs as they took the early lead. Friday night brought a rousing introduction of the players, followed by joyous recitings of America the Beautiful led by U.S. Squash Board Chair Peter Lasusa. The Stars and Stripes Captain tried to rally his troops, noting that victory was elusive but still possible if all players dug down deeply. Players did. But it was disappointing that the US side had several late drops, including their No. 1 and 4 players (Preston Quick and J.P. Rothie). Three Wilkins players also dropped at the last minute, beset by travel difficulties and personal needs. Without those wins at the top of the order the U.S struggled. Everyone on the American side had to play up two or three slots and the Canadian depth was too much. The U.S. began the day down 9-love in Lapham matches and 8-3 in Grant. International stars Chris Walker and Gilly Lane did everything they could the first day to help the cause. Others struggled with jetlag and courts that were new to them. Peter Dunne was seen repeatedly smashing his racquet into a very white right side wall in an attempt to make a striking play. Unfortunately like many other he came up with air.
Saturday was quite a different story as the Americans played much better. Peter Dunne recovered to easily win on day two, as did Aidan Harrison, Eric Pearson, Kevin Orphan, John Lau, Mark Alger and Simonton’s Pere Y Fils. Just when it seemed that a Brookline Ryder Cup moment was going to happen and the competition would be brought to a breathtaking finish on Sunday, Bob Burton and Jim Marver were struck down by Keith Flavell’s splintering frame shot at 14-14 in the fifth game. The vibrations are still being felt. The Lapham was won by Canada, as was the Grant, the Wilkins and the Crawford.
Yes, it is true that the Canadians all sipped champagne from the championship cup this year claiming all four trophies. The women’s Crawford event results were nail-bitingly close to the end. It was in Vancouver in 1999 that the Crawford Cup was added to the event to include women players. This year, the Crawford was won 13-12 by Canada despite the fact that the U.S. had brought former World Jr. No. 1 and current two-time collegiate champion Amanda Sohby. Sohby was awesome as expected. American Captain Sarah West noted that while her side didn’t win, her players gained important international match experience and clearly out-enthused the Canadian ladies. Tracy Greer, Ann and Sarah Mcgowen and Margaret Hartigan led a side that competed till the end both on and off the court. In fact, the ladies competed so well off the court that Susan Rose of Seattle and Catherine Cobb of Atlanta became the first ever female Finkelmen award winners. It is thought that Rose is still in Vancouver making her acceptance speech to a perhaps no longer packed badminton hall at the host Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club.
Wilkins Captain Gerry Peters noted that despite a 9-6 loss and several late drops, his stalwarts Jack Wyant, Clark Amos, Kit Tatum and the Coach, Terry Eagle, all played well. It was a new team playing on new courts with new partners that probably caused the side to fall. Frank Schmidt at 65 years young made sure the team was healthy, stretched and fit. There were too many experienced Canadians teams.
The bragging rights belong to Team Canada now but let it be known Team USA will be thirsty for victory in 2014.