NE squash tournament
By BOB YORK
Deerfield Academy brought home a pair of silver medals from this weekend’s Class A New England Prep School Athletic Council Squash Championships, as both the boys and girls teams wound up second in their respective tournaments. Brunswick School finished atop a field of 16-teams in the boys competition, which was hosted by Brooks School in North Andover, Mass. The Greenwich Academy girls, meanwhile, prevailed over one and all in their tourney, which took place at Groton School in Groton, Mass.
If “extraordinary” was the one superlative you had never heard coach Mike Silipo use in describing Sam Khalifa (14), you’ve heard it now. And if the veteran Big Green mentor was saving his best adjective for last, that’s because his No. 1 guy was saving his best for last.
“Sam totally dominated the one flight and didn’t lose a game,” said Silipo. “He’s clearly the best I have ever seen in my 36 years of coaching prep school squash. He won a total of 36 matches for Deerfield without a loss. As a matter of fact, he only lost a total of four games during all those matches. So in games, his record was 108-4 … extraordinary!”
“Sam will be missed,” added Silipo, “but not only for his great talent. For as good a squash player as he is, he’s even a better person.”
“It’s been a great year for me, winning my second New England title is definitely exciting,” said Khalifa, who will be heading to the University of Pennsylvania this weekend to watch his brother Amr, who attends St. Lawrence University, attempt to defend his NCAA Individuals Championship. “My goal, since Day one here, was to finish my two seasons undefeated, which I was elated to have accomplished.
“The real reward and joy, however,” added Khalifa, who will be playing for Columbia University next year, “was beating Avon Old Farms … the national champions … to finish our season undefeated.”
Khalifa played through this year’s New England Championships with an ankle injury, but obviously none of his opponents were able to take advantage of the situation.
“I injured it right before the New England tournament,” explained Khalifa, “and it was very troubling. But coach Silipo’s belief in me and in my squash game really boosted my confidence heading into the championships. I feel so very lucky to have been one of Silipo’s players.
“I also want to thank all my teammates for their great support,” added Khalifa, who is planning to return to campus next fall to hopefully play an exhibition match in front of his former teammates and classmates. “ It’s been a real pleasure knowing each one of them.”
Elsewhere in the tournament, Jack Greenwood (16) wound up fourth in the second flight, while Tripp Kaelin (14) placed fifth in the third flight. Cam Dewey (14) wound up sixth in the four flight, as Jamie Kjorlien (15) finished sixth in the fifth flight. The Big Green wound up with a pair of silver medals to finish off the day, with Tad Huffard (15) and Connor Henderson (15) placing second in the sixth and seventh brackets respectively.
The Big Green’s lofty finish in the New England tourney shouldn’t have come as any surprise to anyone who followed its work throughout the regular season, as it headed into the title tilt with a 12-0 record. And it wasn’t just the record that was awesome, it was the ease in which it got to 12-0.
Of Deerfield’s dozen wins, eight came via 7-0 scores, while two others were earned by a 6-1 margin. Two proved to be worth waiting until the conclusion of the final match, as those went down to the wire. One, a 4-3 win over Taft, the other, a 4-3 thriller over Anon, which had captured the Nationals tourney just two weeks prior. The Big Green placed fifth during that competition.
“It was a great season,” said Silipo, “we went undefeated during the regular season and won the Brandes Trophy. We also had outstanding leadership from Tripp and Cam, our two captains, and as a coach, I can’t ask for any more than that.”
In the girls tournament, the Big Green grabbed its silver medal after chalking up a trio of first-place finishes and earned a three-peat in second-place finishes as well. The blue ribbons went to Cameron Munn (17) in the fifth flight, while Annie Blasberg (16) wound up atop the standings in the sixth flight. Maddie Chai (17), meanwhile, headed up the seventh flight field.
The runner-ups were Carey Danforth (14) in the second flight, while Addie Fulton (14) and Lindsey Dewey (14) both collected silver medals for their finishes in the third and fourth flights, respectively. Samantha Chai (15) found the going a bit rough in a highly competitive first flight as she was ousted in the second round of the tournament.
Like their male counterparts, the girls rang up an undefeated regular season with a 9-0 record, and they did so with dominance. Six of their nine victories came via 7-0 deficits, while one went in their favor by a 6-1 count. The closest margin of victory all season long was a 5-2 verdict.
The only blotches on the season came during the National and the New England tournaments, where the Big Green wound up second – and Greenwich was the culprit in both.