Following a nearly two-week-long hiatus from interscholastic match play, Andover Boys Squash faced one of its most challenging opponents thus far in the season in its match on Wednesday against St. Paul’s, which it ultimately lost 7-0. The match marked the team’s third loss of the season and the first time the team has been completely shut out. The team’s record now stands at 5-3.
In order to prepare for playing St. Paul’s following an easy victory the past week, the team focused on improving their fitness in the days leading up to the game, according to Jack Lee ’20 and Captain Alex Bernhard ’19.
“We prepared a lot for this match. Last week, [Head] Coach [John] Roberts placed us in a very intensive fitness program that helped us become fit enough to compete with the St. Paul’s players,” wrote Lee in an email to The Phillipian.
Bernhard said, “We had about ten days off, so we used our time to do a lot of fitness, that’s something we really focused on. And we played a lot of challenge matches within the team to sharpen up.”
The team’s fitness was displayed when Euan Luke ’21, Erik Wang ’21, and Lee each held out against St. Paul’s for four games, and Siddhant Sinha ’21 and Bernhard held out for five.
It was Bernhard’s match in particular that stood out for many players on the team, according to Lee and Wang. First seed Bernhard faced St. Paul’s Myles McIntyre SP’20 who is nationally ranked 96th in the Men’s Division and 10th in the BU19 Division by U.S. Squash and is a childhood friend of Bernhard’s.
“One particular highlight today was Alex Bernhard’s match against Myles, the St. Paul’s [first seed]. Alex played extremely well, staying on court for over 50 minutes of high paced squash. Myles is an incredible player and boasts many tournament wins and high placements. Although Alex lost in a close five, the fact that he was in contention for every point in the match is a very impressive feat. Alex has been our [first seed] for four years and each year he continues to get stronger and stronger, beating some the best squash players in the country,” said Lee.
This wasn’t Bernhard’s first time challenging McIntyre as the pair have been playing since Bernhard was nine years old, according to Bernhard.
Bernhard said, “We’ve played a lot since then, so it’s always fun, but we also know each other’s games pretty well, so it tends to be a pretty hard match, but always good. It’s normally pretty close. He’s gotten the upper hand the past couple of times, but it’s pretty close.”
Following the loss, the team will work on fine tuning essential techniques. The St. Paul’s team was challenging for each player but the team is using the defeat as an opportunity to better examine their play according to Arthur Nguyen ’22 and Wang.
“We had a bunch of close matches today, and I think we all played excellent squash. It’s just a matter of staying in the game with strong opponents and playing our tempo and style rather than conforming to their game,” wrote Wang.
Although the team has relatively much less high school squash experience in comparison to other teams like St. Paul’s, new players have done a really good job of adjusting their game according to Bernhard.
“We’ve got a stronger team I’d say, but also a younger team so a lot of it has sort of been just building experience. We didn’t have our first away game until last week or two weeks ago, so pretty late into the season. So, I think a lot of the new guys have done a really good job of getting their legs underneath them and performing really well,” said Bernhard.
Andover will face Belmont Hill, Choate, and Westminster in a triple header on Saturday followed by a match at home against Phillips Exeter Academy next Wednesday.
Editor’s Note: Alex Bernhard is an Eighth Page Editor for The Phillipian.