Buffalo (NY) was the setting for the third biennial installment of the Can-Am Cup held the weekend of October 26-28. The previous two Can-Ams were won handily by the US team having swept all three events in Boston in 2008 (Men’s, Women’s and overall) and two of three in Toronto in 2010 (Women’s and overall). This year’s event brought a very strong Canadian team along with a storm in the eastern part of the US which probably affected the outcome of the event.
The Can-Am is, in essence, the Ryder Cup of Doubles squash. It brings together, in a team competition, the top doubles teams, both men and women, in all of the age groups, for a weekend of squash where the teams represent their country. The Men’s event, called the Bernheimer/Bell Matches, involves two teams in each of the open-75+ age groups. The Women’s event, the Gillen/ Pierce Matches involve two teams in each of the open-55+ age groups. On Friday, the respective No. 1 placed teams play the No. 2 placed team from the other country. These matches are worth one point each. On Saturday the No. 1s and No. 2s play each other. These matches are worth 1 ½ points. Sunday’s matches consist of a “Lightning Round” whereby teams are drawn randomly from each of the age groups and each team plays a one-game match, up to 21 points. The Lightning Round matches are worth ½ point.
Friday’s first round of matches resulted in 14 points for each team. Upsets abounded. The US team lost both of its 55+ matches yet won both of its 45+ matches. John McAtee and Kevin Jernigan pulled off one of the day’s biggest upsets by knocking off Canada’s No. 1 40+ team of Scott Dulmage and Mark Barber by the score of 3-1. The US men trailed after Friday’s matches by the score of 10-8. The biggest surprise, however, came from the Canadian women who had been beaten soundly by the US women in both previous Can-Ams. After Friday’s matches the US women were only ahead by the score of 6-4.
Saturday brought another day of surprises, both on and off the court. The US men rallied behind big wins from Morris Clothier/Ed Chilton and Chris Spahr/Doug Lifford to sweep the 45’s. The American’s top 50+ team of Rich Sheppard/Dominic Hughes remained unbeaten. American’s No. 1 65+ team of cocaptain Lenny Bernheimer/Tom Poor defeated their long-time Canadian rivals Tony Swift/Molson Robertson to remain unbeaten. The men came out of Saturday’s matches with 16.5 points to the Canadian’s 10.5 to take what looked like an insurmountable 4 point lead heading into the Lightning Round. The US women, however, were not as successful. Canada’s Open teams, Seanna Keating/Stephanie Hewitt and Stephanie Edmison/Jess DiMauro won both of their matches against Americans Dana Betts/Emily Lungstrum and Natalie Grainger/Kelsey Engman. By the end of the day the Canadian women had not only made up the 2 point difference they were behind heading into Saturday but they came out leading by four points, having won 10.5 points to the US team’s 3.5. As a result the overall Can-Am Cup was tied heading into Sunday’s exciting Lightning round.
Saturday night brought even more surprises. Eight members of the American team had flown from Philadelphia to Buffalo via “Air Pierce”. Co-captain Molly Pierce and brother Michael were gracious enough to bring their private jet to Buffalo and allow six members to hitch a ride. This graciousness proved to be the downfall of the team since Hurricane Sandy decided to visit the east coast. In order to safely return to Philly the Pierce entourage was forced to leave Saturday night. This left some of America’s top players out of the Lightning round on Sunday. The result would be devastating to the American Team.
On Sunday morning Canada came out fast and furious. While both teams were feeling the effects of Saturday night’s festivities, the Canadians seemed to handle it much better than their US counterparts. Initial matches were close but then Canada went on a roll winning every match in the 50-60 age group men’s category as well as four of seven matches in the Women’s Open-45 grouping. By mid-morning it was clear that the Canadian Women would win the Gillen/Pierce Cup and that the overall Can-Am Cup would head back to Canada for the first time. The American Men, however, still had a strong lead in the Bernheimer/Bell matches and looked to gain some amount of solace from the weekend. The American men’s lead didn’t last long. With two matches to go, the US Men were up by one point. Canada, having won the previous Bernheimer/Bell matches in Toronto, only needed to tie the US men to retain the trophy. American’s Steve Berliner and Malcolm Davidson lost the second to last match to Canadians John Boynton and Jay Gillespie, setting up the final match of the weekend. Bernheimer and Bill Jones were up 7-3 against Peter Holland and Norm Lee when the Berliner/Davidson match ended and things looked promising for the American men. But the Canadians proved too strong and too fast coming back to win 21-11 to clinch the weekend sweep. The Canadian’s in the crowd broke out into “Oh Canada” and Canadian Captain Graeme Duff was brought to tears. A hard fought win for Canada.
The weekend was a tremendous success. US Co-captain and Chairman Mike McGorry’s committee put on a terrific event. Captain America (literally and figuratively for those who were at the event) took care of all of the details of the weekend except for providing a winning team. The American team of 56 players included 49 who had previously won a US or Canadian National Doubles Championship, while the Canadians featured 52 of 56 players with a National Doubles Championship on their resume. It truly brought together the top players from each country for a true cross-border competition. The Americans have vowed to get revenge in Canada in 2014.
For complete results, visit www.canamcup. com.