Battle of the Sexes

by Mike Mantell | 9/30/12 10:00pm

Hello readers. You may be feeling mopey and blue with a glum case of the Mondays, but cheer up! You are about to find out what happens when a Regular Ron and a women's varsity competitor clash in the squash box. This week, I challenged Corey Schafer '13 to a battle of the sexes. Corey was Dartmouth's No. 1 player last season and earned first team All-Ivy honors for her performance on the court. Facing her would be no easy task.

The Setup: Our match's setup was simple my cohort, Arun Gomatam '13, would play Corey in a match to 11 with rally scoring. Immediately thereafter, I would face her in a second match to 11. I hoped that Arun might wear her down a bit in their game so that when I stepped in she'd be in less-than-peak form.

While Corey may have had an immense advantage in the skill and dexterity department, don't count Arun and me out just yet. Not only have we both dabbled in squash, racquetball and tennis, but in my sophomore year at Dartmouth, I entered an intramural ping-pong tournament. I battled my heart out and earned a solid second-place finish with a shirt to prove it. While it may be true that there were only a total of two participants in said tournament, an IM champ shirt is still an IM champ shirt. Clearly we had the racquet experience, and no doubt we had the heart, but did we have what it took to win?

The Showdown: Rally scoring means that you can win points on your serve and on your opponent's serve, so a game to 11 is a quickie. Arun and I realized the great importance of establishing an early lead, so, as usual, we crafted a cunning strategy. As Arun and Corey entered the squash cube, she courteously offered him the first serve. Unfortunately for her, we returned no such courtesy.

We demanded that we start the game before Corey got a chance to warm up, and she was OK with this. Arun served, choosing not to warm up the ball to increase its bounce as is customary. Corey was not as OK with this, but had no chance to object. She returned the serve, and Arun whacked at the ball, sending it to the middle of the wall, where it dropped to the floor with a plop, rolling slowly away. Watching them play with the cold ball looked like they were rallying with a wet grape.

At this point, Corey spoke up and requested that we warm the ball up, to which we begrudgingly agreed. Three minutes and 10 points later, Corey had won the match 11-1. When I rewatched the film in fast forward, Corey was essentially posted in the center of the court, while Arun zipped from corner to corner like a wild Tasmanian devil. She had yet to break a sweat. Arun came tumbling off the court and tagged me in. He hadn't tired her out as planned, meaning I might have to oust her fair and square.

Things didn't start off too well. Every ball I hit, she hit back. Every time I thought I could make a great shot, she seemed to know where it was going. After falling into a quick 2-0 hole, I vowed not to miss another shot. Our next rally was a long one, and on the 11th shot, Corey went for a lob to the back corner, but the ball skidded above the green line on the side wall. I was only down 2-1!

To stay in the game and generate any sort of momentum, I knew I would have to put my body on the line. During a long fifth point, I found myself out of position in the back left corner. Corey exploited this by finessing a gentle drop shot in the near right corner. I flung myself into the corner, racquet flailing. My shot missed, and my left knee skidded several feet on the polished wood. The only thing that slowed me down was also skinning my right knee.

I was so distracted by the developing tender raspberry on my knee that I lost my next three points. It wasn't until I unintentionally returned one of Corey's serves off the side of my racquet for a beautiful knuckleball winner that I was able to tally my second point. But maybe my graceful mishit got Corey's competitive juices flowing because she then immediately laid the smack down on me, finishing me off, 11-2.

The Breakdown: Despite our slight advantages, Arun and I lost by a cumulative 22-3 score. Between last week's false start and this week's premature first match serve, it is clear that we have a gift for getting ahead early with little to no integrity. This is not an easy feat, and this skill will certainly be utilized next week as well. I have taken note to avoid skinning my knee next week, as it caused overwhelming mental trauma, which led to a competitive lapse. After two weeks, it's Mike 0, women's varsity 2.