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A Hunger to Win: Meatball Marinara and the 6th Annual Hudson Cup Squash Tournament

By Libby Pei | Published May 6, 2010, 7:00 AM ET | Updated May 5, 2010, 9:51 PM ET

Vassar first year student Libby Pei describes her experience at Poughkeepsie Tennis Club‘s annual Hudson Cup, which was held in mid-April.  The event is a team competition that had A, B, C, D, and Women’s D divisions. Each team fielded sub-teams of three players for each division.

Poughkeepsie Tennis ClubPoughkeepsie, NY — I suppose it would be funny for me to say that the competitors at this year’s 6th Annual Hudson Cup Squash Tournament held at Vassar College and the Poughkeepsie Tennis Club played with a “hunger to win.” I can assure you that at least three people at this three-person team-tournament left with their appetites fulfilled. Literally.

From as early as 8 AM on that Saturday morning, players from the Hudson Valley area, Vassar College and beyond faced off to play as many as four grueling matches throughout the day. Though the tournament comprised mostly of older players, from the A-division through Women’s D-division, the entire tournament was not without sprightly efforts and fierce determination to compete and battle for the Cup.

In a thrilling and entertaining match, Hope Blinkoff, a senior at Vassar who ended her collegiate squash career at number five on the College’s varsity team, struggled against an older competitor who through impressive and dogged perseverance, did well to keep the scores close at 11-9 for two of the three games, even diving across the court to retrieve her perfect drops. Backed by the cheering and support from her friends and teammates Caitlin Ly and Henk Isom however, Blinkoff proved that age is not before beauty, winning the tiebreaker. Their team eventually moved onto the finals of the C-division, scoring three points for Vassar College.

I would have to say that my first Hudson Cup experience with my teammates sophomore Meg Taylor and freshman Andrew Lindsay was not typical. Team Pretty in Pink, representing Vassar College in the C-Division, clad in a uniform of pink and white, was far from prepared for what was to come that day. In the first round of the tournament, faced against an intimidating Simon’s Rock’s Ron Baron, Michael Bello, and Marc Ducharme as well as nearly a six-week hiatus from playing squash after very trying and rigorous collegiate seasons, our team spirit and enthusiasm proved to fall short against Simon’s Rock’s strategic play and flawless technique. So it seemed that before we could even get warmed up, Team Pretty in Pink was headed off to the Poughkeepsie Tennis Club, a local private club to compete in the consolation round.

After getting lost in our own campus town (thanks to my fantastic navigational skills), we finally arrived to the PTC. Though there seemed to be a disconnect between the two facilities, the matches at the PTC were equally competitive as those that we had left behind at the College. Following a decisive win against our competitors, we waited for our next opponents (Andrew and I found the television and watched an episode of Paris Hilton’s new reality TV show as we stretched).

2010 Hudson Cup Championship Team Simon's Rock

When word arrived that our opponents had forfeited, we were ecstatic. Not only had we presumably won the consolation round, completing our participation in the Cup, it was only lunchtime and we all were extremely hungry. With our eyewear still on our heads, we rushed to a nearby Subway for a celebratory meal. We each ordered foot-long submarine sandwiches. Saving the sandwiches to eat at the Vassar College courts (partly to gloat that we had a victorious finish to our play significantly earlier than all the other teams), our hunger was almost unbearable in the car-ride back. As soon as we could hear the thwack of squash balls against the front walls of Vassar’s squash center, we stuffed our faces with the sandwiches. In less than three minutes, the foot-longs were gone.

It turned out, however, that we had not played our last match, as there was an extra round in the C-Division because of the large number of participants this year. We either had to forfeit the consolation final or turn back to the PTC, giving us only half an hour to digest our celebratory meals. I cannot speak for Andrew or Meg but I immediately regretted my choice of a foot-long submarine sandwich AND a 32 oz. soda (it was cheaper to buy the meal) that had already begun to expand and weigh down in my stomach. As a matter of principle, we refused to forfeit the final match and headed back to PTC.

When we arrived back at the PTC for a second time (after getting lost again!), I was shocked to find that I was set to play Sarah Odell and her team from Simon’s Rock. Sarah and I have had a long squash rivalry since our days of playing high school squash at Phillips Exeter Academy. Though our games had always been close, I had never been able to beat her before. Surely, after eating a foot-long, there was little hope for changing this record. However, I was determined to beat the odds. Ignoring the sloshing of Pepsi and Subway in my stomach, I fought hard. To my surprise and delight, I finally defeated her in straight sets, a victory that has never been so sweet (perhaps just as sweet as my sweet onion chicken teriyaki sub). Meanwhile, after inhaling her meatball marinara sub sandwich, Meg Taylor, playing Smith graduate Sara Smythe was starting to slow down. Perhaps it was the blood rushing to her stomach to digest the extra melted cheese. Though Meg lost in the tiebreaker, her determination and athleticism was truly admirable.

Though our tournament experience was comical to say the least, I was reminded that just like any other sport, squash is not just about the winning or losing. After playing my first season of collegiate squash, I had become so absorbed in the statistics of wins and losses and rankings that I had sometimes forgotten that squash is supposed to be fun. So perhaps the sweetest victory was not finally defeating Sarah, sealing our consolation round win, but rather that I competed and pushed myself for the pure love of the game and sport with my good friends (and a foot-long and soda) at my side.