Mustang men, Varsity Blues women looking to repeat as OUA Squash Champions

Mustang men, Varsity Blues women looking to repeat as OUA Squash Champions

The Western Mustangs men's squash team is aiming for an unprecedented 32nd consecutive banner when the OUA Squash Championships begin on January 30th and run until February 1st at Northfield Racquet and Fitness Club in Waterloo, Ont.

During the regular season, the Mustangs showed no signs of relinquishing the crown after over three decades of dominance. Western went undefeated against OUA and CIS opponents, running the table in both the OUA West Sectionals and Jesters Crossover Event.

Leading the way for Western is James Van Staveren (Etobicoke, Ont.). The fourth-year returning OUA All-Star continued his strong play this season and competed for Team Canada at the World University Squash Championships this past September in India. Western will also be relying on fourth-year veterans Eric Mercer (Toronto, Ont.) and Cory Shannon (Calgary, Alta.). Both played a key part in last year's championship.

The host Waterloo Warriors are also looking to make some noise at the tournament and improve upon last year's third place finish. The Warriors roster boasts the defending individual champion and two-time all-star Cameron Seth (Fergus, Ont.), who also competed for Canada at the University Squash Championships. The team is coming in confident after a strong showing in the West Sectional event. In that tournament, Waterloo defeated the McMaster Marauders after losing to them three times last season, and also hung tough against Western in a 5-2 loss.

Another team to watch on the men's side is the McMaster Marauders. Led by returning all-star Patrick Morkus (Barrie, Ont.) and 2014 OUA Rookie of the Year Mikale Reddy (Ancaster, Ont.), the Marauders came within one point of defeating Western at the OUA Jesters Crossover tournament, and captured the silver medal last year at the OUA Championship, finishing six points behind the Mustangs.

The Queen's Gaels and Guelph Gryphons both turned in respectable showings at the Jesters Crossover, and are hoping to find the podium in Waterloo. The Gaels tied with Waterloo for the bronze medal last year and finished four points off the podium at the crossover event. In the event, the Gaels defeated Guelph and despite losing to Waterloo, McMaster, and Western, all matches were close. Will Ip (Toronto, Ont.) went undefeated for Queen's at the tournament.

Though Guelph didn't compete at last year's OUA Championships, they remain an up-and-coming team and finished the Jesters Crossover tied with Queen's with a respectable 16 points. Hossam Alkady turned in a solid performance at the Crossover, winning two of his five matches against other school's top-flight opponents.

The Toronto Varsity Blues turned in a strong showing at the Jesters Crossover, finishing in fourth place with 20 points. The Varsity Blues dominated against Guelph and Waterloo, winning 6-1 and 7-0, respectively. Leading the way was captain Riyan Bhatia (Mumbai, India), who was the only Varsity Blue to steal a set in the team's 6-1 loss against Western.

The Brock Badgers struggled during the season, finishing second to last at the Jesters Crossover, but are capable of keeping matches close and pulling off an upset. Michael Grainger (Komoka, Ont.) and Haydon Ashkanase (Stratford, Ont.) will be relied on heavily by the Badgers. The Brock roster also features Phillip Calder (St. Catharines, Ont.), who has overcome Cystic Fibrosis and a double lung transplant to compete in OUA squash.

On the women's side, the Western Mustangs women's squad is also hoping to bring back a championship banner after having their streak of three-straight OUA titles come to an end last season when the Toronto Varsity Blues took home the crown.

The Mustangs finished third at the Jesters Crossover – defeating the defending champion Blues 5-2 – and grabbed first place at the West Sectional event. First-year Mustang Nicola Crich (London, Ont.) was the only member of her squad to go undefeated at the Jesters Crossover, and though she is in her first season, she is expected to play a huge role in the OUA Championships. The team's only returning all-star, fourth-year veteran Anna Lailey (Toronto, Ont.), will also need a strong showing for the Mustangs to compete for a spot on the podium.

The defending champion Varsity Blues are trying to win back-to-back OUA titles for the first time since the 2004-2005 seasons. Toronto's title defence will be led by two returning all-stars: Evelyn Moorhouse (Calgary, Alta.) and Natalia Londono (Bogota, Colombia). Londono went undefeated at the Jesters Crossover, and the Blues captured second place, losing just one match when they were defeated 5-2 by Western.

Despite having not won an OUA championship since the 2009-10 season, the Queen's Gaels come in to Waterloo as arguably the favourite to win the tournament. Queen's not only won the Jesters Crossover, but also swept the East Sectional, winning all three matches by a 7-0 score. The Gaels roster returns one OUA All-Star from last season, Megan Richmond (Toronto, Ont.). She went undefeated at both the Jesters Crossover and East Sectionals, and will need another strong performance against the top teams in the province.

The McMaster Marauders finished fifth at last year's OUA Championships, but have shown signs of improvement this season. Alexandra Pittiglio (Maple, Ont.) was the only Marauder to win a set against the Western Mustangs at the Jesters Crossover, and won her other two matches at the event. McMaster went on to finish the tournament in fifth spot, one point behind McGill.

Rounding out the women's field are the Waterloo Warriors and Brock Badgers.

The Badgers finished last at East Sectionals, unable to win a single point, but bounced back in the Jesters Crossover by putting up a respectable seven points. At Crossovers, Brock won its match against Laurier, and then played two hard fought games against McMaster and Waterloo, losing 5-2 in each game. Both Victoria Vaccaro (Niagara Falls, Ont.) and Stephanie Korda (St. Catharines, Ont.) went undefeated at the crossover event.

After losing last year's OUA women's individual champion Natasha Seth, the Warriors struggled at times throughout the 2014-15 season. The team was able to rack up six points at Jesters Crossover, including a 5-2 win against the Brock Badgers. Fifth-year athlete Grace Leung (Markham, Ont.) won her match against Brock and hopes to end her OUA career on a high note playing at home in the conference championships.

Tournament play begins Friday at 4 p.m. and finishes Sunday with the championship matches. OUA All-Stars and major award winners will be announced at the conclusion of the tournament.

A full schedule is available here.