After a week of servicing and fuel change, the UCSC ‘B’ombers flew again on another B-grade mission … This time to defend the ‘home-land’ at SLF from (fortunately) friendly invaders in the form of the B/C mixed team from Elias Green (EG).
Arriving nice and early to warm up for the evening’s encounters were Michael Tan (WWII Supermarine Spitfire) and Boa Ho Man (Northrop F-5E). However, they found there was already a ‘scout’ from the visiting squad, lying in wait. The ‘scout’ was Lee Jiang Hao, who was to play at the #4 slot and as he patiently waited for our own #4 Uncle Bobby to arrive, Michael and Ho Man commenced their warm up by first sweeping up the mess (fortunately of the dry kind) left in the courts by brooding birds.
The rest of the ‘B’ombers, Samuel Eng (F-16 Fighting Falcon) and Bobby Pang (another WWII Spitfire) cruised in soon after with squadron leader, DaryleTeng (Hawker Hurricane), who then prepared welcome drinks for our visitors who began arriving separately in the following order … (Colonel) Johnny Lee (not the country singer), Peter Loh (former UCSCsian) and William Choo (ex-Singapore national player during the 80’s).
The first tie between the EG scout, Jiang Hao (JH), and UCSC’s Uncle Bobby then commenced. The age gap between the two was 28 years. For the uninitiated, the youthful Uncle Bobby was the older of the two. Belying his age, Uncle Bobby was lively on his feet in the 1st set, countering the younger JH’s pace with clever placements, deep lengths and deceptive backhand cross court drops which constantly found their marks. Point for point until 5-5, Uncle Bobby then surged ahead to wrap up that set by 11-6. It was absolutely vintage Bobby. However, that vintage WWII Spitfire engine apparently was not adequately serviced and the ageing engine started slowing down as the Elias Green squash machine turned the screws tightly to run down the older man. Bobby's previously deep lentghs began getting shorter and the cross courts not quite wide enough. 11-4 to JH and the tie was level. Giving hope to UCSC supporters that he was strategically reserving his fuel tank for the right moment, Bobby once again showed the sprightliness in his steps to stay with JH closely but the relentless running and pace of the younger EG squasher saw him edge ahead again to close out the 3rd set by 11-8. In the 4th and final set, Bobby lifted UCSC spirits momentarily when he led 5-2 at one stage but with a handout from there, JH then strung together 7 consecutive points to take out the last bit of fight from the game ‘B’omber to close out the set 11-6 and the tie 3-1 for Elias Green to open accounts.
Ho Man (HM) and Johnny (JL) were playing simultaneously in the adjacent court. Both players started tentatively and duels were a plenty in that first set. The EG man was surprisingly enterprising in his shot-making and kept the usually tricky HM at bay with deep lengths and superbly measured lobs which forced loose shots from an unsettled HM. These were neatly tucked away with crisp drop shots by the EG man which HM initially was struggling to retrieve. But the aerodynamic UCSC F-E engine slowly sputtered to life and began the twisting and turning for which he was built, to keep pace with the adventurous JL. The tricky, ankle-twisting trickle boasts began to appear more consistently and accurately and the cat and mouse rallies began to take their toll on the older JL. Deuce was inevitable and there were four such deuces before the first set was decided by a score line of 15-13 in favor of the UCSC player. JL came off the court gasping for air, partly because there was just the hint of thinning solution in the atmosphere within the court, perhaps residual evidence of recent sanding of the courts. In the 2nd set, the UCSC F-5E ran rampant and led 7-0 against a tired JL before the latter secured his first point and then 2 more consolation points after 2 handouts before HM wrapped that set up by a comfortable 11-3 score. If anyone thought the 3rd set would be a cinch for the UCSC player, given his dominance in the 2nd set and the evident exhaustion on the face of Colonel JL, that impression was soon to be proven wrong. One never discounts the fighting spirit of a commander in the Singapore Armed Forces! Cleverly slowing down the pace with elegant lobs, including one exquisite forehand skip boast and biding his time in between rallies to catch his breath, JL kept mostly level with the UCSC fighter jet, reminiscent of the first set and forced deuce once again. But the younger UCSC player was not to be denied as he finally secured the two consecutive points needed to sew up the set 12-10 and the tie 3-0 for UCSC to level proceedings.
The 3rd and 4th ties of the evening were also played almost simultaneously. UCSC's F16, Samuel Eng, took on EG's William Choo while WWII Spitfire, Michael Tan, had to contain ex-UCSCsian, Peter Loh.
The UCSC F16 first.
The UCSC ‘Jet’ roared into action right from the words, “Love all, play”… and how he played! The EG former A-grader had no idea what hit him as Samuel scored at will and was 10-0 up before the EG player got his first point. Then it was over at 11-1. Before the smoke even cleared in the 2nd set, the ‘Jet’ again beat the sound barrier and streaked to a 9-2 lead before being temporarily hauled in for speeding. William capitalized on Samuel's lapse to steal 3 points before the F16 once again rocketed off to 11-5. William said after the match that he felt as though he was still sleeping and in a surreal state as Samuel ran rings around him. It was not so much surreal, but "so real". He knew it was do-or-die in the 3rd set. All the experience of the former A-grader was brought to bear as he left Samuel stuck refueling in the hangar at the start of the 3rd set. Going for risky winners and a short game, William caught Samuel off-guard and forcing a series of errors from the UCSCsian, sped away to 4-0 then 6-1 before the UCSC ‘Jet’ started rolling out again onto the runway to steadily cut back the deficit and eventually level at 8-8. The experienced William still had something left in the tank as he edged ahead again with a couple of winners to tantalizingly hold set point at 10-8. But the UCSC ‘Jet’ was not done yet and he soaked up everything William flung at him to force deuce and settled the issue with two successive points for a tight 12-10 win in the 3rd set, and the tie by 3-0. UCSC led 2-1 with the outcome of the evening not quite yet decided.
Finally, two veterans brought up the rear with everything to play for. Had the EG man won by 3-0, it would have levelled the challenge in terms of matches and sets. If that, then points would have to be considered to decide the victors of the evening. Well, it was 3-0 indeed … But, to the relif of the UCSC camp, it was the veteran Spitfire who triumphed.
Michael was on fire from the go-get. With his superior fitness and volleys, he dictated proceedings. However, his over eagerness resulted in several unforced errors throughout the set and resultant loose shots were gratefully put away by the more conservative Peter Loh. But there was still enough of an edge in Michael’s pace for him to nose ahead from 6-6 to lead and then close out the set by a narrow 11-8 score. This effectively meant UCSC had won the evening’s encounter by at least a countback, if it came to that. But this was a league event and every tie mattered. With that in mind, the UCSC Spitfire settled into playing higher percentage squash, even with pace. Beginning to find the range, Michael raced away to a 8-0 lead through a series of tight boasts, disguised drives, volleys and nifty drops before the EG player replied. However the lead was too significant and the UCSC Spitfire went on to close out the set by 11-4. It was a return to the 1st set’s situation where Michael was mixing his fast pace and volleys with inexplicable errors (through impatience in going for too early 'kills') to allow the EG player to stay close until 6-6 before the UCSC player again edged ahead before dousing Peter's challenge, wrapping up the set by 11-8 and the tie by 3-0.
And so, a second overall 3-1 victory decided in a final tie for a consecutive week for the UCSC ‘B’ombers, this time against the game opponents and fine sportsmen from Elias Green. We thank the Elias Green squashers for a truly enjoyable evening and look forward to the return meeting on EG’s turf, hoping that the ‘B’ombers’ engines will remain well serviced and ready for then.
Elias Green & UCSC, Live & Breathe Squash!