By Tracy Greer
After a sixty-seven year hiatus, the U.S. v. Canada squash matches, the Lapham-Grant, returned to Philadelphia and Merion Cricket Club over the weekend of April 10-13, 2014. The Lapham, the oldest annual international squash match in the world, was started in 1922 and last hosted by Merion in 1947. The Philadelphia squash community was eager to see the return of this prestigious competition.
And it was a triumphant weekend for Team U.S.A., who won three of the four trophies—an especially sweet outcome, having been swept by Canada in Vancouver last year.
The Lapham Cup, the original men’s singles match from 1922, was the one trophy retained by Canada, by a score of 13-10. However, the U.S. men redeemed themselves with a resounding win for Grant Trophy, the men’s doubles event begun in 1945, with a score of 24-13. The U.S. women dominated in the Crawford Cup competition for singles and doubles, founded in 1999; they swept the doubles 18-0 and grabbed the singles 9-6. In the Lawrence-Wilkins legends doubles, the 70+ event started in 2001, the U.S. won 11-8.
Guts and glory filled the weekend. Everyone played with passion and sportsmanship in hopes of bringing the trophies back to their respective countries. The captains succeeded in building teams with representation from across Canada and the United States, and the depth of talented players in Philadelphia helped the U.S. field a strong team. The captains also worked hard to provide all players with several matches. Although scheduling was a challenge, quality of the matches made for an exciting weekend.
“The matches were competitive and brought a lot of old friends together, ” said Molly Pierce, co-captain of the U.S. Crawford team. “In squash, as an adult, you rarely get the opportunity to play on a team, rooting for your teammates and sharing their successes.” Radhika Cobb, co-captain of the U.S. Crawford team called it, “the perfect combination of intensity and fun.”
“It was like a junior squash tournament, ” said Gilly Lane, co-captain of the Lapham and Grant teams. Fellow captain, Mark Pagon agreed, “Although the final match score in the Grant was decidedly in favor of the U.S., a slew of matches went 3-2 and the competition was very close. In the Lapham, Canada proved that singles has not died for players after college and they showed us by winning the trophy.”
The Lawrence-Wilkins teams, affectionately dubbed the Bengay Brigade, arrived with some creaky joints and a medley of chronic injuries. In spite of these impediments, they played spirited matches with ample evidence of skill and chicanery. “These wily veterans know the use of a senior let and many of the games went down to the wire, ” Peter Day, co-captain of the U.S. Lawrence Wilkins team said. When the dust cleared, the U.S. team had scored an underwhelming victory to capture the coveted Inuit-inspired trophy.
With the bulk of the play completed Saturday, players addressed the Saturday night dinner-dance with characteristic zest. No strangers to a party, the group cut a mean rug on the dance floor.
The traditions that make the Lapham-Grant unique were on display during the closing ceremony on Sunday. The victorious teams drank champagne from the Stanley-Cup-sized Lapham trophy, and first-time participants received the customary Lapham-Grant ties and scarves. The lively social gatherings throughout the weekend provided ample fodder for selecting the recipient of the Eric R. Finkelman Award for questionable behavior. By unanimous consensus, Jay Umans was selected as this year’s distinguished award winner.