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Navy Squash Travels to France

In observance of the 71st anniversary D-Day, the Naval Academy squash team visited France. Randy Beck, a rising junior, documented the trip. Below is his report. To read about the entire trip, please visit NavySports.com (article 1 and article 2). Images courtesy of NavySports.com.

Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer
Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer

Paris, France —  After visiting some more sights in Paris and immersing in the culture of the Parisiens, the team had the pleasure of playing at the Jeu de Paume. Situated right in the middle of the 16th district of Paris and created in 1927, the four natural sunlight squash courts were very unique. The older style courts were a bit difficult to get adjusted to at first, but all of the matches proved to be very competitive. Although once again coming out on the losing side of the match, the team was pleased with the level of play against some of the top talent in Paris.
First up on court were Greg Hyer and Sam McCartney, who was returning to his old stomping grounds. McCartney jumped out to an early lead and took game one 11-7, but his opponent was able to take the next three games, each of which were tightly contested. With this victory, Jeu de Parme took an early 1-0 lead. Hyer ground out a five-game win against his French counterpart. Despite the setbacks of losing games 1 and 3, his superior conditioning proved to tip the scales in Navy’s favor as he evened the score at one win apiece.

Next up for the Midshipmen were Will Walker and me. Club pro Danny Mandil had his three sons playing in the top 3 spots for Jeu de Parme, all of which are highly ranked players in their age groups all across Europe.The youngest, Hugo, was the first one to take the court against me. Despite closely contested points, the youngest Mandil was able to use home court advantage and take the match in three games. Walker on the next court over played former Yale Squash player Michael Maruca, who was a familiar face for Coach Dawson who had coached against him in years past. Maruca took the first 2 games which included some incredible rallies that lasted seemingly minutes. In game 3 Walker fended off a late game barrage from Maruca and took the game 13-11. Maruca was able to bounce back and draw upon his experience at Yale to take the fourth game despite everything Walker could throw at him.

Next up were the two First Class for Navy, Jacob Rothstein at 7 and team captain Bill Kacergis at 2. Rothstein, seeing his first experience with the varsity team on this trip, took the first game against his lefty foe by bombarding the backhand side of his opponent. Unfortunately he succumbed in the next three  games to give Jeu de Paume another victory. Kacergis faced the second of the Mandil brothers, Rohan. The courts were stifling hot by the time this match got underway, and Kacergis took advantage of the conditions to jump out to a lead with a first game victory, although he dropped the next three. Jack Herold battled against Quint Mandil, and despite applying pressure with attacking shots could not overcome his technical play.

Festival in Sainte-Mere-Eglise featuring vehicles from the 40's
Festival in Sainte-Mere-Eglise featuring vehicles from the 40’s

Before and after the match, the team took the oppurtunity to visit landmarks around Paris. It seemed as if we would just stumble upon historic structures. One of our favorite sites was the Pantheon, which was completed in 1790 as a church. Over the years it has become a mix of church and monument to the great thinkers and leaders of France, housing greats such as Voltaire and Victor Hugo. From there, the walk to Notre Dame was easy. The mammoth church lived up to expectations and was well worth a visit. The team walked the hill and stairs of Sacre Coeur, which provided a fantastic vantage point of the city. We visited the gardens where works of Rodin, such as the famous “Thinker” are stored, which provied a nice change of pace. Napoleon’s tomb and the church and museum around it were stunning. The museum stored centuries-old military armour and equipment, and the crypt of Napoleon reminded the team of the one for John Paul Jones on the yard. We saved the Eiffel Tower for the last day. Despite being visible from many areas around the city, walking under it and taking the stairs up it provided us with a good sense of how amazing it is.