Westlake Boys High School retained their New Zealand Secondary Schools Squash national title for the third consecutive year. This year’s championship held in Palmerston North was attended by 32 boys teams and 19 teams of girls, making it the biggest secondary schools squash event in the country.
The earlier rounds saw the team consisting of Matthew Lucente, Gabe Yam, Akil Afghan, Jien Lim, Tom Taylor, Zonal Ali and Jono Beazley comfortably defeat Hawera High School, Wairarapa College, Hutt International Boys School and Tauranga Boys College.
In a repeat of last year’s finals, Westlake faced Waikato’s St. Pauls Collegiate A for the title. The scenario this time around was different as the team had to fight their way back from a 0-2 deficit and complete a remarkable comeback through sheer determination and focus.
The finals did not start well for the reigning champions when the first two matches did not go Westlake’s way. It meant that St. Pauls needed just one more win to wrest the title away whilst Westlake was put in a high pressure situation of having to win all three remaining matches.
In his debut as team captain, Matthew Lucente was however in total control and unfazed with the huge task of putting Westlake on the comeback trail. Matthew lived up to his New Zealand No.1 ranking and powered his way to a straight set win over his opponent. Matthew’s emphatic win proved to be the much needed rallying point and the shift of momentum for the rest of the team.
Next on court was Tom Taylor who fittingly played the game of his life in his last Nationals, staying calm and composed through tense moments in his match. Showing grit and tenacity, Tom stunningly bounced back after losing the second game to take the much needed win in four games and put the finalists deadlocked at two wins each.
Westlake’s shot at achieving a hat-trick then depended on New Zealand’s current U17 No.1 Gabe Yam. It was all business for Gabe from the onset and he was never really in trouble during the match, taking out a clinical 3-0 win and along with it the national title for Westlake for the third year in a row.
The team looks forward to defending their title and make it four in a row for Westlake next year.
Squash Team: (Captain) Matthew Lucente, Gabe Yam, Akil Afghan, Jien Lim, Zonal Ali and Jono Beazley,
(Coach/Manager) Manu Yam