Manitoba women squash competition
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Manitoba has long been an afterthought among the country’s top squash provinces.
That may have changed.
Manitoba’s women’s squash team captured gold in the Canadian senior women’s team championships at the Regina Squash Centre last weekend.
The veteran trio of Anika Alexander, Alix Younger and Melina Turk went a flawless 5-0 at the national tournament, knocking off powerhouse Ontario twice in the process, including 2-1 in the finals, to become the province’s first women’s team since 2000 to be crowned Canada’s best.
Alexander, who was crowned a national champion for the first time in the sport, said she had a feeling this year could be Manitoba’s time. The trio has finished second in each of the past two championships.
“It was a pretty big deal for me,” the 25-year-old said. “We’ve always wanted to try to take home the gold, so I feel like for all of us it was kind of like a dream come true.
“Obviously, we’ve been playing as a team for many years and I feel like we just have such a great bond and we just know exactly what to say to each other when we’re coaching each other. We’ve been such a strong team since the start.”
Alexander, who has been playing since she was 10, moved from Ontario to Winnipeg in Grade 9 to play on Team Manitoba and further her development in the sport. She placed second in the University Squash Championships last season before graduating.
“It’s funny how I tend to always play against strong teams like Ontario in finals, even though I used to be from Ontario. But I’m definitely considered a Manitoban now,” she said.
Younger, the team captain, has been competing on the national level since she was 12. While the 30-year-old has plenty of personal accolades in the sport (three-time junior champion, national university champion and competed professionally for four years), she conceded there was a time when she had a hard time believing Mantioba would ever compete for women’s team championship.
“Third time’s the charm,” Younger said.
“It’s awesome. I hope it kind of sparks the resurgence of top-level squash players from Manitoba again. It’s so nice to finally have a prairie province win a gold — even have a prairie province host a squash tournament.”
Indeed, Ontario and Quebec have dominated the women’s side for years, with Alberta and British Columbia coming on strong recently in the junior sector.
“Most of the time, the prairie provinces are always forgotten sometimes, it seems. Hopefully, it sparks some inspiration in these juniors that even though we’re from a small province in comparison and don’t win all the time, it is possible,” she said.
The three women have been connected at the hip in the sport for some time. Younger and Turk, who also went pro briefly, came up through the ranks together. Once Alexander arrived, they watched her grow in the community.
Alexander explained the title was more than just a win for the province.
“Women’s sports in general, I feel like (they) don’t get recognized that often. It’s kind of cool that we three women took home something special, especially in a sport that doesn’t get recognized as often, as well,” she said.
“I just hope people can see that women’s squash — it’s out there and people can think about trying it out.”
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.