Seventh USSA squash title in a row for UJ

The University of Johannesburg team that won the University Sport South Africa title for the seventh time in a row in Port Elizabeth last week: Back, from left: Blessing Muhwati, Kyle Maree, Tyrone Dial, coach Mike Bester. Front, from left: manager Reedwaan Asvat, Kacey-Leigh Dodd and Jenny Preece. Absent: Alexa Pienaar. Picture: Full Stop Communications

The University of Johannesburg continued their remarkable domination of the University Sport South Africa squash tournament when they won the title for the seventh year in a row last week.

Competing at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, the defending champions overcame a spirited challenge from the hosts, Madibaz, to win the final 4-2.

Earlier, UJ eased past Stellenbosch University 5-1 in the semifinals, while Madibaz earned their place in the final by defeating University of Pretoria for the first time at the USSA week.

UJ coach Mike Bester said the final against Madibaz had been “pretty close up to a stage”.

“But our females, who proved to be strong all week, managed to do the business by winning all their matches,” he said.

“We lost a very close match at No 3 in the men’s line-up and also at No 1, but won the No 2 to take the win.”

Although the Johannesburg outfit have dominated for a lengthy period, Bester said the competition at the USSA tournament remained tough.

“In recent years there has been very strong competition from Tuks, Stellenbosch and Madibaz.

“But our strength is the depth that we have in our squad. For instance, last year we were strong in the men’s team, and this year our women’s team was very good, so the one backs up the other.

“I said to my players ahead of the tournament this was going to be a collective effort and that’s the way it turned out.”

While emphasising the teamwork in the squad, Bester said women’s No 1 Alexa Pienaar was a major asset for the team.

“She is top of the tree as far as student squash is concerned and she is a banker for us at No 1.”

Besides spearheading the team event win, Pienaar confirmed her potential by retaining her individual title, a competition played on the first three days of the week.

Bester said the team remained motivated to do well despite their long run of success.

“They were ecstatic after the final and are always focused on trying to maintain the record and to set themselves further goals.”

He added that the key element in their success was the consistency and dedication they showed in training.

“They basically train for 11 months of the year and have December off. Winning USSA for the seventh time in a row is the reward for those efforts.”

At the conclusion of the week, Pienaar was named in the USSA team to compete in the World University Championships in Birmingham in September.

UJ’s Kacey-Leigh Dodd will play Hayley Ward, of Madibaz, to decide the second place in the USSA women’s team.