Week One : Tornados beat Colts

On April 27th, The Derby City Colts took on the Atlanta Tornados on their home soil at Atlanta Community Squash.

Derby City Colts 4-0 Atlanta Tornados (26-16, 23-20, 31-24)

The season opener was a much anticipated matchup between two highly projected teams in the preseason power rankings (predicted as #1 and #2 in Sean Choi’s rankings). Adding to the drama, both teams experienced lineup changes in the weeks leading up to the match. Atlanta certainly won the waiver wire battle, adding a strong replacement at #2 in the form of Canadian #1 David Baillargeon “The King of the North.”

On paper, the Tornados appeared to be the slight favorite. Their match roster was extremely well rounded with Youssef Ibrahim’s attacking ability, Baillargeon’s strength, and Jeremia Azaña’s flair and quickness. The Colts on the other hand were lacking a clear ace with superstar Victor Crouin sitting out; their lineup featured strong defensive ability in Shahjahan Khan and Joseph White, but with Dillon Huang as their primary offensive weapon, they were outmatched in talent.

The early minutes of the first Period saw Colts #1 Khan take on Tornados #2 Baillargeon, with the Tornados rushing off to an 11 – 5 lead before the first substitution. The Tornados were able to hold on to the lead and build enough cushion throughout the period to play freely, eventually taking the first period by a wide margin of 26 – 16 and notching the first point on the board for Atlanta.

Both teams took a different approach to start the second period, with Huang (Colts) vs Ibrahim (Tornados). Atlanta stormed to an 8 – 3 lead; however, this time, the colts went on a mid-period run to take the lead 18-16 after an amazing shift from the Shahjahan “The Flying Khan.” Tensions were high, but Atlanta had their power play in their back pocket for the last moments of the period. Baillargeon called the power play against Joe White and racked up the points, bringing the score to 23 – 20 as time expired and giving the Tornados the 2-0 lead.

With the final period being worth 2 points, the Colts were not finished yet. The third period proved to be the closest and most entertaining period of the match, with the scoreline neck and neck throughout, neither team able to forge ahead until the final moments. With the score tied at 20 a piece with 5 minutes left on the clock, it was anyone’s game. The tornados used their last sub, putting on star player Youssef Ibrahim to get the job done. Sure enough, Ibrahim showed why he was the #1 overall draft pick by rattling off 11 points in a torrid stretch to finish off the Colts 31 – 24 and clinch the match 4 – 0.

Derby City Colts 4-0 Atlanta Tornados (26-16, 23-20, 31-24)

Ibrahim, the Man of the Match with 34 points in 26 minutes of play, spoke about his mindset as the #1 overall draft pick in the post match interview :

There’s no pressure, I mean, playing at home here I do get nervous, but excited and nervous in a good way. I’m always excited to play in front of the home crowd. I’m not the only one on the team as well. It’s a team effort and I’m just trying to do my job as best I can.”

Celia Pashley, Tornados coach, spoke about her strategy going into the match, “It was all about getting the lead, and holding onto the lead, and playing with the power plays and subs to make this happen.”

Atlanta now moves to 1-0 and top of the South Division. They travel to Nashville to take on the Crushers on May 4th, while Louisville has the week off and will take on the Crushers at home on May 17th.