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Smashing the Competition: Lebanon Junior Making a Name in Junior Squash

  • Max Reed, 16, of Lebanon, practices his squash shots at Dartmouth's Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. Wednesday,  November 13, 2013 following his ninth place finish in the Massachusetts Junior Championships at Harvard Monday. Reed, a Lebanon High School junior, is ranked eighth in U.S. Squash under 19. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Max Reed, 16, of Lebanon, practices his squash shots at Dartmouth's Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. Wednesday, November 13, 2013 following his ninth place finish in the Massachusetts Junior Championships at Harvard Monday. Reed, a Lebanon High School junior, is ranked eighth in U.S. Squash under 19.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Max Reed, 16, of Lebanon, is ranked eighth in U.S. Squash under 19. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Max Reed, 16, of Lebanon, is ranked eighth in U.S. Squash under 19.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Max Reed, 16, of Lebanon, practices his squash shots at Dartmouth's Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H. Wednesday,  November 13, 2013 following his ninth place finish in the Massachusetts Junior Championships at Harvard Monday. Reed, a Lebanon High School junior, is ranked eighth in U.S. Squash under 19. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Max Reed, 16, of Lebanon, is ranked eighth in U.S. Squash under 19. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Hanover — When Max Reed tells friends he specializes in squash, he sometimes needs to mention it’s not the kind mashed up to make soup, but the one whose ball is smashed into the wall.

“Usually, the first thing people think about is the vegetable,” Reed, a Lebanon High junior, said Wednesday before a practice at Dartmouth College’s Berry Center. “Then I have to tell them what the sport is.”

Those involved in squash at the junior level are becoming increasingly aware of who Reed is.

Having fully recovered from hamstring and abductor injuries that prevented him competing in the Under-17 National Championships each of the last two years, Reed, 16, is playing in the U-19 class this year and is ranked No. 8 nationally.

He’s captured a pair of Junior Gold Tournament championships — including the Fall Foliage tourney held at Dartmouth in late September — and is 10-2 with a pair of ninth-place showings at Junior Championship Tour (JCT) events, junior squash’s highest-caliber tourneys.

The most successful JCT athletes are selected for the U.S. Junior National team, which competes in the Junior World Championships. Making that roster is a goal of Reed’s this season, and so far, he’s on the right track.

Working diligently with Lebanon-based personal trainer Emile Smith and Dartmouth men’s squash coach Hansi Wiens, Reed has come a long way since his repetitive-motion right hamstring injury began hamper him in February 2012.

“After I pulled it, I just came back way too soon and it made it worse,” said Reed, who’s also been the Lebanon High boys tennis team’s No. 1 singles ace the last two springs. “I had no explosiveness, which you really need in squash. I started working with Emile and realized that I had to learn to use different muscles, especially my core muscles. Now the hamstring feels 100 percent.”

It certainly looked that way during the season-opening Squash Revolution Gold Tournament in Washington in early September, when he went 12-1 over the three-day event. After a 3-1 victory over Sean Kenney, of Villanova, Pa., in a semifinal, Reed swept Connecticut’s Jarrett Odrich (currently ranked 14th) in three matches to take the final.

Then at his “home” courts in front of friends and family at Dartmouth, Reed overcame a 2-0 deficit against rival Tommy Brownell, of Belmont, Mass., losing 13-11, 11-8 in the first two games before peeling off 11-7, 11-3 and 11-5 wins.

“I basically just wore him down after awhile,” Reed said. “We’ve had a lot of great matches against each other, but for this one, I think I was more physically fit and stronger mentally. It paid off.”

Reed traveled to Philadelphia for his first U-19 JCT event last month, falling to third-ranked Thomas Kingshot in the first round before sweeping the rest of his opponents in the consolation bracket and finishing the weekend 5-1. Last weekend at Harvard University, Reed fell in the second round to Hayes Murphy, but went 5-1 again over the weekend to bump his national ranking into the top 10.

“Even though I didn’t make it to the semifinals or finals, (U.S. Squash) still takes all of the results into account,” Reed said. “So, those results still helped me.”

Wiens — who also mentors several other high school-aged squash athletes in the Upper Valley on top of his duties with the Big Green — feels Reed’s comprehension of the game helps him as much as his physical skills.

“He’s a great listener and he’s open minded,” the coach said. “He follows up on what he has to do to learn. He’s a patient and honest guy and plays with confidence.”

The son of former Dartmouth men’s squash player Mark Reed, Max Reed was most interested in youth hockey until about the age of 10. He enjoyed the physical and mental demands of the game so much he decided to make it a year-round sport.

“It’s like playing chess at 100 miles per hour,” Reed said. “You have to be smart and stretegic the whole time, but you also have to be physically fit.”

By the seventh grade, Reed won his first JCT tournament at a U-13 event at Yale University. At age 14, he reached as high as No. 1 in the U.S. Squash age group rankings, placed fifth at the U-15 Junior National Championships and was chosen for the U-15 National team. The unit vanquished Canada at the Can-Am Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y.

The following season was hampered by the injury, a setback Wiens think might have actually helped.

“It gave him time to reflect and evaluate the next stage and what he was looking for,” the coach said as his team’s hard strokes echoed off the Berry Center walls. “He worked a lot on his short strokes and drops, which are really important.

“As you can hear, everyone can hit the ball hard, but the soft shots are what can make the difference.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.