Team USA's Chris Gordon (right) & Chris Hanson defeated Guatemala's Bryan Bonilla & Josue Enriquez 11-10,  11-7. (image: Paige Stewart)
Team USA’s Chris Gordon (right) & Chris Hanson defeated Guatemala’s Bryan Bonilla & Josue Enriquez 11-10, 11-7. (image: Paige Stewart)

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Team USA Squash have secured at least two Pan American Games squash doubles bronze medals after the men’s and women’s teams clinched their opening matches to reach the doubles semifinals Monday night in Toronto.

Playing side-by-side on softball international doubles courts at 12pm noon ET, the two lefty/righty teams, Amanda Sobhy & Natalie Grainger and Chris Hanson & Chris Gordon, managed to close out difficult opening matches in two games to reach the semifinals.

Sobhy now has two matches yet to play Monday, with her doubles semifinal against second-seeded Colombians Catalina Pelaez & Laura Tovar at 6:30pm ET, followed by her women’s individual gold medal match against compatriot Olivia Blatchford at 8:30pm.

Canadian brothers Andrew and Graeme Schnell upset second-seeded Mexicans Eric Galvez and Arturo Salazar in their quarterfinal to set up a North American semifinal against Team USA’s Hanson & Gordon at 8:30pm.

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Rich Wade, Team Manager and Director of National Teams and Certifications, reports on day three of match play from Toronto: 

Day three at the 2015 Pan American Games brings in the two Team USA players that didn’t compete in the Individual events, Chris Hanson and Natalie Grainger. The energy from the incoming players lifted the entire team, knowing that there were plenty of medals still up for grabs. Some interesting facts about softball doubles are that it is best of three games, and sudden death at 10-all meaning the game can quickly get away from a team and there are major momentum swings within games. In addition, the court is twenty-seven feet wide as opposed to the regular twenty-one-feet and the tin is thirteen inches high. With both matches going on court simultaneously, the coaching and support teams were split, but in good hands with coaches Lane and Assaiante as both teams needed one win to guarantee Bronze medals.

Sobhy and Grainger got Team USA off to the perfect start against Brazil, racing away to an 11-3 win in the first. The Brazilian pair came out with more purpose, benefiting from a couple of slices of luck, taking a 9-7 lead at the end of the second. Thankfully for the U.S. Team, that only prompted Grainger and Sobhy to piece together four great rallies to sneak through 11-10 and progress to the semifinals later this evening. With two more matches ahead today for Sobhy, the Doubles semifinal and the Individual finals, it was imperative to get this match concluded in two.

While this was taking place, the next court over had the Chris’ Hanson and Gordon taking on the Guatemalan team. With a guaranteed Bronze medal at stake, this match quickly turned in to a feisty affair with neither team giving up an inch around the middle of the court. Perfecting ‘organized chaos’ isn’t the easiest thing to do, but as the first game went on and Team USA found themselves 9-5 down we managed to get the right balance. As the Chris’ reeled their opponents in they managed to win the first by a nose and come off court with an 11-10 win.

Quickly the crowd became firmly engaged, enjoying what was one of the closer matches of the first rounds. Then Guatamala’s fightback began. With the match so close, and four very big men on court making even the twenty-seven-foot-wide court look small, Team USA edged in front early and didn’t relinquish their lead. After a couple of long rallies, very long rallies, both Chris’ found their range to slot in a couple of nicks and seal the second 11-8 and ensure two Bronze’s in the Doubles event.

Tonight will be an epic evening with both doubles teams playing their semifinal matches and Sobhy turning around quickly to play her Individual final against compatriot Olivia Blatchford. One thing is for sure, Team USA will be bring home Gold and Silver tonight, here’s to hoping the Doubles teams add to that!

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