Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Historic Streak Ends, Mens Squash Still Poised for Nationals

 

Nick Auerbach ’14
 On Tuesday, Jan. 17 the Trinity squash team’s record since the 1997-98 season had been 252 consecutive wins, zero losses. After Wednesday, Jan. 18, their record was 252 wins, one loss. A 14 year winning streak, longest in the history of intercollegiate varsity athletics, was snapped against a Yale team that has been nipping at the bit the past three years as the dominant No. 2 ranked team in the country. There is no other way to describe it other than a ridiculous number spanning a period of time in which Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have served as President of the United States. Head Coach Paul Assaiante’s winning percentage since the start of the streak stands at .996, with a record of 256-1 (Trinity has won against Harvard,Rochester, Dartmouth, and Penn since their loss to Yale). It is more impressive that the Bantams have remained unbeaten for about 14 years than the number of wins they cumulatively tallied up. To do it for one season is simply the hardest task to accomplish in sports, but Trinity did that for 13 years straight. To put that in perspective, freshman were four years old playing with Thomas the Tank Engine train set when Trinity started winning, and winning, and winning…
Last Wednesday, Trinity went to New Haven to face  the Yale Bull Dogs but came up short with a score of 5-4 in favor of Yale. Trinity students returning to campus for their spring semester heard about the loss and then wanted to know who was responsible, who had lost the deciding match. In a game like squash its never one players’ fault. The team is made up of nine players all with different styles, strengths, and weaknesses. Matt Mackin ‘14, who played No. 8 in the Yale match, said “the main thing that went wrong for us that night was [Yale’s] ability to make adjustments during the match. A lot of matches, including mine, went to five games because of Yale’s execution of in-game adjustments in order to stop us from what we were trying to do, and crafting game plans to hurt each of us on the court.” Mackin made a comeback against Yale senior Sam Clayman after dropping the third and fourth games, sealing the win in the fifth game. Mackin’s teammate, No. 5 Reinhold Hergeth ‘13, who coached at highschool squash powerhouse Chestnut Hill Academy before arriving at Trinity, felt the pressure from the streak possibly affected his and his teammates’ performance. “I think it did affect some of the players. Even though some would say that it didn’t, I think near the end of the match everybody started to think in terms of saving the streak, but not because we were immature players. I think the closer it came to that final loss people started to realize that this might be the match that we lose. A feeling nobody in the Trinity squash team has felt for 13 years. It had to affect some guys,” said the junior from Bloemfontein, South Africa.
The emotional loss was hard to swallow for the Trinity squash team. It had gotten to a point where the streak consumed them, no matter how hard they tried to shake the thought. Hergeth commented that “personally I feel like we lost the streak, Yale never won that match. We lost it. We lost five matches that we shouldn’t have lost because we are a more talented team, but on that day we did not play our best squash and they took advantage of that.” The moment the streak ended the players felt like they had the wind knocked out of them but on the bus ride back they realized there was only one thing left to do. Greg Crane ‘13 described the sobering scene, recounting, “Some were trying to lighten the mood, mostly the freshmen, by walking around and bringing up other subjects and trying to get people to laugh.  The older kids on the team were silent.  Usually we all sit in our own set of two seats and spread throughout the bus.  After that loss the older guys sat right next to each other, some with arms around each other and stayed silent the entire ride back.  We knew no words or jokes would heal what happened, just winning nationals would, so all we could do was try to comfort each other by being close to each other and staying as one team.” Coach Assaiante motivated his players over the next couple of days, telling them to forget about the streak and do one better: Be the first Trinity Squash team to lose during the regular season and still win Nationals. In an interview with Assaiante, he explained that his players had always had a gun pointed at the back of their heads. Assaiante then said his players now have the gun in their hands. The hunted have become the hunters.    
A good number of students on campus have recognized their squash team’s loss and have gone out to the past couple of games to show their support. A week ago on Saturday, Jan. 21, a packed crowd arrived to see how Trinity would respond to the loss in a match against Harvard. The atmosphere was intense and the Trinity players looked mean and tough, like they had a chip on their shoulder. Crane was empathetic toward the Harvard team, commenting “we felt bad for Harvard because we knew what was coming for them. After that loss to Yale we were the hungriest team you could imagine. We wanted that Harvard match to come so we could prove to everyone that we are still dominant despite the loss. We wanted to make a statement to everyone that we are still at large and they are still playing the number one team in the nation when they walk up those steps and into our courts.” Trinity simply put on a clinic against a very good Harvard group. It was obvious that Trinity had quickly regained their swagger, winning the match 7-2.
In the preseason there was speculation that Yale, Harvard, and Rochester could all realistically challenge Trinity for a National Championship this year. Recruiting at rival schools has been dramatically improving the past few years, to the point that Trinity could no longer breeze past its competition like in years past. Harvard lured the No. 1 ranked junior player in the world to play for them this year, Ali Farag  from Cairo, Egypt. In squash you need to be highly skilled with the racquet but beyond that, quickness, endurance, positioning, and mentality are all important attributes to have. Farag dominates because of his elite speed and cat-like reflexes. “He’s a professional, and that’s a good thing for the sport. It can only raise the level of squash in America,” said Assaiante. Mackin didn’t get to see much of Farag’s match in person but explained that he watched a little bit of it on tape with the guys on the team. “The thing that stood out to me the most was his positioning in the middle of the court. The guy was standing almost two feet in front of the mid-court line, which for anyone who knows and understands squash, is an outrageously hard thing to do effectively, especially against a player of Vikram Malhotra’s caliber.” Though other teams are meeting the bar Trinity had set a while ago, Assaiante assured that Trinity is having another active recruiting year that looks to bring some ‘big guns’ to Hartford next year. 
Trinity followed the win against Harvard with three more against Rochester, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania. Senior co-captains Vikram “Rummy” Malhortra ‘12 and Antonio “Rico Suave” Diaz ‘12 have been playing at another level recently. Johan “Jo-Jo” Detter ‘13, and Juan “Moses” Flores ‘13 are focused on getting the better of their opponents by confusing them with a good mix of careening rails, crisp drop shots, and timely lobs. Clearly Trinity not only excels at squash, but nicknames too. Even Moustafa Hamada ‘15, Elroy Leong ‘15, and Miled Zarazua Ramirez ’15 have been learning on the fly, demonstrating balanced frontcourt and backcourt play while getting significant starts in key matches. 
Next Wednesday, Feb. 4, Princeton will be in town, a match that Mackin has circled on the calendar for a while because his ‘friendly’ high school rival, Dylan Ward, who will be playing for the Tigers. However, Mackin reiterated that his team is focused on one thing only: “The streak is a special piece of history for this program, and it reflects how dominant this team is. Having said that, the streak is over, but now it is our team’s objective to continue our dominance by winning our fourteenth consecutive National Championship, despite a mere loss in a dual match.” Yes, the streak is over at 252 consecutive wins, but a new one has just begun. Four and counting.  

 stands at .996, with a record of 256-1 (Trinity has won against Harvard,Rochester, Dartmouth, and Penn since their loss to Yale). It is more impressive that the Bantams have remained unbeaten for about 14 years than the number of wins they cumulatively tallied up. To do it for one season is simply the hardest task to accomplish in sports, but Trinity did that for 13 years straight. To put that in perspective, freshman were four years old playing with Thomas the Tank Engine train set when Trinity started winning, and winning, and winning…Last Wednesday, Trinity went to New Haven to face  the Yale Bull Dogs but came up short with a score of 5-4 in favor of Yale. Trinity students returning to campus for their spring semester heard about the loss and then wanted to know who was responsible, who had lost the deciding match. In a game like squash its never one players’ fault. The team is made up of nine players all with different styles, strengths, and weaknesses. Matt Mackin ‘14, who played No. 8 in the Yale match, said “the main thing that went wrong for us that night was [Yale’s] ability to make adjustments during the match. A lot of matches, including mine, went to five games because of Yale’s execution of in-game adjustments in order to stop us from what we were trying to do, and crafting game plans to hurt each of us on the court.” Mackin made a comeback against Yale senior Sam Clayman after dropping the third and fourth games, sealing the win in the fifth game. Mackin’s teammate, No. 5 Reinhold Hergeth ‘13, who coached at highschool squash powerhouse Chestnut Hill Academy before arriving at Trinity, felt the pressure from the streak possibly affected his and his teammates’ performance. “I think it did affect some of the players. Even though some would say that it didn’t, I think near the end of the match everybody started to think in terms of saving the streak, but not because we were immature players. I think the closer it came to that final loss people started to realize that this might be the match that we lose. A feeling nobody in the Trinity squash team has felt for 13 years. It had to affect some guys,” said the junior from Bloemfontein, South Africa.The emotional loss was hard to swallow for the Trinity squash team. It had gotten to a point where the streak consumed them, no matter how hard they tried to shake the thought. Hergeth commented that “personally I feel like we lost the streak, Yale never won that match. We lost it. We lost five matches that we shouldn’t have lost because we are a more talented team, but on that day we did not play our best squash and they took advantage of that.” The moment the streak ended the players felt like they had the wind knocked out of them but on the bus ride back they realized there was only one thing left to do. Greg Crane ‘13 described the sobering scene, recounting, “Some were trying to lighten the mood, mostly the freshmen, by walking around and bringing up other subjects and trying to get people to laugh.  The older kids on the team were silent.  Usually we all sit in our own set of two seats and spread throughout the bus.  After that loss the older guys sat right next to each other, some with arms around each other and stayed silent the entire ride back.  We knew no words or jokes would heal what happened, just winning nationals would, so all we could do was try to comfort each other by being close to each other and staying as one team.” Coach Assaiante motivated his players over the next couple of days, telling them to forget about the streak and do one better: Be the first Trinity Squash team to lose during the regular season and still win Nationals. In an interview with Assaiante, he explained that his players had always had a gun pointed at the back of their heads. Assaiante then said his players now have the gun in their hands. The hunted have become the hunters.    A good number of students on campus have recognized their squash team’s loss and have gone out to the past couple of games to show their support. A week ago on Saturday, Jan. 21, a packed crowd arrived to see how Trinity would respond to the loss in a match against Harvard. The atmosphere was intense and the Trinity players looked mean and tough, like they had a chip on their shoulder. Crane was empathetic toward the Harvard team, commenting “we felt bad for Harvard because we knew what was coming for them. After that loss to Yale we were the hungriest team you could imagine. We wanted that Harvard match to come so we could prove to everyone that we are still dominant despite the loss. We wanted to make a statement to everyone that we are still at large and they are still playing the number one team in the nation when they walk up those steps and into our courts.” Trinity simply put on a clinic against a very good Harvard group. It was obvious that Trinity had quickly regained their swagger, winning the match 7-2.In the preseason there was speculation that Yale, Harvard, and Rochester could all realistically challenge Trinity for a National Championship this year. Recruiting at rival schools has been dramatically improving the past few years, to the point that Trinity could no longer breeze past its competition like in years past. Harvard lured the No. 1 ranked junior player in the world to play for them this year, Ali Farag  from Cairo, Egypt. In squash you need to be highly skilled with the racquet but beyond that, quickness, endurance, positioning, and mentality are all important attributes to have. Farag dominates because of his elite speed and cat-like reflexes. “He’s a professional, and that’s a good thing for the sport. It can only raise the level of squash in America,” said Assaiante. Mackin didn’t get to see much of Farag’s match in person but explained that he watched a little bit of it on tape with the guys on the team. “The thing that stood out to me the most was his positioning in the middle of the court. The guy was standing almost two feet in front of the mid-court line, which for anyone who knows and understands squash, is an outrageously hard thing to do effectively, especially against a player of Vikram Malhotra’s caliber.” Though other teams are meeting the bar Trinity had set a while ago, Assaiante assured that Trinity is having another active recruiting year that looks to bring some ‘big guns’ to Hartford next year. Trinity followed the win against Harvard with three more against Rochester, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania. Senior co-captains Vikram “Rummy” Malhortra ‘12 and Antonio “Rico Suave” Diaz ‘12 have been playing at another level recently. Johan “Jo-Jo” Detter ‘13, and Juan “Moses” Flores ‘13 are focused on getting the better of their opponents by confusing them with a good mix of careening rails, crisp drop shots, and timely lobs. Clearly Trinity not only excels at squash, but nicknames too. Even Moustafa Hamada ‘15, Elroy Leong ‘15, and Miled Zarazua Ramirez ’15 have been learning on the fly, demonstrating balanced frontcourt and backcourt play while getting significant starts in key matches. Next Wednesday, Feb. 4, Princeton will be in town, a match that Mackin has circled on the calendar for a while because his ‘friendly’ high school rival, Dylan Ward, who will be playing for the Tigers. However, Mackin reiterated that his team is focused on one thing only: “The streak is a special piece of history for this program, and it reflects how dominant this team is. Having said that, the streak is over, but now it is our team’s objective to continue our dominance by winning our fourteenth consecutive National Championship, despite a mere loss in a dual match.” Yes, the streak is over at 252 consecutive wins, but a new one has just begun. Four and counting.

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