Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Victory: Men’s Squash beats Harvard to secure 14th National Championship

Nick Auerbach ’14

Sports Editor

Trinitarians, you waited with bated breath for all to be right in the world again. Now that the squash gods have finally spoken, and have chosen decidedly in your favor, it seems order has been restored to the cosmos. This is because on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, the Trinity College men’s squash team regained supremacy as College Squash Association (CSA) national champions. Capping off another perfect season, they knocked off St. Lawrence University, Yale University, and finally Harvard University this past weekend at Yale’s Brady Squash Center en route to their 14th Potter Trophy. Once the well-deserved celebrations have died down all over campus, please be sure to consider what this year’s team, and their success, means in the context of the past 15 years.

The No. 3 ranked Crimson secured their spot in the National Championship with a 5-4 defeat against the No. 2 ranked Princeton in the semi-finals. Tied 4-4 and down 2-0 in games, Harvard’s Gary Power surmounted an improbable comeback at the No. 4 spot against Princeton’s Dylan Ward, who was a key part of the Tigers’ win against Trinity in last year’s final. After learning that they would face a top heavy Harvard team to determine Nationals, Head Coach Paul Assaiante prepared his squad accordingly, hoping they would play with the same kind of resilience they had showed all year. The players heeded their coach’s advice and were able to hold off Harvard 6-3. Feeding off the support from a huge fan base in attendance, as well as from historic squash alumni attending the match (such as Baset Chadhry and Gustav Detter), Trinity played with an unmatched fervor.

A humble Zayad El Shorafy ’16, who clinched the title for the Bantams, felt that “being part of the National Championship team is a privilege – you can’t ask for more than that.” The freshman also explained that after “losing the streak last year […] everyone was hungrier than ever before, and being in my first year at Trinity College, I was just as hungry as the others, because it’s an incredible family – once you join it, you’re in.  You’re in with all your feelings, you’re in with all your attachment, you’re in with all your loyalty.” Another Trinity freshman, Juan Vargas ’16, was considered to be the hero of the match. Jonca (pronounced Wonka), as he’s known by his teammates, elevated his level of play to another level against Harvard’s highly touted Brandon McLaughlin ’14 at the No. 2 spot. Expected to lose, Vargas surprisingly won his match 3-1 and put his team up 4-2. This allowed Trinity to make its final push, wanting so badly to make up for last year’s disappointing end to the season.

Reflecting on his team’s first championship since 2011, Coach Assaiante said,  “I wanted this for the guys and I wanted this for Trinity.  To see them work so hard and to be able to savor this moment…it was my dream.” Assaiante had always been more realistic than most, explaining in his autobiography “Run to the Roar” that the end of the streak was inevitable, but offered this: “I always dreamed that we’d come back to win the National Championship after losing it, and here we are.”

Flawless for 14 years, 252 matches, and 13 national championships, it was a forgone conclusion that the Trinity College men’s squash team would demolish their competition and and the dynasty would persist. Trinity and winning became synonymous in the collegiate squash community. Perfection defined the Bantams; it had become their identity. One would have thought two years ago that the program’s current slogan “Too Strong” referred to how the team was, well, too strong — that is, too strong and too consistent to ever lose.  However, on Jan. 18, 2012, the unthinkable happened. The longest streak in collegiate sports history ended when the Yale Bulldogs upset Trinity. After the initial shock, most expected Trinity to rebound from the loss and go on to claim their 14th Potter Trophy. Contrary to general expectations though, on Feb. 16, 2012, Princeton University beat the No. 1 ranked Bantams in the CSA finale, usurping them as national champions. Many wondered whether Trinity’s reign was over following last season’s crushing losses, but this season’ s success indicates what the team’s mantra “Too Strong” really means. It speaks to the team and their coach’s character. They are “Too Strong” to fall apart, to crawl away after they’ve been knocked down. They just get right back up and keep fighting. This has become Trinity’s new identity.


(Originally published on February 26, 2013)

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