Squash Notebook: In-house scrambling and globetrotting
On Saturday, the Colombian freshman showed why he is the best player in college squash today as he put on a clinic against Harvard junior Dylan Patterson, showcasing a dazzling combination of speed, accuracy and pure strength in a 9-2, 9-3, 9-1 win. But Patterson did have his moments against Samper, including several long points in the first game and a highlight film-worthy return—after tripping—that prompted an ovation from the Trinity crowd. It was the latest in a series of tough matches against quality competition for Patterson, who lost to 11th- and 15th-ranked players from Williams and Dartmouth, respectively, within the past week.
Patterson will figure in what should be an interesting week of practices that will determine who plays No. 1 against Princeton and Penn this weekend. Co-captain Peter Karlen played No. 4 on Saturday in his second match back since spraining a ligament in his foot at the U.S. Open qualifiers on Jan. 4. He looked strong in his first game against Nicholas Kyme, the eighth-ranked player in the nation, aggressively going after balls in a 10-8 loss. But he gradually grew fatigued and lost the next two sets, 9-3 and 9-1.
Karlen felt that his movement was fine but that he felt a bit winded after weeks without being able to run.
“My legs aren’t there right now,” Karlen said. “It’s been three and a half weeks without running. They’ll get better.”
Sophomore James Bullock—whom Patterson defeated in a close challenge match to play No. 1—lost to third-ranked Michael Ferreira in a No. 2 match that, like Patterson’s, was somewhat closer than the 3-0 final suggested. Fellow sophomore Ziggy Whitman was swept by seventh-ranked Lefike Ragontse at No. 4 in similar fashion. Meanwhile, freshman No. 5 Mike Blumberg picked up the team’s only win—a gritty 3-1 upset over 17th-ranked Rohan Bhappu.
“We need a few more Mike Blumberg’s,” Harvard Coach Satinder Bajwa said. “That will turn it around.”
This week’s challenge matches could produce an entirely different Crimson lineup in the first through fifth slots.
They Are The World
Samper highlights a Trinity men’s lineup that includes five of the top ten players atop the NISRA rankings. All five are foreign born. Only three of the 17 players on the Bantam roster are Americans, and of those three only one played in the top nine this weekend. Similarly, the women’s team features Amina Helal (England) and the world’s former No. 2 junior (under 19), Lynn Leong, a Malaysian. A number of the foreign-born players—including Samper and Leong—have taken years off to play squash full time.
Trinity’s ascent to the top of college squash has been marked by an influx of international talent—both Harvard rosters, as well as those of other traditional Ivy League powers, have a more balanced ratio between foreign and American players.
Trinity Men’s Coach Paul Assiante, in particular, has been able to use his past position as the coach of the U.S. National Team at the World and Pan-Am games to introduce himself to global talent. But he has needed the help of Trinity’s admissions office in order to reel it in.
“The college has made a commitment that if we see an international student who qualifies, we won’t discriminate against their admission,” Assiante said. “Because we’re a small school, we’ve been able to establish a good relationship with the admissions office, whereas with a bigger school it’s more difficult to do.”
Trinity’s overseas recruiting presents Ivy League schools with a competitive recruiting challenge that was once primarily relegated to other sports—getting around the schools’ own high admissions standards. Leong, for example, was rejected by her first choice, Yale, and other squash schools. She went to Trinity as a backup. Other potential recruits, intimidated by the requirements, don’t look at Harvard at all.
“Some of the players here, had they had the opportunity, would have liked to go to Harvard,” Harvard Coach Satinder Bajwa said. “Mike Ferreira, for instance.”
Ferreira, Trinity’s No. 2 player, was the top-ranked player in the nation for much of last season.
Bajwa has taken a sort of supply-side approach to the problem—by getting to potential recruits early and helping them meet Harvard’s rigorous admissions standards.
“Many aren’t necessarily aware of what is needed to get into Harvard, so I’ve started working on seeing kids in their junior year, educating them about the procedure, the SATs and SAT IIs,” Bajwa said. “It’s a learning experience, and once we do that we’ll have a very good foreign presence again.”
Elsewhere in squash this weekend, the No. 4 Princeton men barely edged No. 3 Yale as Eric Pearson needed five games to pull past the Bulldogs’ Christopher Olsen to clinch it at No. 5. Meanwhile, the Yale women breezed past the Tigers, 7-2. Yale, which had not factored into the Ivy championship mix in past years, has aggressively recruited young talent over the past two years and has gotten remarkable early success from its new players. Yale’s women’s top nine includes six freshmen, and the Yale men’s victories this weekend came at the bottom of the order, mostly from younger players.
“This could be a three-way tie for the Ivy title,” Bajwa said. “It’s not a forgone conclusion we’ll win it outright.”
While Trinity poses more of a threat in the immediate future, such a three-way scenario could very well materialize in the next two years.