Trinity Cruises Once Again

No. 2 M. Squash can’t upset Bantams in CSA Team Championships final

Alexandra C. Bell

The writers of the official program for the CSA Team Championships accidentally hinted at the outcome of yesterday’s championship match long before the players even took the court.

In the program’s list of past champions, the 2005 champion—although at the time still undecided—was listed at Trinity. Realizing the error, some poor soul scurried through the hundreds of programs and whited out the mistake so that the lettering was barely visible.

As it turned out, the cover up wasn’t necessary.

For the second straight year, the No. 2 Harvard men’s squash team lost to No. 1 Trinity in the national championship match. The Bantams beat the Crimson 7-2 in front of a standing room crowd at the Murr center, extending their unprecedented winning streak to 125 consecutive matches. The championship also marks Trinty’s seventh in a row.

Aided by an enthusiastic—and at times raucous—contingent from Trinity, the Bantams once again distinguished themselves as the best in the nation.

“Trinity raised their level,” Harvard coach Satinder Bajwa said. “And they definitely took some potential losing situations and turned them around into winning situations...They turned it around with a lot of heart.”

TRINITY 7, HARVARD 2

After cruising through both the quarterfinals against Cornell on Friday and the semifinals against Yale on Saturday, Harvard appeared set to make a serious run at the national championship.

But as was the case a year ago, the Crimson came up just a little short.

The crushing blow came once again from intercollegiate No. 6 Reggie Schonborn at the No. 2 position. On Feb. 12, Schonborn beat intercollegiate No. 2 junior Will Broadbent in a five-game marathon to extinguish any hopes Harvard had then of upsetting Trinity.

This time Schonborn broke the Crimson’s hearts by knocking off intercollegiate No. 7 sophomore Ilan Oren who took Broadbent’s place at No. 2.

Oren started strong against Schonborn, opening up an early 8-4 lead in the first game. But Schornborn fought off the game point and rallied to eventually win the game 10-9. Oren was able to take the second game 10-9, but the opening game loss clearly had taken its toll on the sophomore, as he lost both the third and fourth games 9-7 and 9-6, respectively.

“He’s a very emotional player,” said Harvard assistant coach Mohammed Ayaz of Oren. “He can do wonderful things all over the court, but sometimes he comes a little bit on the wrong end of doing some things...he got a little bit unlucky. He had a lead in every game.”

Oren’s loss proved even more costly as freshman Chessin Gertler dropped his match at the No. 8 spot just moments before Schornborn closed out Oren. Those two losses combined with losses from captain Asher Hochberg, and sophomores Mihir Sheth and Jason De Lierre, gave Trinty five victories in the first six matches and clinched its seventh straight national title.

The few bright spots for the Crimson came from intercollegiate No. 7 senior Michael Blumberg at No. 3 and intercollegiate No. 2 junior Will Broadbent at No. 4.

Blumberg beat Trinity for the second time this season—he earned the sole Harvard victory in the teams’ first meeting this year—beating No. 11 Shaun Johnstone in four games.

“It’s still disappointing because the team couldn’t come through in the end,” said Blumberg of his emotions following the loss. “[Trinity] really stepped it up. They came out here. They wanted to win and they really put everything on the line.”

Meanwhile Broadbent, who was dropped down to No. 4 due to a hip injury, had no problem disposing of intercollegiate No. 10 Yvain Badan, beating him in three straight games.

For the second straight time against Trinity, the premier match up pitting intercollegiate No. 4 Siddharth Suchde against No. 5 Bernardo Samper, occurred well after the overall match had been decided. And just as in the first meeting, Samper left victorious—this time taking the last three games against Suchde after the sophomore had easily won the first two.

For the Crimson, there was too much that was just like last time. Now, the team is left once again with the hope that next time will be different.

HARVARD 8, YALE 1

About 18 hours after the Crimson finished up trouncing Cornell 9-0, Harvard figured it might be in for a slightly more challenging day on Saturday against Yale.

The Crimson beat the Bulldogs soundly 6-3 back on Feb 12 to claim its second straight national championship. But Yale was a considerably stronger challenge than the Big Red and Harvard knew that it would be in for a tougher match.

But the challenge from Yale never materialized on Saturday and the Crimson treated them just as it had Cornell, running the Bulldogs out of the Murr Center with an 8-1 thrashing.

The strong showing was particularly encouraging for Harvard because the bottom half of the ladder played so well, giving hope that the Crimson could steal one or two matches in the 5-9 slots against Trinity.

Sheth, playing at the No. 9 spot looked at first like the lower seeding might have toyed with his confidence. Yale’s Alex Tilton ran Sheth all over the court the first game, making the sophomore look confused and beating him 9-7.

“The first game I just don’t know what happened,” Sheth said. “I didn’t have my eyeglasses and stuff and I was just really confused about what was going on. I just wasn’t in it.”

But after the break between games Sheth regrouped—found his glasses—and took control of the match, winning the next three games convincingly, 9-2, 9-4, 9-5.

Harvard got an equally encouraging sign from Broadbent who looked as though the hip wasn’t a problem at all and beat Nick Chirls in three straight games.

By the time the marquee match up between Suchde and intercollegiate No. Julian Illingworth began, Harvard had wrapped up the first eight matches and was looking for its second straight shutout.

But with the pressure off, Suchde held off a little and fell to Illingworth.

“I knew in the back of my mind it was 8-0,” said Suchde of his mind frame going into his match. “So I was still trying hard but I wanted to save it for [Trinity].”

Little did he know, that by the time he hit the court against the Bantams, the national championship would already be out of reach.

HARVARD 9, CORNELL 0

Harvard began its weekend just as everyone expected with a 9-0 dominating performance over the Big Red.

The Crimson mirrored the shutout that it gave Cornell almost three months ago when it beat the Big Red 9-0 in Ithaca on Dec. 4. As has been the case all season, Harvard proved that other than Trinity, no one else in the country is even close.

Coming into the weekend, the Crimson hoped that it would be able to save its energy for the Sunday showdown with the Bantams, and in that regard, Friday’s easy victory didn’t hurt.

Although the team came into the match wanting to avoid even the slightest slip up, everyone knew that Cornell would need a minor miracle to even stay in the match. While the Crimson has four of the top 10 players in the country, the Big Red’s top player, Matt Serediak, is No. 13. With the convincing edge in talent, Harvard’s victory was never in question.

Much as the team was able to use its early season matches to work on weaker points, the Crimson used Friday’s tune up as a chance to gain confidence and warm up for the tougher matches over the weekend.

Harvard’s top four, Suchde, Oren, Blumberg, and Broadbent, looked in fine form—all four winning comfortably in straight games.

While the Crimson was pleased with the easy win, it knew that even in the best case scenario, the entire weekend wouldn’t go so smoothly.

—Staff writer David H. Stearns can be reached at stearns@fas.harvard.edu.

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