Facing the raucous crowds of Trinity, No. 3 Harvard men’s squash squared off with the defending national champions for the Potter Cup in a home national championship for the Bantams.
Taking to Hartford, Conn., the Crimson team took on familiar rivals en route to a second place finish at collegiate squash’s biggest stage—the College Squash Association (CSA) National Championships.
The team defeated Penn and upset Columbia before falling to Trinity (20-0) in the final. The second place finish is the second consecutive year the team has fallen in the championship match and the second consecutive year that the defeat has come at the hands of the Trinity squad.
HARVARD 3, TRINITY 6
Deep in enemy territory, at the No. 1 Bantam’s home court, the Crimson (13-2, 6-1 Ivy) faced a team that handed it a loss 10 days prior. In a match that mirrored this Sunday’s, only with smaller stakes, Harvard fell to its Connecticut opponents 7-2.
Things did not start out well. The Crimson dropped the first four matches and was only revived by a win from sophomore Timothy Brownell. The sophomore was matched up in the No. 2 slot against Thoboki Mohohlo—to whom he lost to in the last meeting in a five-game, marathon match. Out for blood, this time Brownell finished off Mohohlo in three clean sets, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4.
With life from Brownell’s win, things picked up for Harvard. Though playing after the match had already been decided, co-captain David Ryan grabbed a victory in the No. 4 slot against Trinity’s Rick Penders. The senior’s win was his 15th of the season, representing a perfect individual record throughout every match. Ryan’s win was one of five matches to reach the five game mark before finally ending. The Crimson came out on top in two such matches, a big increase from the zero of four the team took home against the Bantams two weekends ago.
Freshman Adam Corcoran’s match also went the five-game distance in what became the last matchup of the tournament. In the back-and-forth affair, the freshman won, lost, won, lost and finally won to earn Harvard its point.
Corcoran wasn’t the only member of the team in his first championship match, classmates Samuel Scherl and Julien Gosset also faced the noisy crowds of the Trinity Bantams. Julien pushed his match to five games at the No. 8 slot before dropping the last one.
“Playing in a national final was an incredible experience, especially for all the freshmen,” Scherl said. “Even though we were in front of a very rowdy Trinity home crowd, everyone including the freshmen really kept calm and didn’t let the pressure get to them. I think we all got a lot of valuable experience playing under pressure that we will bring to the next season which will make us even stronger.”
Co-captain Madhav Dhingra took his match to five games before dropping the last one in the No. 6 slot.
“I wish it went my way, as a senior, it was my last match ever,” Dhingra said. “But I did leave everything I had on the court so I have no regrets but I do wish it went the other way.”
HARVARD 6, COLUMBIA 3
The Crimson entered the CSA National Championships with two losses. One to Trinity, but the other to division rival, and No. 2 ranked Columbia (16-2, 7-0), 5-4. The loss earlier in the season was the first time that Harvard had ever lost to the Lions. The rematch came in the the national championship semi-final match.
“The mindset was just that everyone was training really hard, we had a lot of training in the bank, and we’ve given it our all in terms of preparation,” Dhingra said. “Then it was just going out and being our best selves. It’s not about winning or losing. We knew that if we played our best, we would win, but the idea is you just go out there, show incredible fight and manifest the best version of your game.”
However, Harvard entered with a fire that caught the Lions off guard. Within the first five games, the match had been clinched for the Crimson.
While the first four in Harvard’s lineup mirrored that of the matchup earlier in the season, the lower half of the team’s nine slots had been altered slightly.
Junior Alexi Gosset was the first of those changes that paid off for the Crimson. The junior started things off in the No. 9 slot with a clean, three-game sweep of his opponent. Alexi’s younger brother, Julien, secured the fourth win of the afternoon after Hughes replicated his performance in the beginning of the semester, but more efficiently.
Rather than the five games it took him in January, Hughes defeated Columbia’s Seif Attia in three games. In the No. 6 slot, Dhingra finished next, disposing of his opponent in three games. In the fifth slot, Scherl earned Harvard its fifth point of the afternoon, advancing the team to the championship match against an undefeated Bantam team for a shot at the Potter Cup.
Ryan earned the sixth and final win of the match in quick three-game bout in the No. 4 slot.
HARVARD 7, PENN 2
In the quarterfinal round of the national championship tournament, the Crimson took on the familiar rival of No. 6 Penn (11-7, 4-3). Though no guaranteed win, Harvard cleanly defeated the squad 7-2, a marked improvement from the team’s close 5-4 victory three weeks prior.
The Crimson claimed four points on 3-0 victories, coming from Brownell, Ryan, Scherl, and Julien.
In the No. 6 slot, Dhingra maintained his unbeaten streak at that spot in the lineup after defeating Derek Hsue in four games. Hughes and Alexi replicated the feat in the No. 3 and No. 9 spots, respectively.
“I was really proud of the team across the board this weekend,” Brownell said. “The seniors have led us through the entire season, and the national championships were no different. The composure they have even in the most difficult moments really sets the standard for the rest of us to follow, and our younger players did just that. The guys showed a lot of toughness to get through to the final and complete the way that we did on Sunday, and I couldn’t be happier to have been a part of this team.
—Staff writer Cade Palmer can be reached at email@example.com.
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