By Anne Bello
Photos by Michael T. Bello
A TENNIS coach approached the tournament desk on the last morning of the 2011 Men’s National Team Championships. Harvard’s Murr Center, the tournament’s main site, is a dual squash-and-tennis facility, and the tennis section had been hushed all weekend. The squash courts, packed with exuberant players and fans, had been loud on Friday and louder yet on Saturday.
Like a dismayed neighbor eyeing carloads of partygoers rolling up, the tennis coach had come to ask the folks next door to keep it down.
They’d do their best, the tournament staff said, but no guarantees. This was a national championship, after all.
“But this is a home match,” the tennis coach insisted. “Please try to be quieter.”
Hours later, the stands around court five were packed. Those who hadn’t been able to squeeze in to see Yale’s Richard Dodd take on Trinity’s Chris Binnie were either pressed in around the corner watching a live feed of the match or standing tiptoe, trying to catch a glimpse of the action through the crowd.
When the score board cut out before the match, there was talk of moving the match to another court. “No way,” muttered a man seated just behind the teams. “There’d be a stampede,” he said to a friend. They’d come early for prime seats, and if the Yale men were going to end Trinity’s winning streak, they wanted to be right there.
The scoreboard came back on, and the crowd roared.
So much for keeping it down.
YOU DIDN’T have to be in the front row for Trinity’s 5-4 victory over Yale to see great squash at the 2011 college squash championships.
Over half of the twelve men’s and women’s team finals were decided 5-4. On the final day of the Women’s National Team Championships (Howe Cup), nine of the fifteen team matches were decided by a one-match margin. Out of the twelve team matches in the men’s E Division, seven ended 5-4, and four ended 6-3.
With so many close matches—and so many matches, period—just selecting highlights is a challenge. Here are a few:
The first day of play at Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium, the main site for the women’s tournament, saw two teams seeded seventh in their divisions upset second-seeded teams. Mount Holyoke, ranked fifteenth nationally before the tournament, knocked off tenth-ranked Middlebury, a win that shook up the B Division. In the D Division, Georgetown upset St. Lawrence, the first of three varsity programs the club team would defeat en route to winning the Epps Cup.
Two other club teams—Cal and Johns Hopkins—shone in the tournament. After playing in the Emerging Teams Division last year, the two teams met in the E Division final, which Cal won 5-4.
On the men’s side, Washington in St. Louis made the most of their first trip to the Men’s National Team Championships. Their 9-0 win over Bryant in the G Division final was the most decisive win of all the division finals.
The Bates-Middlebury consolation semifinal couldn’t have been closer: with the match score at 4-4, Dae Ro Lee and Cooper Redpath were tied 2-2 going into the fifth. Redpath won the game 11-9 to put Middlebury into the consolation finals, setting up a record high finish—14th—for the Panthers.
Out of all the close matches, though, the women’s A Division final between Harvard and Yale stands out.
A 5-4 win over Harvard a week earlier made Yale the 2011 Ivy League champions and the top seed in the draw. Yale advanced to the Howe Cup finals with wins over Dartmouth and Princeton, and Harvard, the defending national champions, advanced with wins over Cornell and Trinity.
Yale led out of the gate with early wins from Sarah Toomey and Lillian Fast, while Cece Cortes put up Harvard’s first win.
Two of the second round matches were decided in three: Millie Tomlinson’s win for Yale and Bethan Williams’ win for Harvard. It was in the No. 5 match where things started to get interesting.
After a strong 11-6 win in the first game, Harvard’s Natasha Kingshott looked like she had a win over Yale’s Rhetta Nadas in the bag. But Nadas turned it around and won the next two games as the match became increasingly close. Kingshott battled back to win the fourth 12-10 before Nadas came through with an 11-7 win in the fifth, giving Yale a 4-2 lead coming into the final round.
A five-game barn-burner between Yale’s Logan Greer and Harvard’s Laura Gemmell went to the Crimson sophomore. A win from Harvard’s Sarah Mumanachit tied the match 4-all.
The national title came down to the number 4 match between Yale’s Kimberley Hay and Harvard’s June Tiong. Tiong took the first game, 11-4, and Hay answered with an 11-5 win in the second. The third game was much closer, with Hay edging out Tiong 11-9. Playing aggressively, Tiong did everything she could to force a fifth game. But Hay pulled herself together and outlasted Tiong 13-11 in the fourth, giving the Bulldogs their fourth Howe Cup in the last ten years.
AFTER THE INTENSITY of team championships, the atmosphere at the Individual Championships at Dartmouth College was more relaxed, though the standard of play was high.
Tomlinson handed Gemmell the first loss of her college career as the Yale first-year won the women’s title in three games. Todd Harrity became the first American [since 1991] to win the men’s individual title by defeating Cornell’s Nick Sachvie in three.
Katie Giovinazzo defeated Princeton teammate Alexandra Sawin to win the women’s B division. Omar Sohby of George Washington defeated Matt Domenick of Rochester to take the men’s B Division.
On the whole, the 2011 season ended with a more positive feeling than the previous one, which was marred by several incidents of poor sportsmanship.
Sportsmanship remains a concern for the College Squash Association, which decided to bring in national-level referees to rove and for key matches. Moving forward, the CSA plans to do more to educate players about marking and refereeing as well as sportsmanship.
Another issue the CSA will have to work through is the size of the tournaments. One hundred men’s and women’s teams participated, and while the growth of college squash is welcome, managing such large events is difficult.
The CSA wants to sustain its growth while improving the standard of play, and the competitiveness of this year’s championship tournaments suggests that is possible.
If that tennis coach thought it was loud this year, just wait for next season.
Potter Cup (Men’s A Division): Winner – Trinity, Finalist – Yale
Hoehn Cup (Men’s B Division): Winner – Western Ontario; Finalist – Penn
Summers Cup (Men’s C Division): Winner – Bowdoin; Finalist – George Washington
Conroy Cup (Men’s D Division): Winner – Connecticut College; Finalist – Hobart
Chaffee Cup (Men’s E Division): Winner – Vanderbilt; Finalist – MIT
Serues Cup (Men’s F Division): Winner – Bucknell; Finalist – Boston University
Hawthorn Cup (Men’s G Division): Winner – Washington in St. Louis; Finalist – Bryant
Men’s Emerging Teams Division: Winner – Maryland; Finalist – NYU
Howe Cup (Women’s A Division): Winner – Yale; Finalist – Harvard
Kurtz Cup (Women’s B Division): Winner – Brown; Finalist – Williams
Walker Cup (Women’s C Division): Winner – Franklin & Marshall; Finalist – Hamilton
Epps Cup (Women’s D Division): Winner – Georgetown; Finalist – Connecticut College
Women’s E Division: Winner – California Berkeley; Finalist – Johns Hopkins
Emerging Teams: Winner – NYU; Finalist – Vanderbilt”